RMMLA-Huntington Library Research Grant
(HuntingtonGrant@rmmla.org) to email
your application packet (details on required documents below).
In conjunction with the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, the
RMMLA offers a $3,000 stipend to support one month of residency and
research at the Library. All members of the RMMLA are eligible for
the RMMLA-Huntington Library Research Grant, and we especially encourage graduate
students and junior faculty to apply. Click HERE for the research reports from recent reicipients.
The Huntington Library has a rich collection of rare books and
manuscripts principally in the fields of British and American
history and literature. Other research strengths include
15th-century books, history of science, and maritime history.
For the general public, the Library has on display some of the
finest rare books and manuscripts of Anglo-American civilization.
Among the treasures on exhibition are the Ellesmere manuscript of
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a copy of the Gutenberg Bible on
vellum, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon's Birds of
America, and an unsurpassed collection of the early editions of
For qualified scholars, the Huntington is one of the largest and
most complete research libraries in the United States in its fields
of specialization. Altogether, there are about five million items
available for research. For more information on the Huntington,
visit their site on the WWW at http://www.huntington.org/.
The application deadline for the RMMLA-Huntington Library Research Grant is May 1 (postmark deadline) to the Secretariat.
for selection include value of the project, appropriateness of the
research to material available at the Huntington, promise and
experience of the researcher, and proposed use of and dissemination
of the project results.
(HuntingtonGrant@rmmla.org) to email your application packet (written in English only) which includes the following:
The winner of the award is announced by June 1.
- A current curriculum vitae (maximum 2 pages);
- A description of the proposed project indicating which Huntington materials will be
used and the approximate dates of the research residency;
- A cover letter in which the applicant states that, if chosen as the recipient, s/he
(a) will use all funds for the purpose of research; (b) will serve on the selection committee for the following year's competition; and
(c) will submit a 2-3 page final report within six months of the project's completion.
Recent RMMLA-Huntington Library Research Grant recipients include (click on the recipient's name to
read his/her research report):
- 2015 - Jared S. Richman (Colorado College): “(In)audible Bodies and (In)visible Voices: Elocution and Disability in the Long Eighteenth Century”
- 2014 - Rachel A Eccleston (University of Oregon): “Princely Feminine Graces: Virtue and Power in Early Modern English and Spanish Literature.”
- 2013 - Peter Remien (Lewis-Clark State College): "The Oeconomy of Nature"
- 2012 - Molly Desjardins (University of Northern Colorado): "Public
Intellectuals, Private Idiots: Intelligence and Sociality in the British Romantic Era"
- 2011 - Stefanie Sobelle (Gettysburg College): "The Architectural Novel"
- 2010 - Alison Harvey (Postdoctoral Fellow with Core Humanities Program at
University of Nevada, Reno): "Irish Realism in the Free State:
Neutrality, Surveillance, and Literary Form in Elizabeth Bowen’s Wartime Writings."
- 2009 - Sarah Gordon (Utah State University): "Medieval Representations of Disability, Physical
Impairment, and the Notion of 'Cure'."
- 2008 - No recipient.
- 2007 - Allison Ksiazkiewicz (York University, Toronto, Ontario): "The Visual Culture of Natural
History and Notions of Wilderness in American Landscape Painting"
- 2006 - Katarzyna Rutkowski (University of Colorado, Boulder): "Channeling the Genius
Loci: Lydgate, Milton and the Dialectics of Place in Late
Medieval Bury and Early Modern Cambridge."
- 2005 - Miles Kimball (Texas Tech University): "The Visual and Textual Rhetoric
of Civic Boosterism."
