Female Poets at Baylor: Fiona Sampson and EBB

Gallery

This gallery contains 5 photos.

By Katrina L. Gallegos, M.A. Candidate Museum Studies Graduate Assistant Armstrong Browning Library and Museum Last month the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum in partnership with the Beall Poetry Festival hosted distinguished English poet Fiona Sampson. Over the course of … Continue reading

Kress Collection Digitally Reunited

By Madeleine L. Svehla, MDiv, George W. Truett Theological Seminary

The launch of the Kress Collection’s Digital Archive continues Samuel H. Kress’ vision of making his 13th-19th century European art collection permanently available to the public. The beauty and magnitude of his collection of over 3000 pieces of art is now digitally reunited and can be accessed here: https://www.kressfoundation.org/kress-collection/list. The famous Kress Collection which is known as the premier collection of European art from the 13th to 19th century was distributed all over the United States to various museums, universities, and galleries in what the February 1962 edition of Life called the “Great Kress Giveaway.”

One of the Kress Collection's paintings on display at the Armstrong Browning Library

Francesco Zuccarelli’s “Landscape with Bridge” (1720) was acquired by the Kress Foundation in 1950 and is on display in the Armstrong Browning Library.

Building & Distributing the Kress Collection

The Kress Collection had its beginnings in the 1920s but the story behind the collection begins earlier. This is a story that involves hard work, brotherhood, and legacy. This legacy has been grown like a tree sheltered during its sapling state by the efforts of a younger brother committed to carrying out his older brothers’ vision. This vision could never have been developed without the perseverance shown by Samuel H. Kress in developing his entrepreneurship and building his company from the ground up. This is his story.

Christ the Man of Sorrows 1540 is by Giampietrino an Italian painter. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1939.

Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955) was born during the Civil War and named after an uncle who recently died in the Battle of Gettysburg. He was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse while he saved up to purchase a Stationery and Notions Shop and eventually a Wholesalers. He opened his first 5 and 10 Cent Store in Memphis, TN in 1896. These stores became wildly popular and new locations opened across the United States. Through the success of these stores, Samuel Kress became one of the wealthiest men in America.

Italian art was not readily available in America in the 1920s when S. Kress through a suggestion by a friend began to be interested in collecting Italian art. He worked with Contini- Bonacossi to build his collection. He came to view it as his duty to share the masterpieces he had discovered. As the collection expanded, the Kress Foundation was founded to take care of the growing needs of the collection. The Kress Foundation was the most active buyer of European Art throughout WWII. Parts of the Collection were selected to tour the country and these local exhibitions were extremely popular. The Foundation decided that—rather than building a museum or gallery for the entire collection to be put on display— they would partner with museums, galleries, and universities around the US to display portions of the collection.

The Holy Family with the Infant St. John 1600 by Flaminio Allegrini. It was acquired by the Kress Collection in 1950.

In 1946, Samuel began to suffer from ill health and his brother Rush H. Kress (1877-1963) took over the foundations’ collection efforts. Under Rush’s guidance, the collection continued to expand and be displayed across the US. This collection has been preserved and remains cared for by those working for the Kress Collection and the institutions housing it. These men and women are continuing the work begun by the Kress brothers.

Kress Collection Donates 5 Paintings to Baylor University

The oldest and most valuable of these paintings is the Madonna and Child 1310. This painting is thought to be painted by a Pietro Lorenzetti follower. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1939.

In 1961, the Kress Foundation generously donated five paintings to Baylor University that are housed in the Armstrong Browning Museum and Library. These paintings have been on permanent display in the Treasure Room for almost 60 years. Professors and students have been enriched by the ability to work with these paintings. For instance, Heidi Hornik Ph.D. (a professor of Art and Art History at BU) took her upper-division seminar class to the ABL and the students were able to examine the 14th century Madonna and Child in detail. To read more about Dr. Hornik’s work both in and out of the classroom, please visit: https://www.baylor.edu/alumni/magazine/1702/index.php?id=957830

Four of these paintings depict Biblical characters from Jesus’ life, such as Mary and John the Baptist. The final piece is a landscape. Each piece is a beautiful example of Italian art from the 14-18th centuries.

The Christ figure above the Madonna and Child is holding his hand in a distinctive way that has theological significance. The two fingers held up and slightly apart represent the human and divine natures of the person of Christ. The fourth and fifth fingers meeting the thumb represents the three in one mystery of the Trinity. He is also robed in blue and red which represent his divinity and humanity respectively.

Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and 3 Angels 1560 This painting is thought to be painted by an Andrea del Sarto follower. It was acquired by the Kress collection in 1950.

