Reading Room gets a fresh coat of paint!

The Reading Room is finally getting painted. The painting will last a couple of months and hopefully will be finished by mid-October. The Literatures and Languages Library will be open during this period, though sections of the room will be off limits to patrons at various times. Here’s a peak at the painting of the ceiling. What a difference the white makes!

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A New Poem by Charlotte Brontë

As the Literatures and Languages Library prepares to celebrate 200-year anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, we delight in the news that an unknown poem written around the time she authored Jane Eyre was recently discovered. It will enrich the already remarkable collection of the Brontë Parsonage Museum of Haworth, England, being  the last addition to the Brontë juvenilia involving Charlotte, their brother Branwell, and their mother, the owner of the book in which the letter was found carefully folded.

Known as Currer Bell, Charlotte penned many poems, which she and her sisters published in the volume Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846), that at the time it sold only two copies. This newly discovered poem, like her entire work, makes us ponder whether to treat her creation through the lens of the personal or to treat women writers the way they were treated by their nineteenth-century contemporaries in an impersonal manner. As Columbia Professor Edward Mendelsohn once said, the reader and the critic alike need to get in touch with their own feelings to understand literature. Charlotte’s poems show her beautifully describing interwoven relationships and emotions among a group of people that only a self-introspective nature could observe and feel. Charlotte’s letters edited by Margaret Smith (The letters of Charlotte Brontë : with a selection of letters by family and friends,1995-2004, vol. 1-3, and an Oxford edition of 2007, available in our library) are all about family and friends and they alone will tell us how she would want us to understand her life and her work.

Our library acquired a new biography of the Brontë sisters The Brontës in Context, edited by Marianne Thormählen (Cambridge 2012), in which of particular interest might be Janet Gezari’s chapter on their poetry. To place Charlotte in particular in the context of her family, society, and her work’s chronology, check our library holding, A Brontë Family Chronology by Edward Chitham (Palgrave, 2003).

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T.S.Eliot – A New Volume of Poetry

The Literatures and Languages Library boasts several new additions in our collection on the works on T.S. Elliott: Gabrielle McIntire (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to ‘The Waste Land’ (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Robert Crawford, Young Eliot: from St. Louis to The Waste Land (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), and Allyson Booth, Reading The Waste Land from the Bottom Up (Palgrave: 2015). However, the broad public and scholars alike seem to give special attention to a new edited collection of Eliot’s poetry in two volumes  of remarkable scale and erudition:  T. S. Eliot, The Poems (2015) by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue (Faber & Faber, 1344 pp.)

 We read in The Guardian an overwhelmingly positive review, considering the volume as the most fully scrutinized text of his poems, and calling it a monumental achievement rightly so. Because what struck the reader immediately is the fact that, as expected, the notes, textual history, and commentaries outweigh the pages devoted to the poems themselves. Check the review at

T.S. Elliott’s works were annotated anyway despite his express wish that critics not do so. At least Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue published T.S. Eliot’s poems from youth as they were selected by the poet himself. In contrast to the previous scholarship of Eliot’s work focusing on his unorthodox views, Ricks and McCue argue that his poetic art, despite its parsimony, continues to speak across decades into the reader’s present with eminence and collective feel. Not that Eliot’s reputation could ever be maligned given the complex modernity of his poems. As Helen Vendler  mentioned, the mysterious montage, the fragmentation, the incidental symbolism, all mirrored a Western European society broken by the war and reconstruction from 1915 to 1921 when The Waste Land was published (The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar, Essays on Poets and PoetryHarvard, 2015).

Scholars now concern themselves with a new perspective on Eliot’s work, considering the concept of depersonalization inadequate for understanding his poetry and emphasizing instead passion and feelings that abound in most of his work. Ricks and McCue also describe Eliot’s juvenilia poems as containing buried feelings that will resurface in his later poetry.  Thus, shifting the impersonal in his creative acts to the sentimental side in his poems induced a sense of familiarity, strange, enigmatic and full of feelings.