- 2004 - Vanessa Coloura (University of California, Santa Barbara): "Aphra Behn and Spectacle on the
- 2003 - Diana Solomon (University of California, Santa Barbara):
"Textual Excess: Actresses' Prologues and Epilogues on the London Stage, 1660-1731"
- 2002 - Lucy Morrison (Pennsylvania State University, Hazleton): "Literary and Business
Correspondence of British Romantic Women Writers"
- 2001 - Stacy Burton (University of Nevada, Reno): "Travel, Narrative, Modernity: Flânerie
in the Twentieth Century"
- 2000 - Carol Poster (Montana State University): "The Early Modern Enthymeme"
- 1998 - Marjorie Swann (University of Kansas)
- 1993 - Alex Pettit (University of North Texas)
- 1990 - Bruce W. Young (Brigham Young University)
2012 Report submitted by Molly Desjardins
(University of Northern Colorado)
After receiving the RMMLA-Huntington Research Grant, I spent the summer of 2012 in residence at the Huntington Library conducting research
on Romantic-era constructions of intelligence and sociality as part of my book project, then titled Public Intellectuals, Private Idiots: Intelligence
and Sociality in the British Romantic Era. Specifically, I researched rhetorical representations of the Swiss “cretin” in eighteenth-century British
travel narratives and rhetorical constructions of intelligence in the “Gilbert Wakefield Affair,” a Romantic-era debate over the legitimacy and necessity
of public worship.
In the first part of my research, I sought to answer the question: why do Romantic-era travel narratives consistently include descriptions of Swiss “cretins,”
when, as most of these narratives lament, the aspect of the cretin detracts from the sublime prospect of the Alps—the prospect many of these
writers claim to be interested in re-creating for their readers? By looking at Romantic-era British travel literature alongside contemporaneous British
medical treatises on cretinism available at the Huntington, I came to the provisional answer that, in both discourses, the cretin functions as a figure for
European alterity. I argue that by strategically invoking the image of the “disgusting” cretin as a product of its environment, British travel writers
implicitly argue for the superiority of the British picturesque. To put it another way, though these narratives admit the Continent is more sublime, they
also suggest that the cost of this sublimity can be seen on the faces of Europe’s most abject inhabitants.
In the second part of my research, I looked at the controversy surrounding Dissenting minister Gilbert Wakefield’s controversial opposition of public, or
social, worship—a position he defended based on his literary interpretation of the bible. In particular, I looked at the Huntington’s collection of
Wakefield’s published sermons (1789-1821), Wakefield’s Correspondence with Charles James Fox (1813), Wakefield’s Self-Defense (1799) and his An Essay
on Inspiration (1822) as well as published replies to Edmund Burke (1796), William Wilberforce (1797), and the Bishop of Llandaff (1798). I looked
at this material to consider how Wakefield’s reliance on a theory of asocially constructed intelligence helped him to make his point. I did this in order
to begin thinking about what the Wakefield affair might tell us about the relationship between Romantic-era interpretations of sacred literature and the
debate over expanding public education to what Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, called the “swinish multitude.”
When I began research at the Huntington, I intended to use the research on the Wakefield affair to form the fifth and final chapter of my book project
and to use the research on cretinism for a separate conference paper and article. However, early on in my time at the Huntington, I realized that the
material on cretinism fit more organically with the existing chapters of my book project and that the material on the Wakefield affair worked better
as a stand-alone article. So, as I look back on the work that my RMMLA grant enabled, I am grateful not only for the time and resources needed to conduct
research on both topics, but also the time and resources to re-imagine and re-frame my book project. This summer, I plan to return to the Huntington to
complete the research for and drafting of the final chapter on cretinism. I have already presented the research on cretinism as a conference paper and
will use that paper to begin drafting my final book chapter.
2011 Report submitted by Stefanie Sobelle
I was awarded a RMMLA-Huntington Library research grant for the summer of 2011 to work in the library’s archives and
deepen my knowledge about the American Arts & Crafts movement, the work of the California Craftsman architecture firm Greene &
Greene, and the history of Los Angeles architecture - research for my current book manuscript, The Architectural Novel, which argues
that American fiction attends to architecture and space as one of its primary gestures. My month at the Huntington was fruitful in
both expected and surprising ways. While working in the Greene & Greene archive, I examined the firm’s informal sketches, architectural
drawings, photographs, personal and professional correspondence, etc.- and these were quite instructive, even if I barely made a dent in
the full range of available materials. In addition, I spent a bit of time in the Huntington’s collections of decorative arts holdings,
and with the help of the director of the Gamble House, I was able to visit a few of the Greene & Greene houses in Pasadena. This research
helped me to contextualize Greene & Greene in American Modernism, develop a new introduction, strengthen my background in American
architectural history, and deepen the interdisciplinary dimensions of The Architectural Novel.