Robert Browning wrote the poem The Faultless Painter about Andrea del Sarto in 1855. Sarto is known for his meticulous attention to detail. Browning was inspired by one of his paintings and after researching the artist’s life wrote a poem that explores Andrea’s tragic love story with his wife. Though the Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and 3 Angels is thought to be painted by a follower of Andrea del Sarto, it provides viewers with an idea of what Sarto’s meticulous style is like.

Leaving a legacy is like planting a tree. The one who plants it may never see it grow to full size. However, future generations are blessed by basking in the coolness of its shade and it leaves a lasting mark on the landscape. None of us can ever truly know the long-lasting impact our dreams will have or how the ways that we invest in the future may one day come to fruition. Samuel H. Kress’ vision of making his collection as accessible to the public as possible is now being accomplished in ways never dreamed of during his lifetime. Yet, his legacy lives on in the splendor of this shared collection.

Image Citations

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: Archival Expectations and Unexpected Surprises

By Kevin A. Morrison, PhD, Provincial Chair Professor, University Distinguished Professor, and Professor of British Literature in the School of Foreign Languages at Henan University

Professor Kevin A. Morrison in the Belew Scholars' Room at the Armstrong Browning Library

Professor Kevin A. Morrison in the Belew Scholars’ Room at the Armstrong Browning Library

Walking into an archive or a special collections reading room, the researcher carries more than a laptop (to record notes) or smart phone (to take pictures of the newspaper cuttings, correspondence, or rare books one is examining). The researcher also brings to bear on the examined material a range of expectations—from the epistemological and the ideological to the identificatory and the mundane. Indeed, perhaps the greatest allure of the archive is not the prospect of obtaining more complete knowledge of one’s subject, aided by a little luck (such as finding an uncatalogued letter, diary entry, or manuscript that solves whatever interpretative mystery has drawn one there in the first place), but of uninterrupted time in which to write and think.

When I arrived at Baylor at the end of April 2021, I (half) expected that life would stop. After all, I had spent the preceding fourteen months under mandated and self-imposed lockdowns. Like many scholars whose work is based in archives, I found such conditions stymying. I would often joke to colleagues that I didn’t know which I was looking forward to more at the conclusion of the pandemic: no longer wearing a mask or no longer having to use HathiTrust. As it happens, over my month-long stay in Waco, both were achieved: I could, once again, hold physical objects from the past in my hands as well as experience, however briefly before the Delta variant took hold, the pleasures of reading in a building without my glasses fogging up.

What I did not experience, however, was undisturbed time in which to work. Instead, family health crises, complicated childcare arrangements, and a flat tire competed with my research priorities and, on occasion, burst my expectational bubble. If the staff of the Armstrong Baylor Library could not solve medical problems, however, they were more than happy to help me get driving again or to offer suggestions of things to do in Waco with children (such as Wacotown Chalk + Walk and the wonderful Mayborn Museum). Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to make progress on a project that, owing to the pandemic, I had deferred for more than a year.

A Peep into a Gin Shop

A peep into a gin shop! (19thCent Oversize HV5182 .P44 1825)

In 2019 I was commissioned by Routledge to produce a five-volume compendium of primary source materials titled Charity and Philanthropy in Nineteenth-Century Britain. The nineteenth century in Britain was a markedly philanthropic and charitable age. Building on trends that began in the 1700s, philanthropic activity and charitable practices became widespread, often institutionally organized and directed, and targeted an astonishingly diverse array of fields: education and child welfare, the arts, family planning, animal welfare, medical reform, and the eradication of social ills. The sources in this five-volume edition will provide a foundational basis for studying the many reasons for giving during this period and the varied practices associated with giving. Each volume will cover a diverse array of fields and, to the extent possible, include national, regional, and local material.

While I will be drawing on material in other archives, for the first volume, tentatively titled “The Spur of Religion,” I was particularly eager to consult the ABL’s collections of tracts and theological pamphlets. Although the concept of charity is arguably rooted in the Old and New Testaments, and the notion of philanthropy emerges in the seventeenth century, it was only in the nineteenth century that both assumed their modern form. The materials in the first volume will provide essential context for understanding the role of religion in nineteenth-century charity and philanthropy. The tracts touch on a range of charitable themes, while the pamphlets provide insight into the religious dimensions of charity and philanthropy. Director Jennifer Borderud helped me navigate these large, and therefore daunting, collections by organizing the material around a number of key terms central to the volumes, including temperance, vivisection, and abolitionism.

