All posts by A.L.

Teaching Frankenstein

I was recently looking through my teaching materials from semesters of yore and stumbled upon what might be my favorite handouts that I’ve ever made for undergraduates. (I spent a great deal more time making handouts for my high school students in the Bronx… maybe to be shared at a future date; finding them will involve some excavation.) These come from a lecture I gave to a class – English 10B “Literatures in English, 1700-1850” – for which I was a Teaching Assistant for Professor Sarah Kareem. I am particularly amused by these two images, which I passed out and included in the power-point presentation I prepared for this lecture. The first is an image illustrating the “frame narrative” of Shelley’s Frankenstein; the second is the Shelley-Wollstonecraft-Byron-etc family tree. Enjoy!

Milsom Frame Narrative Image Milsom Shelley-Wollstonecraft Tree of Love

Gamboling on the Hampstead Heath with Keats and Lord Mansfield

UCLA awarded me a fellowship to visit the Turner Bequest at the Tate Britain (curated by history’s worst curator, John Ruskin) and the glorious John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland. I plan to post more about this luxurious academic adventure – but first to Keats’ house (ok it was closed) and Kenwood House in the Heath.

From a childhood spent reading Victorian novels, I had already concocted some notions about what I believe a “Heath” should look like. I think those notions mainly stem from associations I’ve made with the name “Heathcliff.” In any case, I found myself gamboling around the Hampstead Heath for a few days at the beginning of my trip–and probably to the annoyance of my host, I insisted upon using that phrase to the exclusion of any others that would do the same descriptive job.

I stayed in a flat (Mom, that is what they call apartments there) overlooking the Heath-thankful for the hospitality of a friend from my undergraduate years. She lives across the street from where George Orwell lived and worked for many years and down the road from Keats’ old house. More importantly, she lives around the corner from Benedict Cumberbatch. Unfortunately, despite my repeated truly necessary detours by his street, I failed to spot him.

My friend informed me, to my great delight, that one can simply apply to be the caretaker of these National Trust homes. All you have to do is live upstairs and open the doors a couple times a week for visitors… Can this be true? I could die happy in Keats’ house.

We also paid a visit to Lord Mansfield’s manor right in the Heath: Kenwood House. I kept breathing that air, that air too pure for the lungs of slaves. The house had a few choice Rembrandts and the library was fully furnished with fake books. Just as one can go on Ebay now and buy “old books” to decorate your shelves (see pics), the lower shelves of Mansfield’s library were lined with boxes that had book bindings on the side that faced outwards. I discovered this when I went to touch one of them and the alarm went off. “The alarm goes off when you touch the books,” the guard on duty then informed me. …

Ebay Old Books for Sale
Ebay Old Books for Sale
Ebay Old Books for Sale
Ebay Old Books for Sale

PR 5251. C77 and on…

I finally paid a visit to the Cook & Wedderburn monolith at the Young Research Library. Lo and behold:


Just an FYI, only 2062 copies of this 39-volume motherlode were printed.

As you can see in the photos, the publisher (London: George Allen and New York: Longmans, Green & Co.) did not skimp: the first image in the first volume is a full-color reproduction of Ruskin’s sketch “End of Market Str Croydon.”

It is with a bit of specialization-chauvanism that I mention that in this particular aisle in the library–the PR 5200s-5400s–one can find some extraordinarily beautiful texts. Here, I’ve snuck in a few pictures from the collected Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott published in the 1890s and the 1923-24 Tusitala Editions of R.L. Stevenson, with gold-embossed palm trees. I need to find out who bound these!

“Miss Jemima” on the Blogosphere

You may already know that a chapter of my dissertation is about Jemima Morrell’s Swiss Journal, an account of Thomas Cook’s first guided group tour to the Alps. Morrell was one of 63 Britons who bought his 680 Fr. package. She and her six friends set out with Cook in 1863, armed with Murray and Baedeker handbooks, and climbed the Alps in their petticoats.

My paper for Session 670 at the MLA 2015 conference—found here—discusses the ways in which phrases that Morrell had lifted from the pages of her guidebooks found their way into the blogs, news articles, and promotional materials the celebrated the journey’s 150th anniversary in 2013.

A young poet who won a competition to recreate Morrell’s journey blogged (minimally) about her experience. She took down the website shortly thereafter, but I have managed to secure the URL for myself. (You are welcome.) The Wayback Machine has provided us with access to one of its pages. Please click here to check it out.

