Student assistants play an important role to the success of the University of Missouri Libraries. In fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017), the University Libraries employed 244 students. Those 244 students worked in over 30 units throughout Ellis library and the all of the specialty libraries and off-campus locations. Students assist in everything from helping patrons checkout books and answering reference questions; to working behind the scenes to shelve, catalog, and digitize materials. Every aspect of the operations of the libraries are affected and aided by our student workforce. Our student assistants contributed over 45,000 hours of work time to the mission of the Libraries; upholding the values of Access, People, Service, and Stewardship.
This post is by Alec Stutson, a student in Dr. Megan Peiser's English 2100 class. Dr. Peiser brought her class to Special Collections several times over the course of the semester to work with materials illustrative of the history of books and reading. Alec worked with a collection of American and British pamphlets related to the musical Hamilton. He can be reached on Twitter at @padawanovelist.
Culture is a constantly shifting and hard to define concept. Changes in language, styles, and the ever-tumultuous nature of world news and politics leads to cultures that are constantly in flux, reacting and incorporating new elements. When it comes to literary theory, culture plays a large part in how literature is interpreted and discussed. In Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide by Lois Tyson, Tyson outlines a particular school of thought, called Cultural Criticism, which deals directly with the ways that a culture interacts with, reacts to, and interprets not only literature, but real-world events. Cultural Criticism believes that “human history and culture constitute a complex arena of dynamic forces” and that “individual […] selfhood develops in a give-and-take relationship with its cultural milieu: while we are constrained [by our culture …] we may struggle against those limits and transform them.” This means that through the lens of Cultural Criticism, we may analyze works not only on their own merits, but how they influence and pull from the culture in which they were created. Of all the popular works of literature in recent memory, none lend themselves as well to this theoretical approach as Hamilton, the hip-hop musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda about America’s “Ten-dollar Founding Father,” Alexander Hamilton. In Miranda’s smash-hit musical, he tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, from his unlikely upbringing to his early death at the hands of his lifelong frenemy, Aaron Burr. However, Miranda doesn’t do this in the usual, song-and-dance show-toon fashion. Instead, he tells the story through Hip-Hop. Think less Les Misérables, more Jay Z. Further more, modern pop-culture has taken the language and references of Hamilton, and incorporated them, where they have taken on a life of their own as memes and inside-jokes on social media platforms like Tumblr and Twitter. Let’s take a look at how the issues facing Alexander Hamilton were interpreted by his contemporary culture, how Lin-Manuel Miranda told those stories through Hip-Hop, and how modern internet culture has embraced the musical, and injected it into its own vocabulary.
The conflict underlying the first example is the fierce debate that raged between the Federalist and Anti-Federalist parties. During the foundational years of the US, there was much debate over how the country should be structured and run into the future. It is easy for us moderners to forgot that the laws and inner working of our country were not always so set in stone. America started out as a great experiment, it took many years and heated cabinet meetings to lay the groundwork that allows our country to survive and thrive. The Federalists, headed by Alexander Hamilton and George Washington, were mostly urban citizens, who believed that there should be a powerful central government that focused on economic regulation. Hamilton was a particularly strong supporter of a central bank. The Anti-Federalists on the other hand, were mostly rural, and wanted the states to operate as independent bodies who should handle their money and economies as they saw fit. This movement was mostly lead by Thomas Jefferson, whose disagreements with Alexander Hamilton were infamous, and are the groundwork for the next three items I’m going to analyze.
This is a political cartoon originally published in 1793, titled “A Peep into the Antifederal Club”. An attack cartoon against the anti-federalists, who were Alexander Hamilton’s political enemies, it depicts party leader Thomas Jefferson, rallying a rag-tag group of undesirables, including Satan himself. “What a pleasure it is to see one’s work thrive so well,” the devil says, looking at the group. Other members depicted include an obese drunk who damns the federal government, and a greedy money-counter sitting underneath Jefferson. All the while, Jefferson looms over like a cult leader, spouting mock-shakespearian prose about knocking over the federal government. At this point in history, this debate was imminent. It’s easy to look back at the values of both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, and see what worked and what didn’t. But in 1793, this was a battle for the soul of the country. Both sides believed that America would live or die based on what policies were enacted.