Sermon Preached at Saint Peter's, Cornhill

A sermon preached at Saint Peter’s, Cornhill. (19thCent Oversize BX5133.C38 S47 1839)

After two weeks of working with the tracts and pamphlets, I had one of those epiphanic archival moments that significantly changed how I spent the duration of my visit. Just before the coronavirus pandemic was declared, I was finishing a book manuscript, tentatively titled Studies of Provincial Life: Mitford, Gaskell, Eliot. Although Mary Russell Mitford, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot were near contemporaries, spanning two generations, and were celebrated for their representations of rural life, the three authors have never been extensively studied together. Readers often considered that the authors’ glimpses of rural life were based on their individual experiences, and their works were marketed accordingly. Yet when Elizabeth Gaskell undertook in 1851 to write the literary sketches for Household Words: A Weekly Journal Conducted by Charles Dickens that would later appear as Cranford (1853), she looked to Mitford. In Our Village (1824–32) Mitford established the prototype of a new genre to which many writers throughout the century attributed aspects of their craft. In turn, when Marian Evans—who had been a journalist, translator, and editor—tried her hand at fiction, the future George Eliot drew inspiration from Cranford and from the thematic and formal techniques of both Gaskell and Mitford. Tracing this chain of influence, my book demonstrates that Mitford, Gaskell, and Eliot, all of whom have often been employed in service to projects of restorative nostalgia that seek to reconstruct the present in the image of the past, worked within a reflective strain that accepted the pastness of the past and embraced change, however reluctantly and wistfully.

By March 2020, I had a working draft of the manuscript. What I did not possess were the many images I had hoped to incorporate. Over the course of writing, I had also come up with a number of very specific questions about the primary sources with which I was working that could be answered only by undertaking significant fact checking. Because I had to scrap my planned summer 2020 trip to London, where I intended to finish the manuscript at the British Library, the project had been on the back burner for more than a year. On a lark, midway through my time in Waco, I decided to see whether the ABL held any of the titles I needed to consult, such as the original eight parts of Eliot’s Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life or various biographies of Eliot, Gaskell, and Mitford. My heart rate quickened as each title I looked up in the catalog was found in the collection. With Jennifer’s gracious willingness to allow me to switch my focus, I spent my remaining days at the ABL bringing the project to completion.

Playing with bubbles

Playing with bubbles in Christi Klempnauer’s Office

Life may not stop at the doors of the archive. But this does not lessen the pleasures of immersing oneself in a subject (or two!). Nor does it diminish the thrill of discovering something new. In my case, the many intrusions of life also enabled me to learn more about the librarians and staff members who are primarily there to assist researchers with their work. Having brought my kids to the ABL one afternoon, I discovered that Christi Klempnauer, the library’s administrative coordinator, carries a bottle of bubbles with a wand in her purse! If my expectational bubble about undisturbed time was burst on days when I had to contend with a flat tire or a sick family member, the shrieks of delight my children emitted as they ran around the administrative office—and thus, the unexpected and joyful integration of my personal and professional lives—offered more than recompense.

Reflections from a Visiting Scholar: About Time

By Lindsey N. Chappell, PhD, Assistant Professor of English, Georgia Southern University

Dr. Lindsey N. Chappell in the Belew Scholars' Room at the Armstrong Browning Library.

Dr. Lindsey N. Chappell in the Belew Scholars’ Room at the Armstrong Browning Library.

It’s always a good idea to have a plan before going to an archive. This is the advice I give my students because, as I tell them, funny things happen to time in these places. You compress your research, sprinting through (or frantically photographing) primary sources, and new ideas and objects will lead you into rabbit holes. You will be perpetually perplexed about what month it is. You will lose an entire Wednesday. In an archive, then, you want to be flexible enough to accommodate exciting discoveries but prepared enough that you don’t waste time wondering where to start.

I believe this is, in general, good advice. I’m sure someone else gave it to me (probably Helena Michie, whose graduate seminar first required me to work with archival material). And being a responsible scholar—is it possible to fail grad school retroactively?—I did have a plan when I applied for a visiting fellowship at the ABL. I swear.

However, finally arriving (fully vaccinated!) at Baylor in May 2021, a year after my originally scheduled visit, my research projects had changed. I’d moved on from some projects and changed priorities with others. I had an initial research question, but I wasn’t sure what I would do with the things I found, especially since my book project (currently titled Temporal Forms: British Heritage Discourse and the Nineteenth-Century Mediterranean) was a year—ok, a pandemic year—further along than when I had originally planned my visit.

My book is about three Mediterranean regions that were central to the making of Western cultural heritage—Italy, Greece, and the so-called “Holy Land”—in British literature. The Mediterranean, I argue, enables us to ask how historical narratives intervened in geopolitics, how antiquarianism sparked scientific innovation, and how classical and biblical heritage shaped British imperialism. I trace the contours of what I call “heritage discourse”—narrative that constructs or challenges imperial identities by reshaping antiquity—across nineteenth-century British texts about the Mediterranean. Heritage discourse, I argue, functions via time, and often in counterintuitive and paradoxical ways. If assertions of political, cultural, and eventually racial supremacy were the end of this Mediterranean heritage discourse, then time was the means through which it could be (and perhaps still is) deployed and resisted. Temporal Forms reveals how recalculations of time on a geological scale, subsequent new histories of human civilization, radical reinventions of time, trajectories of cultural development, and growing skepticism toward long-held Enlightenment and biblical accounts all converged in British representations of the Mediterranean.

