This student-curated exhibit follows the extraordinary journey of eighteenth-century naturalist James Bruce (1730-1794) as he endeavored to discover the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Bruce’s expedition took us through the Iberian Peninsula, the Levant, and the Barbary States, eventually leading us into Egypt, Axum, Gondar, Lake Tana and the holy streams of the Gish Abay in Ethiopia. We also explored figures that were essential both to the journey of James Bruce, as well as the history of early modern Europe and Ethiopia. These included: the fictional Prester John, Job Ludolf and Abba Gregorious, Francis Bacon, James Cook, Carl Linneaus, Comte de Buffon, Ras Maka’el, and Məntəwwab, the Dowager Empress of Ethiopia. Using the extraordinary resources in W&L’s Special Collections, including an original copy of Bruce’s “Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile” (1790), students explored topics such as early modern scientific expeditions, classification and taxonomy, print culture, race in the scientific imagination, popular geography, early museum collection and organization, and the complicated reception of Bruce’s narrative upon his return to Europe. We also worked together to recreate 18th century research methods, including constructing a camera obscura and collecting local botanical specimens on W&L’s campus.
In this Fall 2013 Independent Study course, Katie Jarrell and John Bruch began The Leipziger Illustrite Zeitung Project, under the guidance of Professor Paul Youngman. This project focuses on photography and imagery in an illustrated newspaper, published in Leipzig, Germany from 1843-1944. The basis of our project was to create an online, public database of the photographs, since the LIZ is rich with interesting photos. To do this, we scanned each photograph and made an online archive using Omeka. In this digital archive, photos are tagged based on theme, location, and symbolic meaning. After completing the photo database, we also added the photos to Neatline, a digital mapping device. By choosing to color-code each photo thematically, we were able to use Neatline to view trends in the photos as they correlate to certain cities or countries. What we found was both expected and surprising. The current project focuses on the first two volumes of November 1935, although we hope to expand both the Omeka archive and the Neatline map to include many more of the available volumes.
This web project is conceived as an educational tool that will allow students of the Spanish epic to understand and appreciate the oral essence of the genre and to recognize the enormous conceptual distance between an oral narrative poem and the modern textual editions used in the classroom.
This oral epic narrative was recorded on parchment in 1207, eventually leading to its treatment as written text and to the occlusion of its oral essence. The original manuscript was copied at least once, in the unique fourteenth-century copy that resides in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. The oral narrative poem represented in this unique manuscript may have evolved over a period of one hundred years.
The classroom setting and its inherent time limitations are obstacles to the recreation of the oral essence of epic narrative. Printed editions of the poem are portable and therefore convenient, but modern editions treat the poem as another literary text, conceived in writing for readers. This conception leads editors to reconstruct the poem as text, to number the verses, to split them into two hemistichs, and on occasion to modify them in order to achieve a more correct reading or consistent assonance. The verses are grouped according to assonance, and these groupings are then numbered and sometimes given headings. Such modern editions and the reading aids they include create a nearly insurmountable obstacle to the appreciation of the poem as oral narrative.
This web site, with its recorded oral rendition of the poem, allows for the savoring of the epic in its oral form without the time limitations of three weekly class meetings. Students can listen to the 5 hours, 9 minutes and 28 seconds [05:09:28.10] of epic narrative without ever seeing a written word, if they like, as many times as they please. Students and others who experience the poem in this way can begin to truly appreciate, understand, and assimilate the noble expression of this epic narrative. As the first literary text of Old Spanish, the poem and its oral rendition also encourage the study and contemplation of the unique pronunciation of the precursor to modern Castilian.