This cartoon gives a lot of insight into the values of the culture at the time, especially by looking at the charicatures that are presented. The most notable inclusion in the Antifederal club is that of Satan. The late 18th century was a deeply religious time in US History, with the majority of political players and voters being Christian. Portraying Jefferson and his cohorts as Atheistic or even worse, Devil-worshipping, was a massive character asassination. The artist goes so far as to say that the work of the party is the work of the devil himself. The american people at the time were so deeply religious, this would be comparable to satire today comparing the president to a terrorist leader. The inclusion of satan not only exposes the vitriol present in the political discourse at the time, but leads insight into the core values of American society at the time.
Up next is an excerpt from “Cabinet Meeting #1” in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. In it, the debate between Hamilton’s Federalist beliefs and Jefferson’s Anti-Federalist beliefs rage on in the form of a good ol’ fashioned Rap Battle, complete with mediator George Washington, and rowdy reactionary crowd made up of the other cabinet members. This retelling of political debate is a fascinating stylistic choice, and one of the many reason why Hamilton is so brilliant. Miranda takes policy debate about taxation and economics, which could easily have been boring or glossed over all together, and makes it into a highpoint of the musical, both lyrically and in terms of character development. Miranda weaves real-world allusions, such as Britain’s controversial tea taxation, and Hamilton’s proposed taxation of whiskey, into a catchy burn delivered by Jefferson. By translating a cabinet meeting into a rap battle, a concept brought into popularity by the movie 8 Mile, and the mega-popular YouTube channel “Epic Rap Battles of History”, Miranda not only engages the audience, but he translates the significance of these debates at the time into a language that is understandable by modern audiences.
Rap battles are confrontational by nature. Two rappers are pitted against one another and tasked with assaulting each other with insults that are both effective and lyrically clever. This contentious and adversarial nature mimics the passion with which Hamilton and Jefferson debated during the cabinet meetings. While this Intensity can often be lost in textbooks and history classes, Miranda makes it tangible through his interpretation. Additionally, rap battles have a winner and loser, decided by the crowd’s response and occasionally a judge. This ties into the nature of politics at the time as well. In the Federalist and Anti-federalist debates, one side had to emerge victorious, and it was up to Jefferson and Hamilton to not only convince Washington (the judge of the battle), but also to convince the other members of the cabinet to back them with votes (represented by the crowd’s reactions to the rappers insults). If Hamilton had a particularly compelling argument, Miranda portrays that as a clever and savage rhyme. If it gained a lot of traction with other cabinet members, that is shows through their reactions on stage. By translating this discussion to battle-rap format, Miranda is effectively able to convey important concepts and draw parallels, without losing any of the catchy-ness or wit present throughout the musical.
Cabinet Battle #1
Hamilton: Keep ranting, WE KNOW WHO'S REALLY DOING THE PLANTING pic.twitter.com/OqkFc26hxc
— lil pancake 🥞 (@cadyphippsie) March 28, 2017
The final example to consider is this tweet by Twitter user @Cadyphippsie. This tweet is a step further removed from the federalist and anti-federalist debate that inspired Miranda, but it still offers an interesting look into the way that the internet incorporates concepts and other media into its own vernacular, and combines them using its own unique language, symbols, and implied meanings. From an outside, perspective, the tweet might not make a ton of sense. Sure, it can be assumed that the crowd is reacting to something, and that the smug looking character in the middle is the center of attention, but there is actually a little bit more going on behind the scenes.