When I applied to be a visiting fellow at the ABL, I planned to start working on the Italy section of Temporal Forms and especially to write a chapter about Florence. My initial research questions were: What are the temporal forms that organize Florence and its inhabitants/visitors? How did people imagine/conceive of Florence around the Risorgimento, and how did that shape the ways they experienced time and constructed it narratively? By 2021, though, I had already decided to focus the Florence chapter on syncretism as a temporal form, and I had a working draft completed. Still, I wanted to see what I could find about the Anglo-American community in Italy and especially the abstract idea of “liberty” in the late 1850s and early 1860s, which I discuss at the end my Italy section. I don’t write much about the Brownings themselves, whose Italy connections have been so well trod in scholarship already (though EBB’s Poems before Congress and RB’s Old Pictures in Florence inform my Italy section, and I looked at editions of both in the ABL). Because the Brownings lived in Florence, though, their archives contain a wealth of material on the broader nineteenth-century Anglo-American community in Italy.

During my fellowship, I read material by and about: John Ruskin, Arthur Hugh Clough, Vernon Lee, and the American sculptor Hiram Powers. I hunted for the Horner family, who feature in my Florence chapter, and Sarah Parker Remond, a Black anti-slavery activist who moved to Florence in 1867 and became a physician. In the case of the former, I found materials in the 19th-Century Collection, the Browning Letters, and especially in the newspaper archive databases available through Baylor (for example, the obituary Susan Horner wrote for her father, reviews of her many publications on Italian art and politics, information on societies and people she mentions in her journals). In the case of the latter, I found no trace (did Remond cease speaking publicly after the US Civil War? After she moved to Italy? Or did the Italian newspapers not report on her the way the British and American ones had? I couldn’t find her in Florence, though I did find a letter she published in the American National Anti-Slavery Standard written from Florence in 1866).

In my hunt for Remond, the Horners, and the wider Anglo-American community in Florence, I consulted the ABL’s holdings of the Florentine newspaper La Nazione. But “consulted” is reductive of the physical experience of accessing and reading La Nazione. The bound volumes are huge. And heavy. And crumbling. I admired Jennifer Borderud, Director of the ABL, even before I witnessed her fearlessness and enthusiasm in the pursuit of knowledge. She didn’t weep when I requested these volumes—didn’t even flinch—but, as she explained, fetching them was a multiple-person operation. I accompanied Jennifer (and a sturdy cart) into storage where we proceeded to wrestle several volumes out for my perusal.

I have gotten used to (all right, spoiled by) digital newspaper archives. Yes, of course I will romanticize the material artifact, the smell and feel of decaying paper, as much as any self-respecting Victorianist. I love old books. But part of me—the part aware of my month-long fellowship steadily ticking away—longed for a search box. La Nazione was founded in Florence by Bettino Ricasoli in 1859 as a daily political newspaper. For me, that meant skimming 365 numbers per year of small print in Italian, hoping I would notice when my eyes passed over a name or event of interest to me.

A volume of La Nazione containing part of 1859—a research endeavor.

A volume of La Nazione containing part of 1859—a research endeavor.

Nineteenth-century issues of La Nazione organize news geographically into “Notizie Italiane” (“Italian News,” subsectioned by regions within Italy, in its earliest numbers still an aspirational national designation) and “Notizie Estere” (“Foreign News,” subsectioned by country and/or city or region—the scale of the geographical designations is sometimes irregular). An “America” section might contain US Civil War news and news from Peru; sometimes there is a very specific location heading (such as “New York” or “Hong Kong”) and sometimes a more sweeping designation (“Asia”). And sometimes broad headings like “France” contain only news of Paris. I am endlessly interested in what might be contained in these kinds of geographic labels (and what might be left out).

La Nazione 11 October 1862, reporting the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S. alongside news from Paris and London about Risorgimento efforts.

La Nazione 11 October 1862, reporting the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S. alongside news from Paris and London about Risorgimento efforts.

Of special interest to me were the London news segments; in the early numbers especially, these were often Italian translations of what British periodicals were saying about Italy, including reprints of calls for English readers to support the Italian independence efforts. Similarly, much of the “America” news reprinted selections from the Italian-American paper Eco d’Italia (published in Italian in New York City), making La Nazione’s reprints an echo of an echo as they captured nineteenth-century immigration networks and shared concerns for “liberty” as Italy pursued independence from foreign rule and the U.S. fought a civil war over slavery.

