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Change-ringing occupies a strange position in English history, ubiquitous but virtually unstudied. This project investigates the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings of change-ringing’s seventeenth-century development, using ringing literature and contemporary poetry to trace themes of circularity and ordered change in both content and structure. I conclude that the poets and ringers of the seventeenth century devised their unique aesthetic modes in order to create universally mimetic experiences that solidify faith in divine providence.

People

Emma Stanford

Researcher

 

Marion Wells

Sponsor and Associate Professor of English and American Literatures

 

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Grateful Vicissitude (PDF)

This project was inspired by my junior year abroad at the University of Oxford, during which I took up the esoteric hobby of change-ringing. Thanks to a research grant from the Mellon Foundation, I spent last summer in England researching the early history of change-ringing and its ideological parallels in seventeenth-century poetry, particularly the work of John Milton. “Grateful Vicissitude,” which I wrote this spring as a senior honors essay in Literary Studies, explains the phenomenon and history of change-ringing and then delves into its religious and philosophical roots, with help from ringing-chamber poetry and bell inscriptions. To support my analysis, I also draw from poetry by Donne, Herbert, and Milton, focusing on the portrayal of divine providence in both substance and structure across disciplines.

 

A MiddLab Project

CCSRE Life Stories Project: Claudia Cooper

Learn more about the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College.

“Life Stories of Middlebury College” is a multi-phase initiative intended to gather people’s experiences while at the college, particularly reflections that highlight issues of diversity. In her interview, Claudia Cooper talk about teaching literature with Middlebury College students in Africa, her work in advocacy for community building to overcome AIDS, adopting a foreign-born child, and the feeling of difference at home and abroad.

People

Claudia Cooper
Visiting Assistant Professor of English & American Literature & Education Studies

Susan Burch
Associate Professor of American Studies; Director, CCSRE; Head of Life Stories project

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Early twentieth-century lyric poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was, at the height of her career, a literary celebrity treated as a major poet. Today, her poetry remains marginally popular but largely unstudied in literature classrooms. This presentation considers Millay in a cultural and hisorical context, discussing her complex relationship to Modernism, critical reactions to Millay over the course of the twnetieth century – ranging from New Critic John Crowe Ransom’s attack on Millay’s poetic and intellectual capabilities, to feminist critics’ attempts to reclaim her from obscurity – and the phenomenon of literary celebrity, particularly for women writers.

People

Carla Cevasco
Researcher

Brett Millier
Sponsor & Reginald D. Cook Professor of American Literature

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For thousands of years, the written word contained only streams of capital letters, with unseparated words and sentences. Punctuation appeared in only rudimentary forms in the early centuries A.D., and was invented specifically to prevent those who read aloud in church from misreading on misinterpreting a passage of the scriptures. Spaces between words did not appear until the 700s A.D., after the development of the Carolingian Miniscule and the establishment of Benedictine rule, and it was not until the 1100s that they became common place. Suddenly, readers no longer needed to mumble through passages to discern their meanings, and began to read as we do most commonly today: in silence. The new written form inspired the first alphabetized glossaries, made books more compact and personal, and made literacy a more widespread goal. But it also triggered a sense of independence and empowerment as yet unknown in medieval society, causing a rise of critical thinkers and skeptics, and, in turn, inciting fear of heresy in the church. Indeed, without punctuation and the space between words, would we have the same capacity for questioning that we do today?

People

Melissa Hirsch
Researcher

Louisa Burnham
Sponsor & Associate Professor of History

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Although early literature of Maryland and Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay reflected the first settlers’ unbridled consumption of resources, as the twentieth centuries due to habitat loss, overfishing, and pollution, literature, specifically an emergent genre of children’s and young adult literature, demonstrated a shift from entitlement towards stewardship of the Bay’s resources. Authors of children’s and young adult literature increasingly encouraged youth, either didactically or through metaphor, to value the Bay’s resources, protect the health of the Bay, and persuade others to become stewards of a healthy Chesapeake for future generations. This presentation will examine the transformation of Chesapeake Bay literature, and explore how these children’s and young adult works color the growing environmental education movement in the Bay region.

People

Laura Williams
Researcher

Daniel Brayton
Sponsor & Assistant Professor of English & American Literature

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This project examines how the figure of the split mother in folk tales has changed over three historical eras. First, it focuses on two oral tales originating in the Early Modern period: “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Juniper Tree.” It also looks at Lucy Lane Clifford’s “The New Mother” (1882) and Neil Gaiman’s novel, Coraline (2002). The project examines the cultural and historical anxieties involved in this Good Mother/Bad Mother split. Finally, it questions whether today’s notion of the unattainable ideal mother continues to reflect the prejudices of the Early Moderns and Victorians.

People

Emily Culp
Researcher

Elizabeth Napier
Sponsor & Henry N. Hudson Professor of English and American Literatures

Marion Wells
Sponsor & Associate Professor of English and American Literatures

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As arguably the most famous playwright that Russia has ever produced, Anton Chekhov has written works that have been read and performed on an international level since their first publication in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His literary genius has helped to further the genre of realistic theatre with a tragicomedy of simultaneous humor and melancholy unique to his plays. In comparing three contemporary dramatic literature adaptations of Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya to the original (Sam Holcroft’s Vanya, Howard Barker’s Uncle Vanya and David Mamet’s Uncle Vanya) I will prove that Chekhov’s particular use of tragicomedy creates a human universality that dramatists try to emulate to this day, while each individually adjusts the test to fit his own distinctive writing style and vision for the plotline. This comparison asserts that classic works of dramatic literature contain an isolated universal human element that compels playwrights to create modern adaptations.

People

Cori Hundt
Researcher

John Bertolini
Sponsor & Ellis Professor of English and Liberal Arts

Scene from Sam Holcroft’s Vanya performed as part of 10-Minute Plays during the 2011 Spring Student Symposium.

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