The gif is taken from this sketch-parody YouTube video uploaded in 2013, called “The Rap Battle”. At the time of writing, the video is sitting pretty at over 13 Million views. The video is of a rap battle, where on participant is barely rapping, bur receives extremely exaggerated reactions from the crowd, while his opponent, who has some solid bars, can barely hold their attention. The video is funny, and gained a lot of traction based on its humor alone. However, the above gif was lifted from it, and began to see a rise in popularity as a reaction image: an image of gif used to express a reaction. Reaction images often have some sort of connotation associated with them, and they often serve as internet inside-jokes. The clip from Rap Battle became synonymous with a sick burn or savage insult. That’s precisely how it comes into play within the context of this Hamilton-related tweet.
Not only is @Cadyphippsie acknowledging Miranda’s lyrical genius, but the gif almost serves as an endorsement of the message. The fact that these lyrics were chosen shows how they have resonated with modern audiences. While researching this post, I found numerous tweets and posts that were about “Cabinet Meeting #1”, and these particular lyrics condemning Thomas Jefferson’s use of slave labor popped up often. The gif has turned not only into shorthand for “look at this sick burn”, but by extent it reflects the agreement with the sentiment of the lyrics. On the Genius.com page for “Cabinet Meeting #1”, Miranda himself comments on these particular lyrics, saying “This line actually feels like we’re in a time machine and we actually get to speak truth to the real Jefferson — things that we could never say to him. […] He really participated in this brutal system. So this moment is really cathartic.” Miranda felt a sense of catharsis and gratification in writing these lines, and that obviously resonated with internet-savvy listeners. But rather than saying “I agree with Lin-Manuel Miranda”, Twitter users endorsed it in their own way, using a language of memes and instant-sharing that only could be communicated on the internet. In this way, the reaction image becomes more than a joke, and in a way reflects the values and mindset of modern society.
Thus, the battle between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists still sees attention and humor even today, although in a different form. As I said mentioned at the beginning, cultures are complicated, and the way they interact with media is incredibly complicated, and ever-changing. Whether it was religious symbolism, Hip-Hop throw-downs, or animated gif reactions, three complex cultures reacted to two complex men in their own special way that gives insight into their cultural values, traditions, and interests. And while many “classical” scholars might dismiss a meme or cartoon as low-brow and unworthy of analysis, cultural criticism shows that even these things can provide insightful analysis, and are worthy of attention and critique. It just goes to show that Satan, Rap Battles, and Twitter might have more in common than you might think.
Emilee Howland-Davis’ English 1000 classes spent this semester reading the post-apocalyptic novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which is presented as a series of first-hand accounts of the social and political implications of the zombie outbreak. To provide a real-world perspective to this work of science fiction, they also studied materials related to disaster and survival in Government Documents and Special Collections. Materials the students considered included:
- A "duck and cover" comic aimed at helping children survive a nuclear attack during the Cold War
- 1950s-1960s Civil Defense pamphlets intended for use by families and local officials
- A 1950s guide to help farmers protect crops and livestock from biological warfare
- An artist's book in the shape of a body bag, containing guidelines for refugees' survival at sea
- A World War II poster emphasizing the importance of first aid during a shortage of civilian doctors
The students presented historical and rhetorical analyses of the materials in Ellis Library. Kudos to them for their hard work, and hats off to their innovative instructor for making such great use of library resources!
This semester we have two new interns working on metadata, provenance, and digital projects with us in Special Collections. Last week we introduced Olivia; this week, say hello to Kayla.
My Name is Kayla Thompson and I am one of the new interns in the Special Collections department at Ellis Library. I am senior studying English Creative writing with a varied collection of minors. Here are some fun facts about myself:
- My dream is to work in either a library or museum working with old books, manuscripts, and artifacts. For this reason, I am applying to graduate school for the fall for Library and Information Sciences.
- I love reading. Books are my favorite things in the whole world. At the moment I own somewhere around 500 of them, so old or new you can find just about any genre on my shelf, though, I prefer fiction. Currently I am in the middle of about five books including Homer’s Iliad, Cassandra Clare’s Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and Skye Alexander’s The Modern Witchcraft Spell Book: Your Complete Guide to Crafting and Casting Spells.