And there was also news that, to me, bore no immediate relevance to Italian politics: a lecture given at the Museum of Natural Science in February 1867 showcased dicksonia antarctica, the Australian tree fern (I do love a nice tree fern). The issue for 17 June 1873 noted that Great Britain had a population of 22,712,000 in 1871 and 135,004 convictions for drunkenness (I have no idea why this might have mattered in Florence, but I look forward to your emails explaining it). I did say there were rabbit holes.

Nor were diversions limited to the contents of La Nazione. What is the use, one might ask, of having a research plan when there is a book in the archives called Strange Visitors written in 1869 “by the Spirits of Irving, Willis, Thackeray, Bronte, Richter, Byron, Humboldt, Hawthorne, Wesley, Browning, and others now dwelling in the spirit world. Dictated through a clairvoyant, while in an abnormal or trance state”? Did I know Charlotte Brontë posthumously dictated a short story called “Agnes Reef” to a clairvoyant? As the editor Henry J. Horn describes, “For weeks and months the unseen visitors were punctual to their appointments, and this novel-mode of book making proceeded steadily in interest and variety until the volume was completed” (viii).

You may be thinking, to borrow a phrase from Bleak House, “What connexion can there be?” But I did plan to research temporality, and here was an assertion that spirits observed human-time—at least while Horn was making his book (which went through at least three editions).

From Italy (and Strange Visitors), I moved on to Austen Henry Layard, Harriet Martineau, and biblical archaeology and history, gathering material for the “Holy Land” section of Temporal Forms. In addition to books, I consulted the ABL’s theological tracts collection. Here were many texts engaged in British efforts to find and to date biblical sites like Nineveh. I looked at a lavishly illustrated American book, Antiquities of the Orient Unveiled, by M. Wolcott Redding. Despite the creepy pun on “Unveiled,” this book engages the scientific rhetoric of nineteenth-century archaeology. As in Layard’s publications on Nineveh, there is here an insistence on describing historical sites as they are “now,” while most of the illustrations are strangely timeless. The first chapter, “Jerusalem,” includes two facing images. The first (and largest, consisting of a fold-out page) shows “Jerusalem as it was in the time of Solomon—Population 150,000.” The second, “Jerusalem as it is—Population 20,000.” It’s an invitation to compare then and now, but the comparison is thwarted by the difference in the pictures’ sizes (does the larger picture reflect the larger population of “old” Jerusalem? Its greater importance for readers of Antiquities who are gazing on this “Orient” “Unveil[ed]—with or without consent?) and in their different orientations (old Jerusalem is formatted horizontally; new is formatted vertically, so a reader would have to rotate the book to look at each, meaning either then or now is always the wrong way up.

Two pictures of Jerusalem, Antiquities of the Orient Unveiled, by M. Wolcott Redding.

Two pictures of Jerusalem, Antiquities of the Orient Unveiled, by M. Wolcott Redding

Many materials I accessed in the archive were digital but not available through my own institution. To me, being a visiting fellow at the ABL meant not only working with old material things like La Nazione (The Archive, à la A.S. Byatt) but also accessing resources available to me as a temporary member of this research community. This part of the visiting fellowship was invaluable to me as a scholar without regular access to an R1 library or time dedicated to using it.

Even though the pandemic is not “over” (whatever that might come to mean), in my memory I am already registering it as an event with concrete edges. My pandemic memory is bookended by two scholarly occasions: the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies conference in March 2020 and my fellowship at the ABL more than fourteen months later, where I first traveled and took off my mask in public. I am so grateful to the ABL staff for supporting my work, for assisting (and cleaning up after) my research, and for inviting me to write this reflection, where I could revel briefly in all the things that caught my interest but that may never have otherwise “counted” as research.

Reflections on Installing ‘The Brownings In Our World’ Exhibit

by Joy Siler, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

A sculpture of a man and woman's hands clasped together.

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning, 1853; Plaster, 3 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Molly F. Sheppard

At the start of the Fall 2020 semester, I was very excited to work closely with Dr. King’s English senior seminar, The Brownings In Our World. I was just beginning my work as a graduate research assistant at the ABL and it was a great way to introduce me more intimately to the Brownings, to the excellent collections here, and to the role of being a research resource for the students. I truly enjoyed handling the objects and provided digitization services for the course. This specifically was needed for the images the students utilized in an online exhibition they created during the semester. The exhibit displayed the analysis that they had conducted about certain pieces in the ABL collections and used themes found in the Brownings’ works for application to current societal issues.

Book open displaying two pages.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “The Cry of the Children” in ‘Blackwoods Magazine’ (August 1843).