While in Pasadena, I became increasingly intrigued by Charles Greene in particular, the eldest and more eccentric of the two brothers,
whose poems, journals, and jottings demonstrate a wide-range of creative ambitions. My most fruitful "discovery" occurred when I stumbled
upon his unpublished manuscript of Thais Thayer, a romance about an architect held hostage and forced to design a house on a remote island.
Although most Greene fans seem to dismiss it, the novel demonstrates a significant working through of architectural concepts in literary
form. In the year since first reading it, I have begun looking into having a scholarly edition published, which I will edit and for which
I will contribute an essay - a project on which I will continue working in the forthcoming year. I believe that the publication of Thais
Thayer will bring to readers interested in literary and architectural Modernism a fascinating work never before available to the general
public, augmenting the prolific scholarship already existing on the projects of Greene & Greene.
The Huntington Library is one of the truly special archives in which to conduct research in the United States. Its incomparable resources
facilitated significant progress in my current manuscript and gave me an exciting new project as well. When I was feeling a twinge of
writer’s block or needed a breath of fresh air, I had acres of spectacular gardens to wander. Even more rewarding, however, was the large
number of generous and brilliant scholars and staff members who have become indispensible mentors and friends. I am truly grateful for
having had this opportunity.
2010 Report submitted by Alison Harvey
"Irish Realism in the Free State:
Neutrality, Surveillance, and Literary Form in Elizabeth Bowen’s Wartime Writings"
(University of Nevada, Reno)
My research on the Huntington Library’s archive of the correspondence and literary manuscripts (1934-1946) of
Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen will shed light on a central aspect of my Bowen research, the question of
how politics, the war, Irish neutrality, and espionage affect literary form. While living and writing in 1940s
London, Bowen traveled to and from Ireland and filed confidential reports on Irish neutrality for the British
Ministry of Information—in short, she was a spy. I am interested in how realism itself can be seen as a form
of "spying" and Irish realism a form of spying on Ireland. My work on the Huntington archive will contribute to
a deeper understanding of Bowen’s wartime writings, her place in the genealogies of realism and modernism, and
the larger picture of Irish and British literary culture during the war.
2009 Report submitted by Sarah Gordon
(Utah State University)
Disability Studies, a growing field of interdisciplinary critical inquiry in the humanities today, is only
recently beginning to receive some of the scholarly attention it deserves as a valuable approach to medieval and early
modern literary, historical, and cultural studies. Disability Studies is an enabling perspective, allowing us to look
at many forms of difference in a new light. This study is structured by a comparative exploration of the mind/body
dichotomy in medical texts and literary or dramatic representations in thirteenth- through sixteenth-century French
and European texts, from professional medical manual to urban farce performance. This study looks at often marginalized
people and texts, aiming to give voice to the voiceless and to pay attention to voices of difference in our reading of
As an example of the useful applications of the critical lens provided by Disability Studies to medieval literature,
this multi-disciplinary, multi-genre study focuses on late medieval French romance, fabliaux narrative, and farce genres,
moving chronologically and within the context of cultural and medical perceptions. In revisiting literary and theatrical
texts from the perspective of Disability Studies, the book argues that disability and physical difference were social
constructions and literary identity labels, already in existence in this period. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, like today,
literary representations of disability and impairments address stereotypes and perceptions, usually in opposition to what is
Portrayals of physical disability, madness, temporary madness, and prophetic madness are common in romance and
across generic and temporal borders, from Chrétien de Troyes to Dante to Cervantes; though it focuses on medieval
French literature, with its many comparative references to literatures across Europe, this book thus has a wide
appeal to students and scholars of medieval literature, demonstrating that disability and mental illness should
no longer be neglected by medievalists as sites of critical inquiry. A paradox, disability in medieval literature
is at the same time a source of ridicule and respect, misunderstanding and acceptance, disadvantage and advantage;
in fifteenth-century medical treatises, certain disabilities are not seen as something to be cured, as they are in
later centuries. Positive aspects of disability or different abilities are especially highlighted in verse and prose
romance. Physical disabilities appear alongside negative descriptions and positive attributes alike in medieval narrative
fiction, and in some farce, prior to 1520. This study compares literary representations to fifteenth-century medical
treatises and recipes that aim to 'diagnose' or to 'cure' disability.