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New Journal: Révue des Études Proustiennes

The Classiques Garnier Publishing House announced the first issue of Révue des Études Proustiennes, a new bi-annual journal devoted to themes and special issues on all aspects of the work of the French author, Marcel Proust. The inaugural issue includes articles by top scholars including Geneviève Henrot Sostero and Florence Lautel-Ribstein. Opening with a chapter on methods, the volume examines titles, semiotics, semantics, orality, lexical challenges in various languages, and intertextuality, and ends with the most complete and up-to-date bibliography of translations of Proust’s works. Current issues can be found in the Literatures and Languages Library’s serial collection in room 200.

The Literatures and Languages Library subscribes to a number of journals on Proust:

The Bulletin Marcel Proust, published by the Society of Marcel Proust’s Friends and Friends from Cambray, whose own review was the predecessor of the Bulletin, may be consulted both in print and online.

From Cambray, let’s move to the Netherlands where the well-known publisher Brill issues Marcel Proust Aujourd’hui, an international bilingual review whose goal is to interest scholars and ordinary readers through thematic and regular issues of the journal. Our library holds all the annual issues since it first appeared in 2003.

The Cahier Marcel Proust is another periodical of importance available in our library. Issued by the famous Gallimard Publisher of Paris, this journal covers the personality and work of Proust for the reader of his novels, the scholar, and the student. The Revue des Lettres Modernes. Marcel Proust was ordered by our librarians for the past decade, and is a useful resource for readers interested in criticism and interpretation.

These journals can either be found in the Literatures and Languages Library’s serial collection in room 200 or in the Proustiana Collection, now located in the center of room 225.

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New Exhibit: Gay and Lesbian Literature: The Early Years

The Literatures and Languages Library celebrates LBGTQ History Month by showcasing the works of some of the foremost gay and lesbian writers. In this new exhibit, Gay and Lesbian Literature: The Early Years, located in the Literatures and Languages Journals area within the Main Reading Room, we peer into the works of early LBGTQ writers, to highlight groundbreaking writings that, in those times, were downright controversial. We get a glimpse into their private world and the broad society in which they lived and wrote, making us to witness transformations that were underway for decades. The exhibit features Anglophone, English, and notable European writers to show the wide range of themes, genres, and literary techniques employed to express an identity that is authentic and self-determined.

In addition to the works featured in our exhibit, the Literatures and Languages Library features a wealth of reference titles and research resources on LGBTQ literature. They include:
Hugh Steven’s work The Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian Writing (Cambridge: New York, 2011)
The Perils of Pedagogy: the Works of John Greyson, edited by Brenda Longfellow, Scott MacKenzie, and Thomas Waugh (Montreal&Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013) 
The American Isherwood edited by James J. Berg and Chris Freeman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
Valery Rohy’s Lost Causes: Narrative, Etiology, and Queer Theory (2015) was just published by Oxford University Press.
The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature edited by E.L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2014). 

Many subject terms are listed in the VuFind Catalog under the field “Topics”, giving users quick access to a wealth of related works. Some key subject headings to use in our catalog searching are Gays in Literature, Homosexuality in Literature, Gays’ Writings – History and Criticism. The result list can be filtered even further by using the “Narrow Your Search” options.

Please check out these Library resources and consult the Literatures and Languages Library staff members for further research assistance on LGBTQ literature and theory.

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L.A. Replays Itself

Neil Patrick Harris flits across the screen, and a series of long-familiar film scenes dances beside him. Being, as it is, one of the de rigueur elements of the proceedings, we all know what to expect from the “Hollywood ode to itself” medley with which the Oscars ceremonies often open. Time-worn tropes and images lifted from the studios’ back catalogues will assert the apparently undying ‘magic of the movies.’ But where do these images really come from, you ask? And has Hollywood always been so reverentially cognizant of the immortal value of its past output? Enter Eric Hoyt’s recent work Hollywood Vault: Film Libraries Before Home Video. Hoyt traces the emergence and evolution of the business of film libraries from the 1910s to the 1950s, challenging the assumption that the industry only came to realize the economic value of its vaults with the advent of television. With many parties now scrambling to ascertain the worth, whether commercial or cultural, of digital film libraries, Hoyt’s examination of the first half of the American film industry’s 20th century sheds a curious light on the shifting perception of film libraries’ “value.”