Being familiar with the materials that they used in their class exhibit and the details of the course, I was a great fit to help transition the digital exhibit into a physical one for display at the ABL. I had never created an official exhibit like this before, so it seemed like a large undertaking to organize it and write all of the official text. The most difficult part of this process was making edits that remained true to the student’s original work while also preparing it to the professional standards of the museum. The students made their dialogue accessible and appropriate for the digital platform of the class exhibit as an academic work; however, there are specific ways that the explanation for the physical objects must change to fit a face-to-face medium for a museum. Though a professional exhibit, the information has to be appropriate for a diverse audience with a wide age and educational range. The pieces also require 3D spacing and labels that provide context for the research. For someone who is unfamiliar with what they are looking at, having that additional information in plain language is crucial for fully understanding the object and its significance.

A very exciting moment was finally arranging the objects in their cases in the Hankamer Treasure Room. No matter how much you prepare an exhibit, it can’t truly work until you know if it will all fit and be arranged properly in your space. If something is too large, if your amount of text becomes overwhelming, or the flow of the exhibit does not feel natural, then it is back to the drawing board! Multiple arrangements were tested before the final day to avoid any major last-minute changes. Once it began to take shape, I began to truly feel excited about the end result!

Exhibit cases with items in the Hankamer Treasure Room of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Exhibit cases displaying artifacts from ‘The Brownings in Our World’ in the Hankamer Treasure Room of the Armstrong Browning Library.

As the last item was placed on the black velvet in the case, that moment was the ultimate culmination of the work completed by the students and I over the last several months. It was a satisfying feeling to see it all through to the end and to have completed my first professional exhibit! All of the details fell into place nicely and provided a very valuable and practical learning experience.

 

‘The Brownings in Our World’ exhibit will be on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room from April 1st through June 20th.

Mayor of Fano, Italy Surprises Armstrong Browning Library Fano Club

Massimo Seri, mayor of Fano, Italy, was a surprise guest at this year’s annual meeting of the Armstrong Browning Library’s Fano Club on Saturday, May 15. Seri joined the virtual meeting from the Museo Archeologico e Pinacoteca del Palazzo Malatestiano in Fano which houses Guercino’s painting, The Guardian Angel, that inspired Robert Browning’s poem, “The Guardian Angel — A Picture at Fano.”

Situated in front of Guercino’s masterpiece, the mayor celebrated the long-standing relationship between the city of Fano, the Fano Club, and the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University. “I would like to be able to strengthen the bond between our city and your club, maintaining a constant and continuous relationship and, if possible, also trying to organize joint initiatives aimed at enhancing our artistic heritage with the hope of seeing one another again soon.” He also offered the possibility of hosting a meeting of the Fano Club in Italy in 2022 and visiting Waco and the Armstrong Browning Library in the near future.

Mayor Massimo Seri

Screenshot of Massimo Seri, Mayor of Fano, Italy, addressing the Fano Club on Zoom on May 15, 2021

Armstrong Browning Library Director Jennifer Borderud appreciated the mayor making himself available to speak to Fano Club members. “The Fano Club was thrilled to hear from Mayor Seri at this year’s meeting. I am grateful to him for his kindness and for taking the time to talk with us about the history of Fano, its artistic and cultural heritage, and the unique connection our two cities share. I look forward to finding new ways to collaborate with the city of Fano and to encouraging Baylor students and Browning enthusiasts to visit.”

The Fano Club was established in 1912 by William Lyon Phelps, a Browning scholar at Yale, and later passed to Baylor professor A.J. Armstrong in 1943. Its membership shares Robert Browning’s experience of traveling to Fano, Italy, on the Adriatic coast and seeing Guercino’s Guardian Angel. Postcards mailed from Fano to the Armstrong Browning Library establish membership in the club, which gathers annually in Waco, Texas, for a dinner to share their experiences of Fano and to hear Browning’s poem read aloud. The Armstrong Browning Library houses a copy of Guercino’s Guardian Angel as well as a stained-glass rendering of this work of art created in 1924.

Browning Day 2021 in Review

by Rachel Jacob, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

To celebrate the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Browning, the Armstrong Browning Library holds an annual Browning Day Lecture. For the 2021 Browning Day Lecture, Dr. Joshua King presented his lecture, “Lords of the Earth? Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Christ’s Body in the Age of Human Domination.” A recording of the event is available on the Baylor Libraries YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/Vnki2F6A-X8

For the Browning Day Lecture, Dr. King explored the interconnectedness and intersectionality of literature, ecology, and religion in the nineteenth century through the lens of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her work. The lecture focused on the relationship of humanity, nature, and God in Browning’s A Drama of Exiles (1844) and Aurora Leigh (1856). Dr. King explored how the industrial Revolution influenced and conflicted Browning as she searched for the balance of human intervention and the wildness of nature. In addition to the lecture, there were two question-and-answer opportunities with Dr. King. The questions ranged from Spiritualism to labor and Women’s rights violations.

