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8 posts from September 2011

27 September 2011

Literatura de Cordel

Cordel (v2) 

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is currently sponsoring a two day symposium on the Brazilian popular literature known as ‘cordel.’

I was pleased to be able to contribute some bibliographic citations and information to a project that has resulted in an impressive and interesting resource for researchers of Brazilian cordel literature and Brazilian popular culture.

Cordel literature began circulating in the Northeastern states of Bahia, Ceará, and Pernambuco in the late 19th century. Often written as a poem, the subject of cordel literature can range from the fantastical to religious to topical. Cordel books tell their stories through words and wood cut prints. Many cordelistas gained fame as poets, others were the only source of news from afar. Cordeis were crucial to the spread of news about the Brazilian government’s war on the community of Canudos in the late 19th century, as well as the adventures of the famous ‘cangaço’ bandit of the northeast, Lampiao.

At once traditional and innovative – as most popular art is – the cordel is thriving again in contemporary Brazil. And this new energy and attention on the cordel may inspire a researcher to take a look at what is perhaps a lesser known area of our Latin American collections here at the BL. Cordel ‘classics’ such as ‘A chegada de Lampiao no inferno’ (The arrival of Lampiao in hell) as well as Brazilian ‘chapbooks’ are just waiting to be perused by an eager reader!


19 September 2011

American Studies Resource Portal (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)

Our intern, Maro, writes:

Have you ever wondered about research on American Studies in Greece? Well, the Department of American Literature and Culture of the School of English at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) has not only advanced but also facilitated the study and research of the field in question by launching the American Studies Resource Portal (ASRP) in the spring of 2010. This online database, an initiative developed by the Faculty members of the Department (with the sponsorship of the Information Resource Centre, Embassy of the U.S., Greece, and AUTh) – namely Dr. Zoe Detsi (Ass.Professor), Dr. Tatiani Rapatzikou (Ass. Professor) and Dr. Eleftheria Arapoglou (Adjunct Lecturer) –  makes an array of sources and research material relating to American Studies available to a wide community of scholars, academics, university students, educators, independent scholars, school teachers and pupils, as well as the general public. More specifically, the site lists all the academic departments in Greece that run courses in American Studies along with the detailed description of the courses offered – either undergraduate or graduate – in American literature, politics and culture. Moreover, the portal includes an informed list of M.A. theses and the full text of Ph.D dissertations completed and in progress in the field of American Studies nationwide. An important feature of this highly searchable user friendly directory of American Studies is that it provides information for all the forthcoming conferences and events relating to American Studies as well as the HELAAS (Hellenic Association for American Studies) activities and latest publications.  Finally, there are links to American Studies organizations, libraries, research centres in both Europe and the US, publications and a variety of online research resources which range from documentaries and interviews to podcasts and films.

Having been an MA student in the Department of American Literature and Culture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for the past three years, I have found this portal extremely interesting and useful not only for the organized and carefully selected secondary material that it provided me with, but primarily because it connected me with Europe and the US, presenting me with options and opportunities on both a national and an international level. Within the framework of a collaborative project between the American Studies Resource Portal team and the Fulbright Foundation, Greece, I spent almost two months in the Fulbright headquarters in Athens researching the development of American Studies in Greece from 1948 to the present day, a research that is actually still in progress. With my internship in the Fulbright Foundation being part of a series of initiatives and projects that the ASRP team has launched, I am delighted to have been given this opportunity. What is more, I am now at the British Library as an Erasmus intern and it was the American Studies Resource Portal that allowed me to find out more about the Eccles Centre and the possibilities of an internship in the BL.

With the American Studies Resource Portal being the token of the ever-increasing national and international profile of the Department of American Literature and Culture, Aristotle University, I think that is a challenging task that came to fill in an academic vacuum with regard to the filed of American Studies in Greece, especially within the context of the growing reliance on electronic sources in a digitized international environment.

To find out more about the ASRP:

Also read the following interview:








Tweet Tweet: John James Audubon's Birds of America


John James Audubon's Birds of America is undoubtedly a treasure but, it must be said, a bit unwieldy, especially in its double-elephantine folio.  Much handier is this new iPad version, which I spotted being announced on Twitter this morning.  It can be seen in its new habitat in two formats: the full, 'complete version', and the lesser-spotted 'highlights version'.  Both can be purcashed via eBook Treasures (along with other tomes, such as Blake's notebook).

More birds from the blog's backlist.


16 September 2011

From Margate to Manhattan...


William Jerome, 'Down in the Subway', 1904, image from the songbook digitized at JScholarship.  BL copy at H.3987.f.(34.)

I just popped out of the Library to St Pancras next door (inadvertently messing up my punch clock), not for travel, but for artistic purpose: the collection of a small sculpture by Ann Carrington, who installed 13 'shell ladies' around Margate (not for the BL collections, I should add, although there are a fair few pieces of art distributed around the St Pancras site).  I am now safely clocked back in, the mini-shell lady is now safely at my desk, and, it turns, out, Carrington has a new work, 'Manhattan Mettle' in the W Hotel, New York, made out of 'metal punching, dollars, dimes, subway tokens, spanners, nails, pins...'.  I wonder if such an endeavour could be constructed from the subway tokens' replacement, the MetroCard?


