Expressing Thanks To and For Our Benefactors

On November 15th, the Armstrong Browning Library held our annual Benefactors Day program. Benefactors Day provides us an opportunity to thank publicly those who support the work of the library. Our benefactors include those whose financial contributions make possible the growth and preservation of our collections, our research and teaching fellowships, our internships, and public events. Our benefactors also include faculty who engage with the library through classroom instruction, researchers who create and share new knowledge gleaned from the collections, individuals who attend library lectures and conferences, and all who promote the library and its resources to the local community and the broader scholarly community.

Benefactors Day Lecture in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the Armstrong Browning Library

Benefactors Day Lecture in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the Armstrong Browning Library

As part of our Benefactors Day celebration this year, Dr. Lesa Scholl delivered a special lecture on “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Souls: 19th-Century Medicine, Religion, and Literature”. Dr. Scholl is Head of Kathleen Lumley College at the University of Adelaide and the Armstrong Browning Library’s Three-Month Research Fellow. Her lecture was co-sponsored by the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty and Baylor’s Medical Humanities Program. Dr. Scholl’s lecture explored nineteenth century religious and social ideas about and attitudes towards fasting as expressed in the Armstrong Browning Library’s pamphlets and tracts collections. Her full remarks are available here:

Benefactors Day Reception in the Cox Reception Hall

Benefactors Day Reception in the Cox Reception Hall

A reception followed Dr. Scholl’s lecture which provided a varied selection of “healthy” refreshments.


If you were able to join us for Benefactors Day, thank you so much for coming. If you were not, we hope you will be able to attend next year’s Benefactors Day celebration for those who support the Armstrong Browning Library.

‘Every common bush afire with God’: Welcome to the Process

‘Every common bush afire with God’: Divine Encounters in the Living World

The exhibition explores the intersection of religious and ecological concerns in nineteenth-century literature and art, from William Wordsworth to Gerard Manley Hopkins. You can read more about its content here. The exhibit was curated by Molly Lewis, a doctoral student of English at Baylor University during a ten-week summer internship through the Armstrong Browning Library.


Welcome to the Process: What I Learned and How I Did It

At the beginning of the summer, all I knew about the exhibition was its general topic—ecology and religion. How the Brownings and their contemporaries explored this topic in their writing was a mystery to me. I began by talking to people familiar with the authors at the ABL, especially Dr. Josh King. I also read through a lot of secondary scholarship on my topic and hunted down primary texts those authors may have referenced. Emma Mason’s recent book, Christina Rossetti: Poetry, Ecology, Faith, for example, includes a comprehensive chapter on Rossetti’s relationship with the Tractarians. Though they didn’t end up in the exhibit, the ABL holds a wide collection of tracts and pamphlets from this nineteenth-century religious movement so influential to the poet. I spent several weeks slowly looking through each item my secondary reading suggested to me, often using keyword searches of digital editions to narrow my focus. This kept me from over-handling rare and fragile volumes.

Four editions of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh

Four editions of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh

When multiple copies of the same text we available, I compared those copies to determine which one displayed my chosen text most clearly, which was most durable for display, etc. The Library has many copies of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, for example. Not only did I keep a recently-published critical edition at my desk for my own reference, I looked at half a dozen editions to determine which one showed the “Every common bush afire with God” passage most readably. I compared Wordsworth’s first and second editions of Lyrical Ballads to EBB’s own collection of his poetry to see which would best illustrate not only his conviction about nature’s capacity for spiritual renewal but also the influence that vision had on the poets that came after him.

Exhibit Layout Mockup

Exhibit Layout Mockup

I photographed everything I looked at so that I could reference digital images when necessary. This also reduced how often I handled the books. When I had found a few dozen solidly relevant and compelling texts, I grouped them by theme, and considered how they might relate to one another. Texts that had less in common with the rest, I culled. Sometimes a connection—like the burning bush image in two separate poems by two different authors—made my choice for me. I wasn’t planning on using that particular page of Aurora Leigh to begin with, but it makes for a very interesting comparison with Christina Rossetti’s sonnet, “Tread softly! all the earth is holy ground.”