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Holiday reading

Holiday reading list season is nigh upon us. Which means that even as finals grind our undergraduates’ souls to a fine powder, and our collective christmas-cookie high slides helplessly into a twitchy, exhausted plateau — relief is on the horizon. A pristine span of weeks lies ahead, in which pleasure reading long-delayed can resume with a vengeance. If you’ve started planning your winter literary escape, you may already have taken a gander at some of the ‘Best of’ lists circulating in the press. There is the ever-reliable New York Times Book Review list of notable books for the year; Slate’s staff recommendations; NPR’s best of; or the Washington Post’s picks. Of course, there’s no law of god or man that says you must accompany your nog with a new release. The Lit & Lang Library will be open through December 23rd, with staff at the ready with their own personal recommendations. Whether you need an antidote to holiday treacle (some Robert Aickman might do the trick), or the season makes you crave something a bit Victorian, LLX is here to assist.

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Franzen’s ‘Pip’

For many in the Anglophone literary community, the debut of a new novel by Jonathan Franzen is a major event. This week, publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux announced that Franzen’s next work, a novel centered on the multi-continental misadventures of a young woman in search of her father, would be released in a year’s time. While fans of Franzen have yet twelve months to savor the anticipation of what publishers say will be a “stylistic departure” for the author, there are already indications of some of the literary history to which Franzen’s work will pay homage. Purity’s eponymous main character goes by the nickname ‘Pip,’ recalling the heroine of Dickens’s Great Expectations –as will come as little surprise to many who have previously spotted Dickens’s influence in Franzen’s work (among whom Harold Bloom might be the most notable, if not the most laudatory, commentator). While Franzen is not infrequently likened to Dickens and to Tolstoy in terms of the world-encompassing reach of his novels’ ambitions, references to his Dickensian streak of “social realism” are something of a refrain in criticism of his work. Whether fan, foe, or indifferent bystander to the Franzen phenom, an opportunity to reacquaint oneself with Dickens should not go unattended. Check out The Interpolated Tales from the Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, or Martin Chuzzlewit for some lesser-known gems.

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Amazon Takes the Hatchet to Orwell?

You likely know him best as the author of such classics as Animal Farm and 1984. George Orwell, whose name is synonymous with those of some of his best known works, was both a novelist and political thinker, and one of the great talents of 20th-century British satire. In an odd move recently, the Orwellian aegis was invoked by the Amazon corporation as part of their response to the publishing group Hachette, with whom they’ve had contractual disputes over e-book pricing since the spring of 2014. Acccused by Hachette of imposing sanctions on the sales of the publisher’s books as a negotiating tactic, Amazon has attempted to portray itself as a benefactor to readers, providing financially-crunched consumers with low e-book prices by cutting the profits of an “elite” European publishing house. Some authors, both Hachette’s own and others, have supported the publisher as defending their livelihood by maintaining non-cut-rate pricing, with nearly a thousand signing an open letter to Amazon’s board of directors calling the ethics of the company’s actions into question. In a perhaps ill-conceived attempt to invoke literary authority while critiquing that of publishers, Amazon’s official response to this letter compares Hachette’s resistance to e-book prices to the reactionary conservatism of Victorian publishing houses faced with the rise of cheap paperbacks–and uses an Orwell quote to do so, writing:

The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if ‘publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.’ Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion. Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme…When a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books — he was wrong about that.

Representatives of the Orwell Estate, literary critics, and others, however, have been quick to point out that the incompleteness of this quote robs it of its intended import. Orwell’s full comment reads as follows: “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.” Far from suggesting that paperbacks should actually be suppressed, Orwell’s commentary is clearly meant to be read as ironic.

The words of the great enemy of propaganda seem to have been somewhat distorted in Amazon’s public-relations efforts–which might serve to instruct us all that, regardless of our opinion on this dispute, it’s always a good idea to exercise caution when quoting a master ironist–and moreover, that should one attempt such quotation regardless, it helps to hire a well-compensated writer with competence in literary interpretation.

To discover more about the history of the uses and abuses of Orwell’s writings, see John Rodden’s George Orwell: The Politics of Literary Reputation and Frances Stonor Saunders’s The Cultural Cold War: the CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. For more info on proper citation and best practices for integrating sources into your writing, see the Citing Sources LibGuide.


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