Friday, July 2, 2021

The Art of Field Journaling

A drawing by Stefansson of the arm and hand tattoos of an Inuit personNext week we will host our first on-site class at Rauner Special Collections Library since March of 2020. As you can imagine, we are so excited to have students back in our space exploring our collections in an up close and personal sort of way. The class is on Social Ecological Systems and is taught by Flora Krivak-Tetley from the Environmental Studies Program. Why are they coming to Rauner, you might be wondering? Well, the students will be designing and creating their own specialized field journals next week and we happen to have a wide variety of scientific journals, diaries, albums, log books, and other ways of recording data. We hope that, as the students examine these documents, they'll find inspiration and insight when it comes time to shape their own particular means of recording observations and discoveries.

One of the journals that we will show the students is a diary created by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Stefansson was a Canadian explorer born to Icelandic immigrants in 1879. After numerous Arctic expeditions, he became a renowned lecturer and advocate for the Arctic. Stefansson was a lecturer at Dartmouth from 1947 until his death in 1962. This volume is one of his field journals from the Stefansson-Anderson Expedition (1908-1912), which includes his anthropological observations of Inuit people (which he and others called the “Kogmallick” during this period of exploration). Of particular interest are Stefansson’s drawings of Inuit tattoos and his attempts to interpret their meaning.

To see Stefansson's diary, come to Rauner and ask for MSS-98, Box 3.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

“Stanzas for Music” and “The Student’s Portfolio”

The text of The Student's Portfolio from the Dartmouth student newspaperOne of the most exciting aspects of our collections is the way that Dartmouth students engage with them to create new ideas within the context of the classroom. On Tuesdays this summer, we will publish posts that were originally written by students in Michael Chaney's Literary History survey course during the Winter 2021 term. Each student essay comparatively examines two poems, one from the Dartmouth student newspaper and the other by a canonical American or British author:

Lord Byron’s "Stanzas for Music" (reproduced below) is a sensually emotive account of an experience of a piece of music that capitalizes on natural imagery to convey the bodily effects a work of art induces. This particular poem is most closely related to a state of dreaming– Byron’s stream of consciousness produces an artful depiction of one’s experience of a piece of work that was clearly meant to exist in the dream space from which it was originally birthed.

This analysis will be comparing Byron’s poem with an original work originally published in The Dartmouth in 1839-1840, titled "The Student’s Portfolio". "Portfolio" weaves through the intertwining nature of a student's collection of written work, with detail paid towards the emotional ups and downs of a creation. In this way, the two poems relate to each other: they find common ground within the visceral nature of artful creation. In "Stanzas", the musical piece that is being described as "whose breast is gently heaving, the swell of Summer’s ocean" is done an injustice by the author attempting to breathe it into existence as poetic prose. As such, the existence of creative art has value beyond an articulation of poetic prose, such as in an illusory dream state.

Through this train of thought, I will analyze "The Student’s Portfolio" through the concept of a "dream". The OED defines a dream as "a series of images, thoughts, and emotions, often with a story-like quality; Something imagined or invented; a false idea or belief; an illusion, a delusion". The entirety of "Stanzas for Music" feels like a dream: the poem creates an illusion of an abstract world where the "waves lie still and gleaming" and the "midnight moon is weaving" (Byron). Within this world, The dream-state works to value the artistic work beyond the page and simultaneously engage the body within an illusion of experience that is produced by the creative work.

"The Student’s Portfolio" tries to fight the dream state by pulling highly emotive experiences down from their existence in the author's consciousness down onto the paper, while "Stanzas" falls into its bodily response easily, expanding upon natural imagery originally existing within a dream state. "Portfolio" chronicles an author’s thought process through its description of a portfolio, engrossed in both despair and hope within the writing experience. The poem moves from a looser dream state into a grounded release of written work from the author's mind to the page: "Loose thoughts, long pent in sluggish brain... The muse had waked, t'inspire the theme" (O.P.Q). These lines are representations of unstructured thought, until the "thoughts break out in vengeful rage / and frenzy dashes o’er the page, / Till calmed, the passions sink to rest" (O.P.Q). This chronicling of the writing process capitalizes on the illusory and story-like quality of creative writing, however "Portfolio" utilizes the contributions of the muse and sends her away, unlike "Stanzas", which releases itself into the dream state of the muse herself.

Written by Susannah Laster, class of 2022

"Stanzas for Music" by George Gordon, Lord Byron

There be none of Beauty's daughters
With a magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charmed ocean's pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull'd winds seem dreaming:
And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o'er the deep;
Whose breast is gently heaving,
As an infant's asleep:
So the spirit bows before thee,
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer's ocean.