Christina Rossetti's Sing Song: A Nursery-Rhyme Book

Christina Rossetti’s Sing Song: A Nursery-Rhyme Book

Some discoveries were surprises. For example, I looked at Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner self-indulgently. After all, if a first edition Coleridge is available, you ask to look at it. As I was rereading the poem—which I hadn’t really looked at closely for years—I realized that it shared the same central theme of the relationship between recognizing nature’s beauty and being able to pray that several other poets had already considered. Including Mariner pushed me to display the “Linnets” poem from Sing-Song in addition to “Hurt No Living Thing”—even though that meant relying on facsimiles, as the pages don’t face each other.

Once these decisions were made, I began drafting text for each item based on what I knew. I revised that text for brevity, then asked for feedback from peers and professors. This feedback led to a lot more clarification about each item’s unique characteristics as well as their relationship with the overall theme. As I revised, I also digitized some texts for use in blog posts, social media, and other promotional material. I worked with Laura French and others at the ABL to build custom cradles for display. And I continued reading about the subject, the authors, and the texts along the way. There’s still a lot for me to learn about these authors and this subject, but the process of curating the exhibit has been a remarkable opportunity to learn about the Armstrong Browning Library’s resources and the long history of ecological care rooted in robust Christian faith and practice.


Read more in this series of blog posts about the exhibit “‘Every common bush afire with God’: Divine Encounters in the Living World“:

Body and Soul: ABL’s Research Fellow Analyzes the Physical and Spiritual Impacts of Hunger in 19th-Century Britain

By Abby Sowder, Public Relations Intern for Baylor Libraries

Dr. Lesa Scholl, Armstrong Browning Library Three-Month Research Fellow

Dr. Lesa Scholl, Armstrong Browning Library Three-Month Research Fellow

Hunger can indicate several things: an appetite, a desire, a yearning. Whichever a human experiences, hunger signals need for nourishment.

Dr. Lesa Scholl has travelled over nine thousand miles to study just that. After a one-month fellowship in 2017, Scholl returned to Armstrong Browning Library from the University of Adelaide in Australia to pursue her research on hunger and fasting as a three-month research fellow.

“Some say there’s a ghost that haunts the halls of ABL,” Scholl joked. “I think it specifically targets scholars to entice them to continue their research. On the last day of my first fellowship, I stumbled upon on a tract from the 19th century that inspired my current project.”

The tract, titled “Remarks on Fasting,” presented a dialogue between a physician and a clergyman discussing food restrictions. Interestingly, the clergyman was against fasting, and the physician was for it. Since her discovery in 2017, Scholl has identified the clergyman, and is “determined to find out” the identity of the physician.

This foundational piece led Scholl to explore the relationship between medicine and religion when it comes to fasting for religious or moral purposes. Scholl seeks to find what the body really needs, in a nutritional and a spiritual sense. It has been noted the science and religion fields fields have historically been at odds, but her work disproves that sentiment in regard to her field of research.

“There really is a strong conversation between the medical doctors and theologians. Instead of these two areas being separated, they’re working together,” Scholl said. “It’s an encouraging thing to see.”

Scholl’s research is focused in the 19th century from an Anglican viewpoint, but she uses contemporary words such as “food insecurity” and “food deserts” to help her modern audiences fully understand the subject matter. While her research is historically distant and is focused in another country, Scholl hopes her work allows her audiences to reflect on how it relates to the prevalent issue of hunger today.

“I think it’s much more useful for people to draw those conclusions themselves instead of someone telling them that they should think in a particular way,” she said.

Hunger is an issue that has affected societies for centuries, and it hits close to home in the Waco community, as 28 percent of its residents are currently living below the poverty line. In addition to her ABL fellowship, Scholl also serves as a research fellow for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, which partners with the Texas Hunger Initiative to conduct research that determines the best practices and programs to effectively address hunger and poverty, and coordinates these efforts in local communities.

“The idea behind this fellowship isn’t really to have someone sitting up in the reading room and not connecting with anyone else. It’s about discovering ways to contribute beyond Baylor,” she said. “That’s one of the things I love about Baylor. We’re working to make the world a better place.”

Scholl will present her research, “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Souls: 19th-Century Medicine, Religion, and Literature,” at ABL’s annual Benefactors Day celebration on Friday, Nov. 15. The event begins at 3:30 p.m. and will be held in the Hankamer Treasure Room.

Benefactors Day 2019