Our last day was a flurry of hard work, as the students assembled their final project: an exhibit in the Wordsworth Museum.
The Wordsworth Trust has a major grant to redesign its exhibitions, and Jeff Cowton, curator of the Wordsworth Trust, enlisted the class as part of their efforts: he wanted them to find a way to present literary manuscripts to the general public in an interesting way. That means finding the story each manuscript contains within it, and figuring out how to tell the story clearly and concisely, with impressive visual illustrations.
The class decided to tell the story of how a poem is made, and chose two examples. In the first, Wordsworth developed a new poem out of another he was already writing, and students told that story by overlaying two manuscript pages with clear plastic, using color-coded lines and text boxes to do so. The poem, “Old Man Travelling, or Animal Tranquillity and Decay,” was one of the original Lyrical Ballads. Jeff praised their design, saying that no manuscript had ever been presented in that way, and that it represented a major step forward.
Their second example focused on revision and transcription of one of the most famous episodes from Wordsworth’s autobiographical poem, The Prelude: the stolen boat episode, an episode he wrote and rewrote for over 40 years. What impressed them was how many family members contributed to the composition process: William himself, his sister Dorothy, who produced the first fair copy of the poem in her best handwriting, his wife Mary, who also produced a full fair copy, his clerk John Carter, who transcribed the poem in his best handwriting, and his daughter Dora, who helped her father produce the last fair copy of the poem, the basis of the version published in 1850, after Wordsworth’s death.
So they placed a copy of the first edition, open to the stolen boat episode, in the center, and surrounded it with silhouettes of the contributors, and a sample of their handwritten versions of the opening lines of the episode, and they called the display “a family affair.”
And indeed it was, as was the project itself, since after two weeks of such intense effort and togetherness, we became a family, dedicated to the beautiful landscape of the English Lake District, and the poet and his family who lived and wrote there.
Our last day was a flurry of hard work, as the students assembled their final project: an exhibit in the Wordsworth Museum. The Wordsworth Trust has a major grant to redesign its exhibitions, and Jeff Cowton, curator of the Wordsworth Trust, enlisted the class as part of their efforts: he wanted them to find a […]MORE
Today, we started on our project for the week. First, we walked to the second floor of the museum to see the case where our project will be displayed. This was helpful because we saw how much space we had, which gave us an idea of what we could create. After this, we returned to the library to brainstorm ideas about the project. During our brainstorming session, we created a diagram detailing our ideas for the display. We chose excerpts from two of his poems, “Description of a Beggar” and the boat scene from “The Prelude.” For each manuscript, we chose different aspects of the manuscript to feature.
In “Description of a Beggar,” we asked our audience if they ever thought about the making of a poem to get them to think about different elements that go into the creation of a poem. We displayed the color of the ink written on the manuscript because this can tell a person when the manuscript was written. We learned newly written ink is usually black or blue, while older ink fades to brown. The size and color of the paper itself can also determine a manuscript’s age, as paper yellows and shrinks with age. We also established that revisions are important because they strengthen one’s understanding of Wordsworth’s additional thoughts that shaped his poem.
In “The Prelude,” we displayed members of Wordsworth’s family that contributed to his work, especially his sister Dorothy, wife Mary, and daughter Dora, who all copied his work on different occasions. Our main question would be “Have you ever thought about who writes a poem?” so that people would understand how multiple people come together to create one work.
After we created our diagram, we presented our ideas to Jeff. I greatly enjoyed this activity because my peers and me collaborated to better understand each other’s points of view. This allowed me to see these manuscripts in a way I had never seen before, which helped me understand them even more clearly. I’m looking forward to creating this project tomorrow and learning more of my classmate’s ideas on these manuscripts to help me better understand Wordsworth’s poems.
Today, we started on our project for the week. First, we walked to the second floor of the museum to see the case where our project will be displayed. This was helpful because we saw how much space we had, which gave us an idea of what we could create. After this, we returned to […]MORE
An Encounter with William Wordsworth
We walked the footpath that followed
The silhouettes of the grassy hills
Tripping over stones on the way home
The sun beating down, burning
Burning my much too pale skin
Like the first fair weather day
Following a two week spell of rain
Evaporating every damp thought
And I thought
“This was him”
Counting the many, many footsteps
On the way to Hawkshead Grammar School
I have never found myself so eager
To get to class on time
William knew nothing other than the commute
The one that I am privileged to take
The one that he probably dreaded to make
But boy – oh boy – can I relate
And I thought
“This was him”
We watched the sheep that would stare
Enticing you to get closer
With a mischievous glare
Only to run away when you got near
Bah-ing, catch me if you dare
And the cows that scream loud
Instead of moo, letting you know
That they want nothing to do with you
And I thought
“This was him”
I drank his water
Unaware that I had an instinctive thirst
For the sparkling lakes of
Grasmere, Windermere, Rydal
A fraction of the ninety-three inches of rain
That falls each passing year
Or the sweat that left my body
Nourishing the roots planted before me
And I thought
“This was him
On day three of this Maymester experience in Grasmere, Maggie Burke ’19 captured the student group’s experience through poetry. An Encounter with William Wordsworth We walked the footpath that followed The silhouettes of the grassy hills Tripping over stones on the way home The sun beating down, burning Burning my much too pale skin Like […]MORE
“Eleven? No, we don’t have space. Sorry about that.”