This book and related research projects answer the questions, what can the discipline of Medieval Studies learn from
revisiting both canonical and lesser-studied literary and medical texts through the new lens of the contemporary critical
perspectives of Disability Studies, and conversely, what can contemporary Disability Studies learn from the medieval
literary and medical discourse of disability? The project endeavors to enhance our understanding of how to read difference,
or how to read through difference, in medieval and early modern literature.
Moreover, consultation of the medical herbal recipe texts and manuals at the Huntington will help to address the
questions of, what is the status of disability and difference vs. conceptions of 'normal' in the literary and dramatic
representations, and how does this compare to notions of disability and possibilities of 'cures' suggested in the medical texts?
Fifteenth-century medical manuscripts dealing with physical or mental disability and notions of curing disease to be consulted at the Huntington include:
- HM 58 Agnus Castus, Medical Recipes
- HM 64 Astrological and Medical Compilation
- HM 1336 Medical Recipes Compilation, in English, including herbal glossary, non-medical recipes, and text on diagnosing disease and whether the “sick person will die” (folio 32).
- HM 19079 Medical Treatises
- HM 26053 Herbal and Medical Tracts
- HU 1051, Alchemical, Medical, and Technical Compilation
2007 Report submitted by Allison Ksiazkiewicz
(York Univerity, Toronto, ON)
The Visual Culture of Natural History and Notions of Wilderness in American Landscape Painting
"While at The Huntington Library, I was delighted to find an unusual panoramic map of the Hudson River, materials on the
influential landscape and history painter John Martin, and a large selection of early to mid-nineteenth century resources
concerning Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. From June until July 2008, I spent my time investigating representations of spatial
relationships in geology and landscape depiction, and used the history of Mammoth Cave as a site of geological knowledge.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, geology was composed of four distinct subjects: mineralogy, an activity performed
in the cabinet; geognosy, a practical three-dimensional knowledge of rock stratification underneath the earth’s surface used
primarily in mining; physical geography, a gentleman’s project that was preoccupied with surveying the landscape and practices
of cartography; and finally theories of the earth. The first three studies fall under the umbrella of natural history, or
descriptions of the natural world. The fourth and last discipline, theories of the earth, was a natural philosophy where
natural philosophers concerned themselves with questions of causation and natural law. From a combination of these four
subjects came geology and its practices of visualizing the three dimensional space of geological formations, in which both
surface and subterranean strata were the subject of much observation and reflection.
A Panorama of the Hudson River from New York to Albany (1845), an accordion book measuring almost two meters when unfolded,
was an exciting discovery. The book presents an unusual perspective as if the viewer is positioned on the river, which
runs along the center of the panorama. Both banks are simultaneously shown right-side-up to their respective edge of paper,
so that if the spine of the book is held to the left (as most Western books are formatted to read left to right) it appears
as if the bank below is up-side-down and mirroring the above. Instead of ‘left-to-right’ one should read the panorama within
the parameters of ‘up-and-down-stream’, so that the spine of the book is at the viewer’s stomach and panorama unfolds away
from the viewer. This manipulation of the panorama situates the viewer on the river and renders the information on either
bank legible. A Panorama of the Hudson River nicely illustrates the fantastic geological formations that are found along the
Hudson River, such as the Palisades Escarpment and the Catskill Mountains. I continue to search for other examples of this
genre of landscape representation, and have found a similar work done for the Thames River in England.
John Martin was an early nineteenth century history painter who predominantly used biblical stories as the subject of
his works and had a dramatic style of image depiction. ‘Sublime’ and ‘apocalyptic’ are two adjectives often used to
describe his work. A bound copy of Isabelle Havet’s 2007 MA thesis, "Past, present, and future: vision landscape in
John Martin’s Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion" (1812) was very interesting, and drew connections between
Martin’s work and it’s influence on luminist landscape painting and the Hudson School in the United States. John
Martin was a popular artist among British geologists, such as Gideon Mantell, for instance, who commissioned Martin
to produce the frontispiece for The Wonders of Geology (1838).
