PI: Nicholas Mason
Thanks to the MEG award we received in 2014-15, my colleague Paul Westover and I have been able to mentor six outstanding BYU students in archival research and scholarly editing and have made significant progress toward the publication of a major new critical edition of the works of the nineteenth-century poet and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth.
The project for which we received MEG funding has played out more or less exactly as we laid out in original proposal. We used $1,000 of the award to purchase necessary research books, including rare and out-of-print editions of Dorothy Wordsworth’s diaries and her and her brother William’s complete letters. These books have proven extremely valuable in defining our project and helping our students gain a sense of the editing standards for previous editions and which of the Wordsworths’ works have and haven’t been previously published.
As we described in our original proposal, however, the plan from the outset has been to use most of the MEG funding to pay undergraduate students for the hours spent assisting with the project. Specifically, we have employed six BYU students to research and transcribe important Wordsworth family documents over the course of their 14-week internships at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, England. Thanks to a special relationship Professor Westover and I have formed with the curatorial staff at the Trust, BYU offers four internships per year in Grasmere to English majors and Special Collections student employees. Our students’ time at the Wordsworth Trust is divided between visitor services work (e.g., staffing the museum front desk and giving tours of Dove Cottage) and working in the Jerwood Centre Library with Jeff Cowton, the Trust’s head curator. Since Jeff usually allows students 5-10 hours per week to work on their own research projects, the MEG allowed us to build into these internships a series of mentored research tasks that would pay dividends in our Dorothy Wordsworth edition.
In the summer and fall of 2015, we used MEG funding to hire three student interns from BYU (Holly Boud, Conor Hilton, and Amanda Ricks) to transcribe various unpublished manuscripts by Dorothy Wordsworth, including a pamphlet she wrote soliciting aid for local orphans, an account of her trip up a local mountain, and the “Rydal Journals” she kept in her later years. In 2016 the MEG funds allowed us to hire three more students (Carol Allred, Rachel Hludzinski, and Sylvia Cutler) to research and transcribe such Trust manuscripts as Dorothy’s poems and the letters in which she describes the scenery and inhabitants of the Lake District.
In addition to supervising these students during their internships, we offered multiple training sessions on campus prior to their departures and arranged for them to learn preservation and cataloging skills from Maggie Kopp and John Murphy in the HBLL’s Special Collections department. We also organized
a day-long collaborative session with all students working on the project, timing this to correspond with the May 2016 visit to campus of our collaborator, Professor Michelle Levy of Simon Fraser University. Spending this day working alongside three extensively published scholars of British literature allowed students to better understand the project’s importance and how researchers move projects from the drafting to publication stages.
As we begin 2017, we are entering the final stages of our Dorothy Wordsworth project. Much to our delight, Romantic Circles, the leading digital platform for open-access editions of nineteenth-century literary texts, has enthusiastically agreed to publish our final edition. In the months ahead, then, Professor Levy, Professor Westover, and myself will work through the students’ research notes and transcriptions, produce fully edited and annotated proof texts, and write the scholarly apparatus for our final edition. When Romantic Circles publishes our final version in late 2017 or early 2018, it will mark not only a major moment in Dorothy Wordsworth scholarship but also an unusually important accomplishment for our student collaborators. Four of the six (Boud, Hilton, Ricks, and Hludzinski) have already gained admission to graduate school, in part because of the scholarly sensibilities and vita lines they gained through this mentoring project. And the other two (Cutler and Allred) will be applying to start graduate school in English or library sciences in the fall of 2017. All told, then, we feel this has been an outstanding use of MEG funds and has provided all involved a better sense of the type of high-end scholarly work that can be completed by involving undergraduate students in research in the humanities.