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A Summer of Research

PhD students report on projects supported by the Graduate Research Partnership Program
September 9, 2015

Scotland's Glasgow Cathedral

Scotland's Glasgow Cathedral
Scotland's Glasgow Cathedral

The University's GRPP program provides $4,000 summer awards for selected English graduate students, who are advised by a faculty member. Below, three of this year's recipients describe their projects.

To Scotland with Michael Phillips

How did you use your GRPP funds?
Michael Phillips with daughter
Michael Phillips with his daughter

The funding I received from the GRPP fellowship enabled my access to Scottish archives in researching my dissertation chapter on Henry Mackenzie’s Man of Feeling. At the University of Glasgow the Bannerman Papers provided good background on Mackenzie’s sentimentalism as well as the thought process of those moral theorists establishing its foundations, such as Smith, Hume, and Hutcheson. At the National Library of Scotland, my most useful finding was a letter from Robert Burns to Henry Mackenzie, which I believe to still be unpublished, attributing everything Burns has learned about the human heart to Mackenzie’s protagonist. 

The National Records of Scotland provided my most intriguing archival discovery: a draft of The Man of Feeling, unsigned and undated, that omitted almost every portion of the novel referring to the novel’s framing device of being a deteriorated manuscript. As my dissertation deals with omissions, fragmentation, and addresses to the reader, discovering a draft that omits all of these moments from the novel was exciting. I will need to do further research on this document to help pin down its placement and authorship, but would like to write an article on it in the future.

The research I was able to do allowed me to complete the first chapter of my dissertation.

What’s the advantage in being at the libraries themselves—how does it open up possibilities for research?

First, I believe that handling the original materials, feeling their texture, seeing the edits and impressions, is beneficial to a fuller understanding of the texts and their authors. Second, direct access enables you to develop face-to-face relationships with the librarians and archivists responsible for the material who in turn are able to direct you to sources of which you may not have been aware. Third, these library collections often contain hidden gems that may not be obvious from the collections' online listings. For example, I would not have been able to discover the letter from Burns to Mackenzie without the special collection supervisor pointing me in the direction of additional letters pertaining to Mackenzie and within those simply stumbling upon the letter from Burns. 

To San Francisco with Yuan Ding

How did you use your GRPP funds?
PhD candidate Yuan Ding
PhD candidate Yuan Ding

With the generous support from the GRPP, I was able to finish extensive primary research at the University of Minnesota libraries in July and August of 2015. From July 10 to 18, I was also able to visit San Francisco, where I conducted in-person interviews and visited the Immigration Station at Angel Island. From August 13 to 15, I participated in the international conference: “New Angles on Chinese Film History,” where I networked with world-renowned scholars and discussed the latest developments in the field of Chinese cinema studies.

As a result of the preliminary research, I significantly narrowed down my dissertation research area to first-generation diasporic Chinese literature and performance. I am in the final stages of finishing up the first chapter of my dissertation, where I explore the transnational imagination in Chinese immigrant student literature.

My research supported by the GRPP summer funding also resulted in a proposal for a Seminar on China and diasporic Chinese identity at the upcoming 2016 American Comparative Literature Association conference. Over the summer, my co-organizer Janice Tong (UIUC) and I collaborated on drafting the proposal and recruiting participants. As of today, the seminar has already received participation confirmation of 10 renowned professors in the field of China studies and Asian American studies from both the US and China.

What was the most intriguing moment of your interviews and visits in San Francisco?

It’s hard to pinpoint one moment, but I was moved by the sheer creativity as well as heterogeneity of early Chinese immigrants. Seeing the relics of Chinese immigration at Angel Island and then chatting with more recent immigrants, I was struck by how much things has changed and how some things stay the same.

To England with Asa Olson

How did you use your GRPP funds?
Graduate student Asa Olson
With the GRPP funding for the project “The English Love Elegies of Donne and Jonson,” I was able to visit several research libraries in the UK, such as the British Library, Clare College Cambridge, and Emmanuel College Cambridge. At each of these libraries I viewed/scanned several early modern editions of the classical elegists owned by Ben Jonson and transcribed his marginalia. I also viewed many other editions from the period to get a better sense of how these authors were received and edited.
This research was further informed by my reading for the summer. During these several months, the argument of this chapter changed as I realized I needed to focus on the relationship between love elegies and Petrarchism. In addition, I used the time to brush up on genre theory and early modern conceptions of genre. I also realized that I needed to engage with other elegies written in English, particularly those of Barnabe Barnes. Consequently, the name of the chapter has changed to “Tangled Traditions: Petrarchism in the Elegies of Barnes, Donne, and Jonson.”
What was one of the most intriguing discoveries you made in visiting these libraries?

How Jonson edited and annotated his own books. Instead of accepting the editor’s text, Jonson compared editions of authors and corrected the text of a large anthology accordingly. In cases in which merely a word differed Jonson evidently reasoned what word most likely belongs. In other cases Jonson inserted lines that had been excised into the margins. We know that Jonson assisted his friend Thomas Farnaby on editing his own text of Lucan’s Pharsalia; however, it still intrigues me that he turned this particular anthology into his own new edition for certain classical texts by means of his annotations.