The majority of my time at the Huntington was spent reading the collection’s literature on Mammoth Cave, a popular
attraction for geological tourists and adventuring youth. Later in the nineteenth century it was commonly included,
along with places such as Niagara Falls, on itineraries of the North American Grand tour. The motif of ‘horizon’
was prominent in the sources I read. Sink-holes, or collapsed underground caves, dot the region around Mammoth Cave
and were a source of much sensational writing, as a number of tales regarding these sink-holes were published. ‘Horizontality’
was an important visual trope in nineteenth century geology, as it is a baseline for geological formations. While ‘sinking’
into the ground was terrifying (for fear of becoming lost to the world), entering the earth via a cave was a wondrous
experience as it was imaged as a form of time travel to an earlier geological period.
My research findings from the Huntington have proved to be very fruitful material, and the subject of caves
and spatial reconstruction of geological space has folded over into my current PhD work. I am very grateful
to the staff at the Huntington Library for their assistance and generosity in regards to this research, and
to the RMMLA and the Huntington Library for making this opportunity possible."
2006 Report submitted from Katarzyna Maria Rutkowski
(University of Colorado, Boulder):
"At once archaic and contemporary to his times, John Lydgate’s Troy Book is a perfect example of the authorial anxiety
concerning the repetition of past mistakes and the instigation of a new history. It is the first of his works commissioned
by a king, and is an examination of the genealogical trajectory that intimately connects England to its antique roots.
During my one-month stay at the Huntington Library, I engaged with this text’s various print permutations in Britain from
the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, and presented the results of this archival research at the International
Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo last spring. My project follows the narrator of the Troy Book as he grapples
with the complexities of translating his microcosmic ideal into a viable new macrocosmic Subject of the state. Throughout
his epic, the heroes of Troy are the ground on which Lydgate explores the tensions between the necessity to respect
tradition and counsel, and the compulsion to write new worlds. Through these figures, and through Hector particularly,
Lydgate defines a laureate position that enables him to step into his emerging role as official poet of the Lancastrian
dynasty, one who is able to personally influence the destiny of the nation for which he writes.
This presentation was the direct consequence of your organization’s generosity. The RMMLA-Huntington Fellowship
afforded me an unparalleled chance to immerse myself in the Huntington’s breathtakingly diverse holdings, and to
meet an incredible number of world-renowned scholars working in a variety of fields. Although I have studied at
archives in both the U.S. and Great Britain on numerous occasions, I consider this experience to be by far the most
rewarding of my academic career to date. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity!"
2005 Report submitted from Miles Kimball
(Texas Tech University):
"My project was entitled "The Visual Rhetoric of Civic Boosterism." The basic idea behind the project
was to use The Huntington’s collections to chart the development of visual rhetoric as it was brought into
play to promote the many new cities of the California migration boom. My thesis was that these
documents held an interesting story that could tell us a lot about the growth of visual displays in
marketing and business communication, right during a period in which these modes of communication
came to a high level of development. I was interested particularly in the mixture of visual persuasive
techniques and technical data used by developers of new cities in California, including panoramic views,
charts, and graphs.
Any researcher on visual representation knows that the indexing of charts, graphs, maps, and photographs
in most collections typically does not follow a consistent model from collection to collection or
cataloguer to cataloguer. To one cataloguer, the word "chart" might mean only nautical charts; to another,
"chart" and "map" might be synonymous. One might specify "panoramic view," while another might call
this genre a "bird’s-eye view" or more generically, just another map. None seems to have a consistent
method of describing statistical and information graphics, such as the bar graphs and line graphs that
became increasingly common during the period I was studying. Some cataloguers might use only the
most generic and least useful term "illustration" or not record visual materials at all. These disparities
and inconsistencies are not the fault of the cataloguers; frankly, only in the last few decades has a more
consistent terminology for visual forms even been proposed, and not all collections have adopted this
In short, at The Huntington and many other collections where I have conducted research on visual
communication I find that the most useful technique is often simply to browse strategically through
collections of likely documents. This browsing is not casual at each collection, I develop a sense of the
kinds of documents most likely to have the visual forms I find my interesting, and I am able to chart the
organizations, agencies, and individuals who were most forward-thinking in adopting new visual
communication techniques in this period. My research then follows these leads to documents that are
more in line with my research.