- I am writing a novella about a young witch with no powers. Not quite sure where it’s going yet (if it’s going). I have wanted to write a book since I was 12, but have yet to produce something that I feel is worth putting out into the world. It’s mostly just a hobby at the moment.
- This summer I am going on a trip to study abroad in Greece. It has been a dream of mine since I was little. It will also be the last six credits I need to finish my Classical Studies minor.
- I own one fat and fluffy cat named Tora.
- And I probably drink way more coffee than could possibly ever be good for me.
So, that’s who I am. I can’t wait to get to know more about everyone I work with. I am already having fun and can’t wait to see where this semester in Special Collections takes me.
Be sure to tune into our Tumblr to see posts by Olivia and Kayla this semester.
Don't worry if you missed our Banned Books Week celebration during the week of September 25th. We celebrate banned books every day of the year!
Banned Books Week is a week long celebration of books that have been challened or banned in different parts of North America. It was organized in order to promote people's right to read.
"Everything should be available for anyone who wants to access it," says Emilee Howland-Davis, a PhD student in the English department, regarding the importance of protecting the right to read.
She and her English 2100 class exercised their right to read on Thursday, September 29th, when they did readings of banned books out on Speaker's Circle. They read excerpts from Harry Potter and passed out bookmarks promoting Banned Books Week.
However, the efforts to stop banned books does not end once the week is over. Ellis Library continues that fight through multiple exhibits.
Be sure to come by the information desk and see our exhibit on banned books! Try and guess what book each of the covered books are! Each covered book is a famous piece of literature, many of which are included in reading lists for English classes. On the covering is key reasons why they have been banned or challenged.
See if any of your favorites have ever been banned by checking the ever growing list of banned books! Favorites such as Catcher in the Rye and Harry Potter are included in the list.
So don't be discouraged if you missed the week! Just pick up your favorite banned book and read it! It's always the right time to help the fight against banned books!
This post is the eighth and final part of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.
By an Anonymous English Major, Recently Graduated
While researching the origins of a mysterious manuscript that was donated to Ellis Library many years ago, our Early American Literature class learned not only about who might have written the book, when, and why, we also learned a great deal about what life was like in the time period in which it was written. The Lucubrator is a commonplace book, written in late eighteenth-century America. It includes many essays, one of which, “On Female Education,” helps to reveal how eighteenth-century readers felt about the roles of women in society.
The author of the essay begins by recalling the recent opening of a local school for women: “The admittance of females into the Academy in the United States, is an eminent instance, of their refined cultivation and advancement in literature.” The academy to which the author refers is likely the Young Ladies Academy of Philadelphia. The opening of this particular academy would have been deeply significant to many Americans, as it was, according to Marion B. Savin and Harold J. Abrahams, “the first chartered institution for the higher education of young women in the United States and perhaps in the world” (59). The Academy was established on June 4, 1782, by John Poor, and, five years later, on January 9, 1792, it was granted a charter by the laws of Pennsylvania. By that time, one hundred women were in attendance. They studied the expected subjects, such as reading, writing, math, and history. They also studied singing, piano, and astronomy.
It was considered a prestigious accomplishment to graduate from the Academy, though often completion meant women might be better wives and mothers, rather than opening doors for careers. In James A. Neal’s An Essay on the Education and Genius of the Female Sex (1795), he writes, “When admitted to an equal participation of the illuminating beams of science, we observe women rising to the most conspicuous and enviable state of eminence” (2). Neal published his Essay on Education with his account of the Academy’s commencement activities held on December 18, 1794. Neal’s praise for the Academy shows his faith in women’s intellectual capabilities, but his was not the prevailing opinion of the time. Indeed, when Benjamin Rush delivered an address to the Academy on July 28, 1787, he made glowing remarks on female learning, but only because he believed that receiving a liberal education would make a girl “an agreeable companion to a sensible man” (79).
