Wordsworth Day Five: ‘Never Felt More Privileged’

Wordsworth Day Five: ‘Never Felt More Privileged’

Posted by: on June 3, 2015   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

day5bannerMaymester in England

KonnorOn our last day in Grasmere, students quickly finished up their online exhibition, linking the writings of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and images of their manuscripts with photographs and drawings of the places they describe.  Their intention was to assemble something that the Trust would find useful for its outreach program to seniors with memory loss.  Then came the test: how would it be received?  They had an exacting audience: Jeff Cowton, Curator of the Wordworth Trust, and Gillian Dow, head of research at Chawton House Library, the center of Jane Austen studies.  I was impressed with the clarity of their presentation, and the sophistication of the project—and so were Cowton and Dow.  It was a triumph.

Triumphs deserve rewards, so Jeff brought out some of the Trust’s greatest treasures for us to hold and admire.  The earliest complete manuscripts of The Prelude, Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic, a beautiful Lake District watercolor by J.M.W. Turner,  a first edition of Lyrical Ballads which we passed around while reading Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and, for Konner Jebb, a first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and a recitation of the moment of the monster’s creation.

stonesAfter lunch and souvenirs at the sheep shop, we headed north to Keswick for our last excursion.  First stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle, a Stonehenge in miniature, ringed by Skiddaw, Blencathra, and Helvellyn, three towering Lake District mountains.  Next, Jeff drove us through the village of Keswick and, ever so gingerly, along a narrow road around Derwentwater.  Try doing hairpins in a minibus!  We stopped at Brandelhow Woods for dramatic views of the mountains and the lake.  The poet Gray called Derwentwater “the Vale of Elysium,” and we could all see why.

The day ended with rest in the Dove Cottage gardens and another meal in Wordsworth’s home: salads and cold meat pies, and plenty of laughter and memories.  It was a fitting end to a perfect week.

Sometimes, teaching is simply sharing a gift.  30 years ago, I was given the gift of Wordsworth’s lakes by the late Stephen Parrish of Cornell.  Last week, I was able to pass that gift on to eight PC students—John Connolly, Branan Durbin, Kris Gianquitti, Konnor Jebb, Abby Johnston, Patricia Krupinski, Brendan Murphy, and Nick Tavares.  I have never felt more privileged.

–Dr. Bruce Graver


Maymester in England On our last day in Grasmere, students quickly finished up their online exhibition, linking the writings of... MORE

Wordsworth Day Three: Grasmere’s Beauty Shines through the Clouds

Posted by: on May 29, 2015   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

Manuscript-1Maymester in England

This morning was the first truly cloudy morning as we walked to Dove Cottage, but not even the clouds could cover Grasmere’s natural beauty.

The first half of the morning we listened to two women from the Trust discuss how the museum engages elementary school children. One of the kids’ favorite activities is matching stanzas of Wordsworth’s poems to a story board. To get the full experience, we tried this activity for ourselves. Luckily, we all got it right.

We spent the second half of the morning looking at facsimiles of one of Wordsworth’s handmade notebooks in which he works out parts of “The Ruined Cottage.” Deciphering Wordsworth’s handwriting made reading the manuscript an almost meditative experience, as it required extra concentration. We also compared the manuscript to a typed copy of the final poem, paying extra attention to what Wordsworth kept and what he left out of the poem. A large section of the manuscript was dedicated to several rewritings of only a few lines of the poem. As writers, it was reassuring to see Wordsworth’s editing process and realize how many verses do not make it into the final product and how much even authors as great as Wordsworth sometimes struggle with their writing.

Abby Johnston ’2017

PoetryreadingThis afternoon, after a quick lunch in town, we returned to the Trust to begin working on our project. We spent some time bouncing various ideas back and forth, deciding to use all we’ve researched this week to explore the emotions found in Dorothy and Wordsworth’s own writing. Specifically how the landscape and picturesque spaces among the Lake District relate to these emotional responses.

Our project consists of eight different excerpts from both Dorothy’s journals and William Wordsworth’s poetry. Each of us is writing a short review of a specific journal entry or poem, giving examples of the descriptions of Grasmere within the works themselves that illustrate the emotional impact they had on the two of them. We’re also including visuals of manuscripts, sketches of the areas within each entry, and quite possibly even a few recitations of the works we chose. Jeff seemed excited when we pitched our idea to him. Hopefully, this exhibit will become a valuable one for the Trust and both interests and excites their visitors!

It finally rained today, and Grasmere was still just as beautiful. After our work was done, Jeff drove us back to the hostel where we had another lovely dinner that involved chicken Caesar salad – the chicken was wrapped in bacon! It was a great night that was spent laughing and working on our project after dinner.

Konnor Jebb ’2016

Maymester in England This morning was the first truly cloudy morning as we walked to Dove Cottage, but not even... MORE