An additional complication in using electronic finding aids is the fact that many of the documents using
visual communication techniques are unsigned and uncatalogued. Like most business documents, they
bear a title and perhaps a corporate authorship, but their actual authorship is often difficult or impossible
to ascertain. And because they are essentially ephemera, they lie on the bottom of most collection’s
priority as far as cataloguing is concerned.
Considering these difficulties, imagine my delight at finding "The California File" at The Huntington. On
hearing of my project, the Huntington staff quickly directed my efforts to this old-fashioned card file,
which proved to be a bonanza of likely documents. "The California File" records the Huntington’s deep
resources in California history, especially its many civic and business documents from the period of
around 1850-1920. Although as at most collections the cataloguing did not consistently refer to
Because the file is organized by city, I was able to focus my efforts on the growth of documentation
surrounding a few fascinating civic developers who used visual communication techniques to convince
people to migrate to California. Specifically, I concentrated on the cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and
Benecia in the north; Atascadero and Pasadena in the mid-state; and Coronado Beach in the south. All of
these cities had enthusiastic developers some so enthusiastic that they promoted cities that did not yet
Atascadero, for example, was a city pulled out of nothing by E. G. Lewis just before World War I.
Atascadero was one of the country’s first planned communities. Lewis, a wealthy publisher of women’s
magazines, determined to buy a ranch in the area east of Morro Bay and promote the growth of a
community designed specifically for upper-middle class citizens. To boost its growth, Lewis first built a
printing facility on the ranch, then began printing thousands of expensive circulars which he distributed
widely across the country. These documents are fascinating for their visual approach to communication,
taking advantage of the latest printing technologies to convince prospective homeowners to buy
homesteads in Atascadero. They incorporate a wealth of carefully staged halftone photographs that
emphasize the orderliness and fruitfulness of the area, often by including fold-out collages showing
orchards, houses, and the grand facades of Lewis’s civic buildings.
In a sense, Lewis used the techniques and visual rhetoric of illustrated magazine journalism to promote a
vision of community. But this vision was ultimately illusory. Lewis failed in his attempts to bring an
adequate number of investors to Atascadero, and he ultimately died broke and penniless. Although
Atascadero is now a living, if somewhat sleepy community, the planned community founded on paper
never materialized. Truly, it was an imaginary city.
Other cities were more successful, perhaps because they were marketing pioneers, if not actual ones.
Pasadena was also created out of nothing by a group of investors who bought a ranch and subdivided it.
Their visual techniques relied particularly on panoramic views of the growing community. Like Lewis in
Atascadero, these techniques gave prospective buyers a simplified vision of the city, emphasizing its more
planned and positive features. But perhaps because their employment of these patterns arose years before
Lewis’s, their rhetoric was much more successful in attracting wealthy homeowners and investors, such
as David Berry Gamble, heir to the Proctor & Gamble fortune, who moved his family to Pasadena to take
up residence in one of the many Greene and Greene-designed homes. But even successful cities such as
Pasadena were developed through promotional materials that literally painted a picture of a beautiful,
healthy, and ideal city growing in the promised land of California.
The documents I analyzed at The Huntington provide a counterpoint to earlier promotional documents in
the history of our nation, such as Arthur Barlowe’s "Discourse on Virginia" (1584) and the White-HariotdeBry
map of Virginia (1590), which have been analyzed by my colleague Michael Moran at the
University of Georgia. Moran argues convincingly that these documents were less intended as factual
reports than as promotional documents, emphasizing the beauty and fruitfulness of the land, as well as the
advantages of climate and opportunity. The civic boosterism of California cities continued this trend all
the way to the western end of the continent and the end of the colonial era.
My plans for this research this summer include developing a manuscript for submission to the Journal of
Business and Technical Communication (JBTC), which has shown itself to be very receptive to historical
studies in these disciplines. Fortunately, JBTC is also willing to publish images, which should allow me to
show my research to its greatest effect."
2004 Report submitted from Vanessa Coloura
(University of California, Santa Barbara):
"During my residency at the Huntington Library [March 7-April 11, 2005], I had the opportunity to look at
many seventeenth-century sources that helped me to situate Aphra Behn within the
context of Restoration theatre and culture. I organized my dissertation
research on Behn and the London stage around the following questions: What
spectacles does this production call for? In what ways are they implemented?