Publication in Literature Compass

Lit Compass ArticleAlthough it is behind a paywall, my article in Literature Compass came out on September 3. Here is a link to its abstract. It’s called “19th-century Travel and the 21st-century Scholar.” It’s a survey of books published in the last ten years or so that describe nineteenth-century British tourism and its relationship to literature. I argue that given the development of the field over the past generation of scholars, they “need no longer apologize for interdisciplinarity nor for discarding the observance of strict boundaries between literary and non-literary genres.”

Publication in Persuasions!

My copy of Persuasions, Vol. 34.
My copy of Persuasions, Vol. 34.

Click here (and scroll down) to check out the table of contents for Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, Volume 34 (2012). Anne Mellor and I collaborated on an article entitled Austen’s Fanny Price, Grateful Negroes, and the Stockholm Syndrome in which we argue that the psychological responses of Maria Edgworth’s black slave in her story “The Grateful Negro” (1804) match those of Fanny Price living as a subjugated dependent in Mansfield Park. We focus on the dynamics of gratitude illuminated by Edgeworth’s text, and suggest that Austen, by drawing an analogy between Fanny Price and the “grateful Negro,” is not endorsing an ameliorationist program of benevolent slavery or a self-regulating Christian imperialism, but rather exposing the abject subjectivity produced by such a program.

Many thanks are due to Professor Mellor for her collaboration and support during the writing and editing process!

Off the Beaten Track…

I’m creating a page on this site (here) where I keep track of one of my favorite recurring tropes of tourism, both historical and contemporary. It’s this idea that having a real experience of a place – experiencing the “authentic” Paris or the “real” Los Angeles – means going somewhere where the other tourists don’t tend to go, or to which only locals can give you access. Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist (one of the most important texts on the topic) writes that this search for getting off the “beaten track” “suggests that somewhere in tourist settings there are real events accessible to intellectual elites” (105). Jonathan Culler, in his essay “The Semiotics of Tourism,” writes that this is the “most common motif” of tourism (159 in Framing the Sign).

Obviously, the big societal/cultural question to consider is why we are so concerned with authenticity in the first place. What are we doing in our daily lives that makes us want to find something “authentic” when we leave home? And what does the experience of “authenticity” feel like to someone in the midst of experiencing it?

Omeka presentation for a UCLA Cluster seminar

Just put together this presentation for this Freshman Cluster’s seminar here at UCLA. Their instructor is assigning them this assignment in which they have to curate a collection related to the “history of Los Angeles” using Omeka – a free online curatorial platform. I’m eager to see what they come up with.

I’ve presented on building Omeka sites before (here’s my sample site that I plan to one day turn into something relevant to my dissertation), and the major issues that come up have to do with the relationship between “Collections,” “Exhibits,” “Sections,” “Pages,” and “Items.” Miriam Posner’s great handout is helpful (click here).

Put simply, the best way to use Omeka is to think of it as a museum. Items are your museum’s objects. You upload images (or an image) of them and classify them according to Dublin Core metadata fields. You store them in collections – which I think of shelves or storage rooms in the back of the museum. But just as you wouldn’t be able to store a sculpture in two different rooms at the same time, you also can’t store an Omeka item in two different collections.

Once you have amassed a good number of items (and arranged them into collections – or not), you can then put together an Exhibit. An exhibit in Omeka has sections, just like an exhibit in a museum has different rooms. Pages can be thought of as walls in that room of that exhibition.

Here’s my visualization of this metaphor:

Here's a visual rendering of the relationship between Exhibits, Sections, Pages, and Items in Omeka.
Here’s a visual rendering of the relationship between Exhibits, Sections, Pages, and Items in Omeka.

So for example: let’s say in your exhibit on “British Tourism” (to borrow from my own research), you organize one room for maps and one room for souvenirs. Then you would put all of Byron’s souvenirs on one wall and all of Dickens’ on another one. The room for maps is one section and the wall of Byronic souvenirs would be a page on Omeka.

Does that make sense? I hope so. Omeka is good for making exhibits – but people run into problems when they try to square-peg-round-hole it (like by using it as a blog).

There are some other features worth noting about Omeka – its multi-curator capabilities, its various themes, tagging, making public v. private items, adding simple pages for content, featuring items/collections/exhibits etc – but it’s best, when presenting on it, to start by clarifying the relationship between collections, exhibits, sections, pages, and items (the Omekan macrocosm to the Omekan microcosm!) before delving into too much detail about the other features.