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Alberto Gabriele. The Emergence of Pre-Cinema: Print Culture and the Optical Toy of the Literary Imagination.

The Emergence of Pre-Cinema is a genealogical study that traces the dispersed history of self-reflexivity and fragmentation in the context of nineteenth century culture and print-based literary forms. The aim is to observe these phenomena in relation to their past and their future, from Baroque precursors through the twentieth-century avant-garde, beyond national borders or a predetermined periodization. The optical toys such as flipbooks or thaumatropes that the author references in the subtitle of his book draw attention to the sense of vision, subjective modes of perception, movement, and temporality. Gabriele is interested in visualizations within literary texts such as montage-like, fragmentary forms of writing by Friedrich Schlegel or cartographic imagination and panoramic descriptions of Italian landscape in painterly writing by Ann Radcliffe, for example. These multisensory and multidirectional “visions mediated by the technology of print culture” are prescient at times or contemporaneous with the technologies of early cinema. Gabriele is intent on acknowledging their long history side by side and in contrast to linear, often technologically determined narratives surrounding the invention of optical devices and the history of cinema.

Project-Based Teaching in Special Collections: Building Digital Cruikshank

In Fall 2022, students in my combined undergraduate and graduate English seminar at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County participated in a semester-long collaboration with our Special Collections Library. Head of Special Collections, Beth Saunders, and Special Collections librarian, Susan Graham, and I secured seed funding from our university to design and run an upper-level course centered on digitizing a library collection and then curating and building a digital resource.

Recchio, Thomas. The Novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett: In “the World of Actual Literature.” New York: Anthem Press, 2020.

Upon closing the final pages of The Novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett In ‘the World of Actual Literature,” I am spellbound. As a reader of Burnett’s children’s works, Recchio brings so many dimensions of her adult writing, thus broadening the scope. Recchio, Professor of English, Emeritus at University of Connecticut, attempts to place the author, best known for her children’s literature such as The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy, solidly in the realm of serious women writers of adult fiction. With his extensive academic knowledge and publications on the Victorian literature on the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell, he builds well-documented arguments worth reading within the five chapters of the book.

Gavin Edwards. The Case of the Initial Letter: Charles Dickens and the Politics of the Dual Alphabet.

a christmas carol? How does the change in capitalization impact our reading of the text? Gavin Edwards’s The Case of the Initial Letter: Charles Dickens and the Politics of the Dual Alphabet is a thorough consideration of the use and abuse of the initial letter. The initial letter is the first letter of a word. It is not necessarily a drop cap or an ornamental letter that starts a chapter with embellishment. The upper-case initial letter is most often quieter than that – a C instead of a c – but, as we learn, it conveys dignity and carries political weight. 

Harrington-Lueker, Donna. Books for Idle Hours: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the Rise of Summer Reading.

While we may sometimes remember particular “beach reads” and other vacation reading we bring with us, most of the light reading that dominates the myriad summer reading lists isn’t meant to last. Donna Harrington-Lueker has traced the origins of the phenomenon of summer reading in the late-nineteenth-century United States, highlighting the role of ephemerality and entertainment as publishers and reviewers developed the concept of “summer reading,” as well as how tenacious many of the practices of summer reading are, from reading in public spaces to stockpiling books in convenient corners of a hotel room or guest house.