What do Behn and her fellow professional playwrights say about the use of spectacle?
My examination of the earliest print publications of the plays was crucial in
establishing how spectacle was initially staged and possibly changed with the
growing sophistication of theaters and their machinery. In addition to many of the
early editions of works by Aphra Behn, I was also able to peruse the Huntington’s
impressively broad range of works by her contemporaries, such as John Dryden and
Nat Lee. For example, their copy of the 1693 edition of Lee’s A Duke and No Duke
enabled me to compare its defense of farce with that of Behn’s in the epistle
dedicatory to The Emperor of the Moon. In addition, the Huntington collection was
immensely useful in deepening my understanding more about Behn’s use of the brazen head.
Behn’s most spectacular play, The Emperor of the Moon, uses one to deliver the prologue.
This first spectacular device of the play is rich in allusions to Friar Bacon’s speaking
head that is produced through black magic. I found Behn’s use of the device to be a
potent insignia -- one that has been almost entirely unaddressed in Behn studies.
These are just a few rich areas that I was able to explore and now look forward to
incorporating into my dissertation. I look forward to returning there again to do
further work with such an extraordinary collection and very helpful and warm staff."
2003 Report submitted from Diana Solomon
(University of California, Santa Barbara):
"The resources available to me during my RMMLA-sponsored month at the Huntington enabled me to complete research on
one chapter and conceive a second for my dissertation project, "Textual Excess: Actresses’ Prologues and Epilogues on
the London Stage, 1660-1731." I arrived on August 15, ready to conduct research on my chapter about one of the first
and most celebrated London actresses, Anne Bracegirdle. My chapter, "Anne Bracegirdle’s Breaches," asks how this actress,
known as the "Romantick Virgin," obtained a reputation for purity at a time when for women, performing "publicly showing
one’s body for material gain" was akin to whoring. Excelling at tragedy, Bracegirdle also played sexual roles and delivered
bawdy prologues and epilogues, an apparent contradiction with her public reputation that I sought to understand. The Huntington’s
collection of numerous editions of Bracegirdle’s plays, by authors such as William Congreve, Thomas D’Urfey, Thomas S outherne,
and Nicholas Rowe, allowed me to trace the nature and duration of her reputation. For example, the Huntington owns editions of
Congreve’s play, Love for Love from 1695, 1697, and 1710; the first two contain a prologue full of innuendo designed for her to
deliver, but the third reflects Congreve’s efforts to preserve his work as great literature, and omits the prologue. The Huntington
also contains important late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century theater histories such as Gerard Langbaine’s and Edmund Curll’s
that contain eyewitness accounts of Bracegirdle and her peers; and periodicals such as the Gentleman’s Journal (1692-94)
that announced and described her performances. My time at the Huntington allowed me to conduct the primary research for an article
based on this chapter, which has been accepted for publication in the journal 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the
Early Modern Era.
While at the Huntington, I also discovered documents detailing the murder of Bracegirdle’s leading man and suspected
lover, the actor William Mountfort. In 1692, frustrated by her rebuffs, one of Bracegirdle’s suitors enlisted a friend,
Charles Lord Mohun, to help him murder Mountfort. The Huntington owns a copy of Mohun’s printed trial, handwritten trial
notes, and manuscripts of an elegy for the dead actor and a satire on his mourners. The library also possesses a 1695 songbook
with an image of Bracegirdle on the cover, and original scores of songs written for her to perform. These documents enabled me
to realize the shift in Bracegirdle’s career; she performed in tragedies and sober comedies in the year leading up to the murder,
but primarily witty musical comedies afterward. In the latter, she also developed a reputation as a singer, and performed songs
that demonstrated the lyricist’s and composer’s sympathy for her plight. Inspired by these documents, which were augmented by
those discovered during my subsequent fellowship at the Clark Library, I conceived a new chapter for the project. I will be
presenting my findings as a featured speaker at the "Daring Women of the Enlightenment" symposium, held March 11-13, 2004, at the
Noel Collection at Louisiana State University-Shreveport. I am grateful to the RMMLA for giving me the opportunity to work with
these archival documents at the Huntington Library."