Last week, 23 undergraduates had the opportunity to explore Ohio State's Rare Books and Manuscripts Library as part of Professor Jacob Risinger's upper-level course on the Romantic and Victorian poets (English 4540). The course, as Professor Risinger explains, "considers how these poets tried to make sense of the nineteenth century and its tumultuous changes. [The century in which they lived] was rocked by the invention of the train, the telegraph, the photograph, and the bicycle. The industrial revolution gave rise to a broad but unpredictable social realignment, and Darwin's evolutionary hypothesis disrupted relgious convictions and comfortable visions of nature. As the British Empire expanded to cover a quarter of the globe, both the Romantics and the Victorians confronted an increasing disjunction between local culture and a globalized world."
While in the library last week, Professor Risinger's students examined the library's extensive collection of William Blake's engravings as well as facsimiles of his "illuminated books"--the peculiar and colorful results of Blake's own "infernal method" of printing. Later in the semester, they will scope out other highlights from the library's collection: a rare early edition of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, a first edition of Lord Byron's "metaphysical drama" Manfred--even a letter from British poet Robert Browning acknowledging the naming of the Browning Literary Society at Ohio State University in 1888. (The Browning Society would later bring about the founding of the Browning Amphitheater beside Mirror Lake in 1926).
Professor Risinger's students will conclude their study of Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Rossetti, Wilde, and others, with the production of their own TED talks. These culminating projects will allow students to share their ideas about these nineteenth-century writers through a form that has become increasingly popular in our own century. The Ohio State English community looks forward to watching all of the student's TED talks at the end of the fall semester. We anticipate that these talks will most certainly illuminate the past through the technological innovations of our present moment.
News Story Images: Jacob Risinger and his undergraduate students in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at Ohio State. Photos taken by Rare Books and Manuscripts Assistant Curator Lisa Iacobellis.