“Not right now, maybe if you come back in about 45 minutes we’ll have more room.”
After facing this response two more times, our chances of finding a place to have lunch were looking bleak, and the growling of our stomachs was growing steadily louder by the minute. That’s what we got for going out to eat on a Bank Holiday in England. Every restaurant and sit-down café along the main road was teeming with families enjoying their long weekends and couples spending their day off of work treating themselves to a lunch date.
As we rounded a corner toward an intersection, we were losing hope of ever finding somewhere that would fit our whole group and were beginning to consider the option of eating separately when we were stopped by our trusty guide Jeff. At long last we had found it: an English Valhalla, an oasis in the middle of our less than dry Grasmere desert, the final salvation at the end of our Dantean journey for sustenance. Before us, hiding beneath the cover of a wide green awning stamped with the word “Lucia’s,” lay a quaint café that seemed relatively empty. The counter was located just within the doorway and two employees were rearranging the rows of sandwiches and pastries that lined the shelves in the café window. Mission accomplished!
Upon our return to the Wordsworth Trust, we were met with an enlarged manuscript on the wall that was covered in markings and edits. Even the title had been changed: “Prelude” had been crossed out and “Recluse” placed in the space below. Jeff, switching with ease from guide to curator, started the discussion with a question: “How many people marked this document?” What started as a seemingly simple question became an extensive discussion about ink heaviness, letter styles, and the history of the text. Our estimates steadily grew from two writers to three then to six until we were finally satisfied that we distinguished every individual who had written on the manuscript. The final six individuals were: the original author Dorothy Wordsworth, alterations by William Wordsworth, titling by John Carter, “1” in the upper right corner by Mary Wordsworth, changing of title to “Recluse” by Gordon Wordsworth, and “7” in the upper right corner by a curator several years later. From there, we made a list of what we can learn from the edits of manuscripts and how they can be analyzed as a window into the history and development of literature. Whether the notes were by William in his textual alterations or by Gordon in his title adjustments, each set of edits gave an insight on how what the writers prioritized and focused their critiques on.
From valiant quests for food to archeological digs through script, it’s safe to say that Grasmere has kept us plenty busy thus far. And, so we forge on once more into the fray.
How many people? Eleven? No, sorry, I don’t think we have enough room” “Eleven? No, we don’t have space. Sorry about that.” “Not right now, maybe if you come back in about 45 minutes we’ll have more room.” After facing this response two more times, our chances of finding a place to have lunch were […]MORE
Maymester in England
A group of English majors recently spent the week abroad in England as part of the Maymester course, Wordsworth in the Lake District. After a week of study at PC, the students traveled to Grasmere, William Wordsworth’s home in the picturesque English Lake District. Below is the first of five daily posts that recap the group’s time in the U.K.
Our first day started with a tour of the area that Wordsworth lived in during his time at Grasmere. Upon our arrival at the Wordsworth Trust, we enjoyed tea time with our instructors and snacked on homemade gingerbread, which is somewhat of a delicacy to locals and others who find out about it. We briefly relaxed as we were informed of the tasks that lie ahead of us throughout the week.
After we finished our tea and snacks, we were given a personal tour of Dove Cottage, the home where Wordsworth composed a large number of his most influential poems. We got to see the very bedroom that he slept in, the kitchen that he ate in, and the garden where he looked out upon the mountain range of Grasmere. This opportunity allowed us to see a more human side of Wordsworth that is often forgotten when one finds himself lost in the genius of Wordsworth’s words. The tour also gave us the opportunity to stand in the very footsteps of a successful poet while looking out onto the nature that inspired him most.
Seeing the beauty of the scenery that surrounds his home from a first-hand perspective makes me understand why he appears so awestruck in his poems. Together we stood at the highest point in Wordsworth’s garden while overlooking the hillside. After we finished in Dove Cottage, we chatted with our instructor, Jeff Cowton, about how to improve the current status of the museum in order to gain a larger crowd of clientele.
Maymester in England A group of English majors recently spent the week abroad in England as part of the Maymester course, Wordsworth in the Lake District. After a week of study at PC, the students traveled to Grasmere, William Wordsworth’s home in the picturesque English Lake District. Below is the first of five daily posts […]MORE