Browning Scholar Enjoys Long-Awaited Research Visit

A photo of Marta Gimenez Orti outside of the Armstrong Browning Library & Museum

Marta Gimenez Orti

In late 2019, Marta Gimenez Orti, a doctoral student from Spain, received a scholarship from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The award enabled her to conduct dissertation research for a semester at Armstrong Browning Library & Museum at Baylor University, which is the international center for research on the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. However, as she began to make travel plans it soon became clear her Baylor visit would be delayed due to COVID-19.

Orti completed her undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in education and translation in Spain. However, she decided to pursue a Ph.D in literature. Her love of literature and Italian drew her to the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

When Orti found out she was awarded the scholarship, she was excited because she was working full-time as a high school teacher while trying to complete work on her Ph.D. The research leave would enable her to focus on her dissertation research and complete her degree.

“I had to wait for two years. I had to keep on working which was hard for me, and I also had to do a lot more paperwork to come here,” said Orti. “I had to go to the embassy to do my visa and I had to do a lot of COVID-19 tests.”

Orti’s research asks why Elizabeth Barrett Browning is not as highly recognized as other English writers from the Victorian era.

“She [Elizabeth Barrett Browning] was like the Shakespeare of women, and she influenced a lot of writers such as Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe. However, today they are much more popular than her and few study her. I want to know why she is not well-known anymore, even though she is a pioneer among English authors.”

Reductions in COVID travel restrictions enabled Orti to make her journey to Baylor in August. Now that she is at the Armstrong Browning Library she enjoys the atmosphere around campus.

“I am happy that Marta was finally able to join us, and I look forward to learning what her research reveals about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s reputation and reception in Italy,” said Director of Armstrong Browning Library Jennifer Borderud. “I am also happy that Marta has been able to experience campus life at Baylor and explore Waco and Texas.”

One of the biggest differences between Baylor and her school in Madrid is the amount of help that Orti has received at Armstrong Browning Library.

Coming to a place like Armstrong Browning Library allows Orti to have resources all in one building, where in Spain, she described having to go to different cities to find certain resources. She is also appreciative of the staff that accompanies her at Armstrong Browning Library as they have greatly helped her adjust to life in the United States.

“I thought that adjusting to life in the United States would be harder, but it’s not. Christi and Jennifer at the Armstrong Browning Library are helping me a lot. They even looked for an apartment for me here,” said Orti. “I have also met some people here at the library and I have been spending time with them, so I thought that it would be harder but I am very good here actually.”

Since coming to the United States, Orti is also pleasantly surprised at the amount of student activities that Baylor offers compared to universities in Spain.

“It is so different from Europe. Here you have a lot of activities for students and organizations and I have a lot of opportunities to go out, so that’s something new for me as a student and I really love it.”

Orti plans on completing and defending her dissertation in January and would love to remain at Baylor for a little longer as a professor of language or literature.

Browning Pilgrimage

by Rachel Jacob, Armstrong Browning Library Graduate Research Assistant

Part of my duties as a graduate research assistant at the Armstrong Browning Library involve looking through our collections to answer research questions people ask. A recent question related to the Armstrong tours caused me to look through the unprocessed collection of the tour company which Mary Armstrong, Dr. Armstrong’s wife, ran for many years. In researching this collection, I stumbled across the Browning pilgrimage which the Armstrong Educational Tours company created.

Brochure for the first Browning pilgrimage.

In 1926, the Armstrong Tour company offered an exciting tour of Europe highlighting areas of the Browning’s lives. The tour was infused with literary references and readings. The tourists, or “pilgrims”, would even have literary lectures given by Dr. Armstrong and European Browning scholars at various stops on the trip. Dr. Armstrong himself described the tour:

“This pilgrimage to the shrines of the most virile poet of the Nineteenth Century is a spontaneous growth, out of the minds and hearts of Browning Lovers of America. The tour will include all the interesting features along the usual path through artistic and literary and historic and scenic beauties of Europe. But, in addition to these, there will be excursions along the trail of the Brownings. This means charming excursions in out-of-the-way corners of Europe, which lend to this tour peculiar and gripping interest.”

Photograph of the Browning pilgrimage tour at Fano.

On the tour, the group visited important places in Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s story including their home at Casa Guidi, Barrett Browning’s house at 50 Wimpole Street, the church where they were married, and the burial spot of Barrett Browning. The group also visited the Baths of Luca where Barrett Browning presented her Sonnets of the Portuguese to Browning. Another literary stop relating to the Browning’s works was the Piazza S. Lorenzo where the Old Yellow Book, the inspiration for the Ring and the Book, was found. The pilgrims even followed the trail of Pompelia and Caponsacchi while they were traveling. They were also able to visit Fano to see the Guardian Angel, for which Browning wrote his eponymous poem. During the trip, the pilgrims met significant people like Prince Fabrizio Cigala, the Governor of Calabria, professors at the University of Naples, and various Browning scholars and supporters.

 

Brochure for the second Browning pilgrimage.

The first tour must have been a success because in 1930 Armstrong Educational Tours offered a second Browning pilgrimage. This second pilgrimage had 19 pilgrims join on an even more expansive 5-month tour. The new additions to the tour included a trip to Ravenna to place a wreath on the grave of Dante and visit Ferrara which was associated with My Last Duchess. During their celebration in Rome for the fourth of July, the pilgrims met Contessa Zampini-Salazar, Count and Countess Vanutelli, and Donna Olivia Agresti-Rosetti, the niece of Christina and Dante Rossetti. While on the trip they even met the pope.

In discussing the second Browning pilgrimage, Dr. Armstrong remarked, “of all the twenty-odd tours I have made to Europe, this one was by far the most memorable.”

Although there was no documentation in this collection that shows the Armstrong tour company ever leading another Browning pilgrimage, Dr. Roger Brooks resurrected the trip in 1991. Dr. Brooks, the then director of the Armstrong Browning Library, offered a scaled-down week-long version of the trip. During the trip, Dr. Brooks participated in the wreath-laying ceremony at Browning’s grave in Westminster Abbey.

Going into this collection, I only expected to find an answer to the original research question, but instead, I was able to witness the dedication and impact of the Brownings that is still seen to this day.

Female Poets at Baylor: Fiona Sampson and EBB

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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