Domestic life was quite important in the eighteenth century and women often played an important role in making domestic life run properly. The essay “On Female Education” seems to convey this idea. Its author writes of women: “If they are never to fill a public seat or harangue in public, will they never have an occasion to read in a company of friends, or, to teach what they have leart [sic] to their families and children?” While researching this essay in the The Lucubrator, we learned that when it was written, America was beginning to come around to the idea that women deserve an education in order to become happier, more productive people.
People, most often, will be as great as they are allowed to be. When we continue to treat women as inferior, less intelligent people, it makes it hard for them to prove otherwise. Many are not given the chance to better themselves, and when they are, their accomplishments are overlooked by people who only seem to pay attention to what they want to see. While there is still a long way to go before people who are not white men are treated with equal amounts of respect, education continues to be the best route to achieving this.
Rush, Benjamin. Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia, 1798).
Savin, Marion B. and Harold J. Abrahams. “The Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia.” History of Education Journal. Vol. 8. No. 2 (Winter, 1957): 68-67.
This post is the seventh part of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.
by Tyler Morris
After weeks of working to decode The Lucubrator, I can’t help but feel I’m left with more questions than answers. The title page offered our class a name: James Noyes. But we quickly realized that the manuscript’s authorship is more of a mystery than any of us originally thought. Simply searching for “James Noyes” in databases and Google was not going to cut it. So I altered my approach. I looked to find “Lucubrator” essays written by other authors who could potentially eliminate James Noyes as a candidate for the authorship of some or all of The Lucubrator’s essays.
Though I found a few published essays written by “The Lucubrator,” none matched those bound in the manuscript. We concluded that we could not attribute the manuscript to Noyes definitely nor question the attribution made on the title page. Eventually, I posed a different question: what good is a book that no longer has a known author or place of origin?
When considering my answer, it dawned on me that I had learned more from the manuscript than I originally thought, even without knowing its author. The fact that we could not find a printed version of a Lucubrator essay suggests either that someone should have done a better job of bookkeeping or that the manuscript may not have been meant for the public. But, then again, I think my speculation that the manuscript’s essays were at one time printed to entertain and inform readers is a compelling one, for several reasons.
Some of the essays are not dated in chronological order and others are given two dates, which may signify the dates on which they were printed elsewhere. Moreover, the essays are morally edifying. My favorite essay is one entitled “On Friendship.” After overcoming the difficulty of having to read literature in the original handwriting, you find that the author of The Lucubrator actually offers a rather beautiful description of true friendship. Phrases like “Friendship, when it is sincere, is acknowledged by all to be a very fruitful source of happiness,” or “When there is a dissimilarity of opinions or pursuits, there seldom exist any great degree of friendship; for that difference is apt to create disputes between each other, and people in general are too much attached to their own ways of thinking to respect another of different or opposite sentiments,” offer some insight and advice that is still very useful today. The same goes for the essays that offer criticism, such as “Propriety of Behaving with Moderation In Parties,” which is pretty much self-explanatory, and “On the Propriety of Taxing Ministers of the Gospels for the Support of Government.”
Likewise, learning about the life of the best candidate for the manuscript’s authorship, James Noyes of Atkinson (1778-1799), was inspirational. Interestingly enough, Noyes was around the same age as me and my classmates when The Lucubrator was written, which made me feel like I needed to step my game up as far as everything is concerned! Noyes was a prodigy responsible for publishing a Federal Arithmetic for Congress, as well as a number of almanacs and even an astronomical diary, which are profound achievements for anyone, but especially for an author so young. A few years later, Noyes died of polio, after being forced to use crutches. Issues with immobility left him stuck in his house for most of his final days.
I think that integrating short essays like the Lucubrator essays with applications such as Twitter and Facebook would be an excellent way to entertain my generation, as well as a tool for teaching life lessons. The idea and form of The Lucubrator are what we can take away from our research experience and what we can call the manuscript’s history and purpose, even if the author conceived of it differently.
