For 19 of English Professor Dewey Hall’s graduate students, the chance to see rare antique copies of the texts they had studied in class breathed new life into their lessons.
Hall and his students attended a curator-led talk at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens about the research institution’s collection of rare books on Feb. 19.
In Hall’s Green Romanticism and Victorian Minds (ENG 551 & 552) graduate classes, the students had spent the fall and winter quarters discussing, writing papers and presenting work on various texts from 19th century British authors.
At the library, they viewed some of the most exceptional books in the Huntington’s collection, including a first edition of Charlotte Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” William Blake’s hand-colored print of “The Tyger” and a folio of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” in his own handwriting.
Alan Jutzi, the library’s Avery Chief Curator, led the talk. In addition to sharing anecdotes about the authors, Jutzi explained to the students the processes of archival research and scholarly study at the Huntington. As a result of the exposure to advanced research methods, several students are considering doctoral studies in literature.
Justin Hernandez, a first-year graduate literature student, says that the field trip inspired him.
“It is vital for graduate students to get out into the world of source material, whether that be to explore rare books and manuscripts, or natural environments that have inspired the writers being studied,” Hernandez says.
“These excursions have helped me discover the veritable resources in my own community that function to preserve these great artifacts of literature, and they have given me new knowledge and experience on how to utilize these resources in my own scholarship.”
Hall, a former research fellow at the Huntington, has set up this talk twice for his graduate students. For him, seeing his students learn even more about the texts is extremely gratifying.
“I saw delight and wonder in my eager-eyed graduate students,” Hall says. “They were fascinated by the rare books and manuscripts, which they had been studying in my seminar, as though the books had lives of their own. My students have shared with me in class that the experience is unforgettable.”