Dr. King is an Associate Professor of English at Baylor University, specializing in Romantic and Victorian literature. He also serves as the Margaret Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies at Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library. Dr. King has given lectures and organized conferences that explore the intersection of literature, ecology, and religion in the nineteenth century. This leads up to his Browning Day Lecture and upcoming book, The Body of Christ, The Body of the Earth: Nineteenth-Century Poetry, Ecology, and Christology.

If you are interested in the topics Dr. King covered, there is currently an exhibit on display in the Armstrong Browning Library, “The Brownings in Our World”, which covers Power and In/Justice, Relating to Nature, and Redefining Faith. An online exhibit is also available at https://blogs.baylor.edu/thebrowningsinourworld/.

Thank you for celebrating the life of the Brownings with us and for supporting the Armstrong Browning Library! Be on the lookout for Dr. King’s new publication and be sure to join us again next year!

The Brownings In Our World: Exhibit Introduction

by Joy Siler, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

A sculpture of a man and woman's hands clasped together.

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Clasped Hands of Elizabeth and Robert Browning, 1853; Plaster, 3 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Molly F. Sheppard

Our newest exhibit at the Armstrong Browning Library, The Brownings In Our World, began as a digital exhibition curated by Baylor students. During the Fall 2020 semester, an English senior seminar of the same name—ENG 4364: The Brownings In Our World—was taught by Dr. Joshua King and hosted at the ABL. This particular course was in perfect harmony with its surroundings as it explored how the lives and writings of the Browning poets might have important connections to major challenges in our modern world. Both Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning often reflected on complex subjects of life throughout their poetry, including injustice, relations to nature, and debated faith. The class studied the poets with these ideas in mind and published their findings in a digital exhibit created over the course of the semester. Each student chose artifacts or pieces of poetry found in the ABL’s collections that they analyzed and presented with various digital media.

As they held class here and utilized rare items from our collections, it seemed fitting to create a physical showcase to bring their research to a broader audience on campus, in our local community, and to all visitors of the library. A single item from each student’s presentation was selected to represent their thematic research and has been arranged for viewing in the Hankamer Treasure Room. The collective work of the class and the exhibit show the Brownings’ poetry as valid contemporary commentary for societal issues of today and promotes the research that can be found at our library. This kind of dialogue lines up directly with our mission of providing these materials expressly for the appreciation and understanding of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a grander context.

We invite you to visit The Brownings in Our World exhibit that is now available to view digitally at https://blogs.baylor.edu/thebrowningsinourworld/ and in person at the Armstrong Browning Library in the Hankamer Treasure Room from April 1st through June 20th.

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Themes as Explored in the Exhibits:

Power and (In)Justice:

The Brownings’ often wrestled with their own ties to the systematic racial, gender, and class injustices that shaped their lives and Victorian society. Despite these personal connections and even benefitting from some of them, Robert and Elizabeth advocated for those experiencing these inequalities and protested the perpetuation of these conditions through their poetry.

Relating to Nature:

Influenced by natural beauty and the romanticism of the previous generation, the Brownings’ utilized nature to express complex feelings of love and appreciation. They included flowers and natural scenes in much of their poetry, often appreciative of its effects on their quality of life. They also recognized that deplorable, unhealthy living environments could be detrimental and worked to bring attention to those experiencing poverty and terrible working conditions.

Debated Faith:

Robert and Elizabeth featured many religious ideas and diverse interpretations of sacred text in their works. Spiritualism and increasing debates about religion at the time created new definitions of faith that had profound influence on both of the Brownings. Their followers have even taken to devoting themselves almost religiously to their body of works.

 

‘The Brownings in Our World’ exhibit will be on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room from April 1st through June 20th.

“Not Death But Love”: A Poetry Video Homage to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

By Gerard Wozek

In anticipation of the Armstrong Browning Library & Museum’s Browning Day Celebration on April 16, we are excited to present a recently completed video poem titled, “Not Death But Love,” produced by myself, Gerard Wozek as writer, and directed by artist Mary Russell in collaboration with Rob Kurland. In this brief film collage, it is our intention to honor the buried personal history of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. By reimagining her meditative garden strolls, our poetry video seeks to reveal her abiding love with her husband Robert Browning, her deep affinity for nature, her later experiments with the occult, and her ability to transcend the boundaries of time.

My creative partner Mary Russell and I have had the idea for years to develop a tribute video that honors Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her life as a writer and what informed her creative process.  Our keen interest in the life of the poet really hit a peak when we were teaching in a study abroad program offered through our university that took us to Florence, Italy. There we discovered Barrett Browning’s attraction for long strolls in the Florentine Boboli Gardens and her life at Casa Guidi. We were so enchanted with what we discovered about the life of the poet in Italy, that we at once began to put together the idea of “restaging” and reimagining her walks alongside a narrative that would serve as an homage to the poet’s craft and genius.