An intriguing event is coming up in Ellis Library! It's called "Life and Letters in the Ancient Mediterranean" and is being presented by the departments of Classical Studies, Art History and Archaeology, the Museum of Art and Archaeology, Special Collections, the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection, and Gamal Castile. See actual artifacts of everyday life in Ancient Greece, the first books by Classical poets printed on this side of the Atlantic, a 3000 year old fragment of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, authentic reproductions of Ancient Greek hoplite weapons and armor along with a demonstration of Ancient Greek warfare tactics.
Please join us for a multi-department celebration of Ancient Mediterranean Life and Letters 5 p.m. Monday, October 10 at room 114A Ellis Library. Special Collections Librarian Tim Perry will introduce the range of materials relating to the ancient Mediterranean that are housed in Ellis Library's Special Collections, from a 3,000 year old fragment of The Book of the Dead to an translation of Cicero printed by Benjamin Franklin. Benton Kidd, Curator of Ancient Art, will explain the artifacts of daily life. The event will be a riveting and valuable source of information. Any and all are welcome. We hope to see everyone in Ellis Library room 114A on October 10, 2016.
This post is part 6 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.
by Jon Crecelius
Though we don’t have the technology to travel back to the past, we can still piece together clues that give us a glimpse of what the past was like. In conducting research on The Lucubrator, I did exactly that. My interests leaned towards the intellectual and literary cultures of post-revolutionary America, and how they might have influenced the mysterious author of the manuscript, called James Noyes on the title page.
Some of the most notable writers of eighteenth-century America were none other than the “Founding Fathers.” Men such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, with their works entitled Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732-58), and The Federalist Papers (1787-88), all wrote well known publications that would have shaped the literary and social culture of the manuscript author’s time. But these men were not the only authors writing important pieces in and about early America. One important, but overlooked, author is J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813), an influential French immigrant farmer who lived in New York.
The writings of Crèvecoeur espouse the type of freethinking, industriousness, and morally minded spirit so often dictated by The Lucubrator’s author. In his famous essay, “What is an American?,” Crèvecoeur asserts “We are all animated with the spirit of industry which is unfettered and unrestrained because each person works for himself” (2). This portrait of Americans, driven by a strong work ethic, is found also in Jefferson’s writings and may be compared to the industrious writer we meet in The Lucubrator. More significant, however, is that all three writers—Crèvecoeur, Jefferson, and the author of the manuscript—express admiration for the American farmer and the pastoral joys of agricultural life that many believed came with it. In one passage of his Notes, Jefferson writes “Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth” (179). Likewise, the author of The Lucubrator writes in an essay entitled “On Agriculture”: “If gentleman in the highest walks of society possessed a taste for the amusement of gardening, the cultivation of fruit trees, and other branches of agriculture, it would perhaps contribute as much to health and innocence, as to national independence and prosperity.”
If James Noyes of Atkinson is the author of The Lucubrator, he seems to have been a man of high ideals and strong morals. In my opinion, though he makes himself out to be an important thinker, Noyes is mostly distilling the ideas of writers who came before him. However, this does not make his work unimportant. It is still, despite its enigmatic character, an important discovery that adds to our knowledge of the early American landscape; and, because this work is one that has been previously unstudied, it shows us how those people forgotten by history thought and lived.
St. John, James Hector. "What Is an American?" Letters From an American Farmer. 1782.
National Humanities Center. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.
Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. The Federalist Papers Project. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
Next week is Banned Books Week. Stand up for your right to read! Emilee Howland-Davis, a PhD student in the English department, invites everyone to join her English 2100 class on Thursday, September 29th, anytime between 11:00 and 3:30 in Speaker’s Circle. We will read from our favorite banned books and talk to people about banned, challenged, or censored materials. Please bring your favorite banned book, and join us in standing up for our right to read.
Additionally, the English 2100 class has prepared a display of banned books in Special Collections. We hope you will stop by Special Collections and check it out.