Since the start of the pandemic, the Instructional team of the Harry Ransom Center has met every two weeks to figure out how to alter our teaching for virtual instruction. With each new class, our educators have quickly adopted a new tool or shifted our lesson plan, assessed what worked and didn’t, and then tried again. Like everyone else, we began to experience Zoom fatigue, so dispensed with long, slow discussions in favor of 10-minute interactive segments. These changes reflect the logistical necessities of teaching online in a pandemic. Yet the forced shift within our Instructional program has helped us refine our teaching and taught us a few things in the process. [Read more…] about Teaching research online during a pandemic
The Harry Ransom Center has awarded over a dozen fellowships for 2021-2022 to The University of Texas at Austin faculty and graduate students through the Center’s new UT-Austin Fellowship program. The new fellows reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the Center’s collections and represent a wide range of departments, programs, and schools across the university. [Read more…] about Fellowships awarded to UT-Austin faculty and graduate students
Lately, I have been dreaming of archives. I have never visited the Harry Ransom Center in person, but I recently perused its finding aids and made a checklist for a future trip. Noting the items from the Virginia Woolf Collection that I want to study, I was reminded of Woolf’s essay “The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.” In it, Woolf wrote, “We like to feel . . . that other hands have been before us, smoothing the leather until the corners are rounded and blunt, turning the pages until they are yellow and dog’s-eared. We like to summon before us the ghosts of those old readers.” I daydream about examining the Ransom Center’s collection of books from Woolf’s personal library, summoning her ghost as I survey the physical traces left by her reading. [Read more…] about NOT SPEED READING: The slow pleasures of research
During my time as a researcher, I have always been a working graphic designer. I suspect that, as a consequence, my underlying mindset has always been very results-driven. As a designer, if you want to get paid, all the ends have to be tied up, all ideas followed to a conclusion. Therefore, sitting at a desk in a library, I still feel that I have to produce something that can be shown to the world, whether this be in book form, an article, or other verbal or visual presentation. Although I always really enjoy the process of research, rightly or wrongly, a product is always at the back of my mind. Investigation, then communication. [Read more…] about Slowly, and then round again
Sometimes the scrawled letters on a page slow reading to a halt. Unlike printed words in a bound volume or transcripts that risk sanitizing history, handwriting produces an entirely different reading experience. Words unfold, as they were written originally, and events take on new meaning in the materiality of the archives. The manuscript of a letter or diary may be neat and legible when composed in tranquility, or scribbled hastily in times of anger or mourning. In print, the end of Sara Coleridge’s life was hardly a mystery, but reading her manuscripts changed everything for me.
Research helps solve mysteries we didn’t even know existed.
While most scholars search for answers in an archive, others like me seek out questions. For us, discovering a mystery is as fun as solving one. Visually speaking, the first experience resembles an exclamation point, a quick and straight cut through the files to where the spot marks the x, like many an algebra equation, begs a solution; the second is a gentler promenade along the sinewy curves of the question mark, where the final point opens an inquiry more than it closes a claim. As Theodore Adorno writes of both marks, “An exclamation point looks like an index finger raised in warning; a question mark looks like a flashing light or the blink of an eye.” Habitués of the Harry Ransom Center would do well to discern which punctuation mark they best resemble. [Read more…] about Researching microbiography in Tennessee Williams’s artwork