Still frame from “Not Death But Love”

I developed a tribute poem that would take the reader and listener on a journey through various elements and time periods inhabited by Barrett Browning. I wanted the viewer to feel as though they were walking alongside the poet, in order to not only see what she might be encountering in the Boboli Gardens of Florence, but also to feel and connect with her internal creative vision:

We listen for Pan’s pipes. A leopard’s growl as it grazes the bark of an overgrown cypress. Your hushed voice moving through the lines of a sonnet.

Elizabeth! Your handwriting is the black-ink edge of a storm cloud curling into infinity.

Puffs of red dust that once clung to your petticoat, now stain our sandal straps as we make our way to the Egyptian obelisk.

Poetry video is a unique way of expressing this particular kind of tribute to a poet. Also known as videopoems, cine-poetry, or poetry films, poetry video unites spoken text (or sometimes text that is written on the screen or text that is simply interpreted by the visual artist) with imagery and music. Situated somewhere between installation art and music video, poetry video is an evolving genre. When a resonant image couples with the poet’s text, alchemy can occur between the two disciplines of poetry and film. The visual images often deepen the author’s meaning, provide startling contrast, or locate new alliances within the inherent metaphors of the poet’s text. Stills, animation, computer graphics, and filmed imagery, complimented often by a soundtrack and/or the poet’s voice, can broaden and enhance the experience of the listener/viewer.

Jamie Stoik as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in “Not Death But Love”

“Not Death But Love,” which was completed earlier last year, will screen this summer at the 2021 International Poetry Video Festival in Athens, Greece. We were so thrilled that Jennifer Borderud, Director of the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University, offered us an opportunity to share our newly completed work with the community at Baylor, and most especially with those individuals who will celebrate the University’s annual Browning Day held virtually on April 16, 2021.

The video is available below. You can also contact me at Gerard.Wozek@gmail.com for more information about the video.

The Armstrong Browning Library & Museum’s annual Browning Day Celebration will be held virtually this year on April 16. For more information, visit baylor.edu/library/browningday.

Introducing Spring 2021 Student Assistants.

This spring the Armstrong Browning Library has added a few new Library Hosts and Library Services Assistants. Student Hosts are the first point of contact for visitors to the library, and one of their chief responsibilities is to be friendly and welcoming to guests. The Library Services Student Assistants help researchers access Armstrong Browning Library materials and support the library’s efforts to increase the visibility of its collections. Please stop and say, “hello” to our new colleagues when you next at the Armstrong Browning Library.

Jordan Vanderpool, Student Host

Male young adult standing in front of a stained glass window.

Student Host, Jordan Vanderpool

Hometown: China Spring, Texas

Major: Double major in University Scholar and Spanish

What are you looking forward to about working in the ABL? The Armstrong Browning library is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. I love just being in the building, and furthermore, I love Robert Browning’s poetry, so it’s just great to work in a place so rich in literary history.

What food do you miss most when away from home? I miss most vegetables grown at my house, like swiss chard and turnips.

Hannah Barker, Library Services Assistant

Female young adult standing in front of a stained glass window.

Library Services Assistant, Hannah Barker

Hometown: Lewisville, Texas

Major: Accounting

What are you looking forward to about working in the ABL? I’m excited to be surrounded by so much history and part of a community that values literature and its preservation.

What food do you miss most when away from home? I miss my Dad’s fish fry and my Mom’s spaghetti – really just homemade food in general.

Madeleine Svehla, Library Services Assistant

Female young adult standing in front of a mural.

Library Services Assistant Madeleine Svehla

Hometown: Morrison, CO
Major: Master of Divinity
What are you looking forward to about working in the ABL? I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry (my favorite poem by her is entitled “The Best Thing in the World”). I have always had a deep passion for the power of the written word, and I am honored to be a part of the process of preserving ABL’s incredible collection! I admire the way the ABL combines beauty and research in ways that inspire creativity and contemplation.
What food do you miss most when away from home? The food I miss the most when I am away from home is my father’s Big Breakfasts. These meals usually consist of scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, English Muffins, orange juice, and occasionally, (just to mix it up) can also include either French Toast or waffles. My whole family gathers every Sunday to share this meal after church and I look forward to laughing and spending time together each week- these brunches are something I miss a great deal when I am away from home!

Matilda Weeden, Library Services Assistant

Female young adult standing next to a stained glass window.

Library Services Assistant, Matilda Weeden

Hometown: Monroe, Wisconsin (the Swiss Cheese capital of the US)

Major: International Studies

What are you looking forward to about working in the ABL? I am most looking forward to helping show people around and being surrounded by the beauty of the library on a regular basis.

What food do you miss most when away from home? When I am away from home I miss my mom’s homemade bread rolls or Culver’s crinkle cut fries dipped in chocolate frozen custard. Fries in ice cream just aren’t as good anywhere else!