14 September 2011

Jackie O

Camelot still casts its spell, and the press has been full of reports of the recently released Jacqueline Kennedy recordings to tie in with Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F Kennedy, which is published today.  Much of the interest is to do with the gossip and occasional revelation contained in the text, but there is also, at least for many Americans (and many others), the continuing fascination with Jackie O.  As the New Yorker's Amy Davidson noted on the recordings and the current discussions,

Her comments here seem so striking because of the many paper-doll versions of her we’ve played with for so long. How many people have been the object of so much fetishization, of so many kinds—fashion, political, tabloid?

There are many items in the collections, of course, but here's one from the Sound Archive, recording the First Lady's more public utterances:

Biographical highlights of Jacqueline Kennedy - her speeches in the United States and abroad (Almanack, 1964).  disc 2 sides 30 cm 33 rpm.


13 September 2011

USA: Olympic Rugby Champions

Last weekend saw the start of the seventh Rugby World Cup. The Americas are well represented in the competition with three teams in the finals. I thought I’d take the opportunity to see what titles in our collection that explore the development of rugby union in the American continent. Arming myself with the Rugby Compendium [BL shelfmark: HLR 796.333 Open Access] compiled by John M. Jenkins (no relation) to see if it could offer any possible hints.  

September 11th saw the U.S. Eagles' first match of the tournament, against Ireland. The U.S. are currently the Olympic champions, beating France in the final of the 1924 Paris Olympics. This was the last time rugby union was included a competitive sport in the Olympics, though the Berlin Olympics did put it on has an exhibition event. The development of rugby union in the U.S. seems to focus on the West Coast, and the title California Football History by “Brick” Morse, 1937 [BL shelfmark: X.622/20122] appears to be a useful if brief introduction.

Turning to Canada, who have developed as a team recent years from their involvement in the Churchill Cup where they play their southern neighbour and the England “Saxons” regularly. As with the U.S. rugby union in Canada, plays third of forth fiddle to other sports although the lineage of the Canadian Rugby Football Union dates back to 1884. The tome Canada learns to play : the emergence of organized sport, 1807-1914, Allan Metcalfe, 1987, [BL shelfmark: YL.1989.a.1808]  covers the development of sports in nineteenth-century Canada.

As a number of teams have found out to their cost in previous World Cups, you cannot underestimate Argentina, whose prowess on the field shows through time and again. They were unlucky not to prevail in the Pool B clash with England on Saturday last.   The British influence in Argentine sport can be traced in Victor Raffo’s El origen británico del deporte argentino : atletismo, cricket, fútbol, polo, remo, rugby durante las presidencia de Mitre, Sarmiento y Avellaneda 2004 [BL shelfmark: YF.2006.a.19585].

Enjoy the World Cup!


11 September 2011

Remembering 9/11 again (or What you won't be reading on your Kindle, part 3)


Image © Gaylord Schanilec

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is being marked by a steady stream of newspaper features, documentaries on TV, and an ever growing number of books on the subject. In my blog on last year’s anniversary I mentioned Michael Katakis’s Troubled Land series of photographs. Michael’s response to 9/11 was to set out on a trip across America, taking the photos which now make up the aforementioned series.* 

A recent issue of The New York Times carried an article on another type of response. New Yorker Richard Goodman rode his bicycle from the Upper West Side down to Ground Zero nearly every day for three months. His experiences during those cycling trips through Manhattan now make up the book The Bicycle Diaries: one New Yorker’s Journey Through 9/11, which is published in a limited edition by Midnight Paper Sales, the press of poet, wood engraver and printer Gaylord Schanilec. The book is illustrated by Gaylord’s distinctive coloured wood engravings and represents the answer to the question he asked himself on the morning of the 9/11 attacks, ‘what can I do?’ Last autumn he accompanied Richard Goodman on a bike ride, re-visiting the same Manhattan streets of Goodman's earlier cycling expeditions down to the One World Trade Center construction site. The engravings in the book are based on the photographs that Gaylord took during that ride. Text and image combine to provide a view of past and present, referencing both the horrors of the original events, and the hope arising from restoration and renewal in the city.

The blending of word and image has always been an important aspect of Gaylord’s work, as has a strong sense of place, so The Bicycle Diaries seems a perfect project for Midnight Paper Sales. To some it might appear anachronistic in these digital days to produce a limited edition fine press book, using traditional letter press printing and laborious multi-colour wood engraving processes, but books can be so much more than just carriers of information. As e-books become increasingly popular, paradoxically, the number and variety of fine press and artists' books that are appearing also seem to be on the rise. Great, we can have the best of both worlds. I'm looking forward to the arrival of the BL’s copy of The Bicycle Diaries and to holding it in my hands. I have no doubt that, to quote from the NYTimes article,  ‘It has the weight of a small thing done with great care to honor a huge loss.’


 *We’ll be displaying a few of these photographs in the forthcoming Folio Gallery exhibition which opens on 10 October. The exhibition ties in with the publication of Michael’s new book Photographs and Words, which will appear under the British Library imprint later this month.


09 September 2011

Negative feedback

We hope that visitors to the Library are happy.  However, this is not always the case, as one American traveller writes:-

Among the manuscripts, we observed... 41 volumes of decisions of the commissaries who settled the boundaries of properties after the great fire of London... We also noticed an original deed to some land to a monastery, dated Ravenna, Anno Dom. 572, written on the papyrus; and the original of Magna Carta. We had no time allowed to examine anything; our conductor pushed on without minding questions, or unable to answer them, but treating the company with double entendres and witticisms on various subjects of natural history, in a style of vulgarity and impudence which I should not have expected to have met in this place, and in this country - Louis Simond, 1810

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