Representing Gender and Crisis in Contemporary, Independent Puerto Rican Art

By Joyce Rivera González, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology

It reeks to always walk with tense shoulders, shoved upwards
A knife hidden under my tongue
Rear wheel mirrors

— Karla Cristina
Sobre el hombre y otros sistemas de colapso
(La Impresora, 2020)

In this blog post, we showcase a collection of zines, chapbooks, and posters published by the independent, women-led Puerto Rican press La Impresora (“the printer,” in Spanish).  This collection is one of the most recent acquisitions to augment Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings of Hispanic Caribbean literature.

La Impresora is an experimental workshop headquartered in northwestern Puerto Rico. It is a small-scale risograph press, which combines the aesthetic and uniqueness of stencil and screen-printing with the expediency and convenience of digital copiers. Since the inception of risograph technology in 1940s Japan, this technology has allowed artists around the world to conveniently and inexpensively reproduce and disseminate their creations. In addition, La Impresora seeks to be more than just a printing press: as part of its vision, creators and artists are actively involved in the reproduction of their art in what the press’ founders call a book-making school, “a space to learn and share knowledge that is not formally taught in Puerto Rico, which is usually mediated or limited by the supply and demand of the publishing market.” 

The selection currently held by Rare Books and Special Collections is composed of 62 items, a polyphonic kaleidoscope of form and lived experience. Much of this work captures—textually and visually—the lingering stasis that haunts a generation of Puerto Ricans. To differing degrees, the archipelago’s youth have experienced systems of limbo, collapse, and crisis. These predicaments arise from socio-natural disasters (and postponed recoveries), neocolonialism, corrupt and impotent local government, and crippling (largely illegal) public debt. The pieces created by this collective comment on and represent both the everyday and large-scale manifestations of the Puerto Rican crisis. 

Selected chapbooks and zines from the La Impresora collection.

Authors include (from left to right) the La Práctica collective, Agnes Sastre-Rivera, Kelly Díaz, Karla Cristina, and Nicole Cecilia Delgado.

In addition to the pamphlet-sized zines and chapbooks, the collection includes a limited run of eight posters (11 x 17″) published by the collective, the majority of which were the result of a collaboration between the press and female Puerto Rican artists between 2019 and 2021. 

Some of the posters are the result of historical processes in the history of gender rights and relations in Puerto Rico. In “HISTÉRICA,” illustrator Adriana García centers the gendered attribute of “hysterical” in a minimally-illustrated piece. Written in red letters across a drawing grid, she embraces the gendered epithet and proclaims, in smaller, black font, to hysterically await a moment in which women “can live peacefully.” In slightly larger uppercase letters, she echoes contemporary demands for gender-perspective school curricula, an ongoing debate since at least 2008, split along partisan lines in the archipelago. 

Part of the 2019 art exhibition “Oda a nuestra sangre” (trans. “ode to our blood”) held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Lorraine Rodríguez’s print hopes to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstruation. In her piece, Rodríguez centers a minimally drawn menstrual cup, surrounded by blooming dandelions, a moon, and stars. In this landscape, menstruation is as natural as the blooms and celestial bodies that surround it. Moreover, the print seeks to desexualize and normalize female anatomy.  

Print of Lorraine Rodríguez’s unnamed piece, from the “Oda a nuestra sangre” exhibition held from March 7-April 2, 2019 in Pública, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With the exception of Rodríguez’s piece (printed in 2019), the collection posters highlighted in this post were produced and distributed by La Impresora in 2021. This is far from a coincidence, as the year 2021 saw a record-breaking number of femicides and incidents of gender-based violence in Puerto Rico, averaging one a week. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that Puerto Rico has the highest per capita rate of femicides against women over 14 years of age. These statistics include high-profile cases such as the murder of Keishla Rodríguez by rising boxer Felix Verdejo. In a way, many of the artworks in this collection emerge from the 2021 protests that demanded the enactment of a state of emergency by Governor Pedro Pierluisi in response to gender-based violence. Initially set to expire in June 2022, this state of emergency was recently extended: to this date, 24 women have been murdered in Puerto Rico, three times the number of 2021.  

Echoing these demands, photographer Nina Méndez Martí highlights the black-and-white photograph of a woman’s torso. Hands in the air, the words “ESTADO DE EMERGENCIA” (trans. “State of emergency”) are emblazoned across her chest and abdomen in bold, black, uppercase letters. 

Lastly, Yvonne Santiago’s “Seguimos luchando,” depicts a woman drawn in purple lines, her right fist raised in the air. The color purple has a long and important history in feminist activism, from its association to women’s suffrage to Alice Walker’s famous analogy, “womanism is to feminism as purple is to lavender.” The woman depicted by Santiago has two tattoos: a pot (cacerola) with a cooking spoon on her tricep and a machete on her forearm. Both the cacerola and the machete are important symbols of resistance, especially in Puerto Rico. 

The pot refers to the cacerolazo, a protest tradition which consists of banging pots cacophonously as a way of amplifying anger and dissatisfaction amid protests. In Puerto Rico, cacerolazos became a popular protest form during the Verano del 2019 protests, which called for the resignation of former governor Ricardo Rosselló. 

The machete symbolizes pro-independence struggle and political nationalism on the island, most commonly associated with 20th-century armed pro-independence militancy, primarily with the Boricua Popular Army, known as Los Macheteros (trans. “Machete wielders”), and the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). However, the machete, as a political symbol, dates to the original Revolutionary Anthem of Puerto Rico, written in 1868 by Lola Rodríguez de Tió. The hymn’s lyrics were deemed too controversial and revolutionary and were subsequently changed for a less political version in 1902. 

Nosotros queremos la libertad
Y nuestros machetes nos la dará

We want Freedom
And freedom, our machetes will grant us

Yvonne Santiago’s piece chants its own hymn of subversion and defiance, lest we forget. 

For the women in my life
For the ones I have lost
For the ones to come
We will keep fighting


Additional Resources

Spanish

Adriana Díaz Tirado & Alejandra Lara Infante, “Ni una más: las familias de las víctimas de feminicidios reclaman reparación y justicia,” Todas, November 22, 2021. URL: https://www.todaspr.com/ni-una-mas-las-familias-de-las-victimas-de-feminicidios-reclaman-reparacion-y-justicia/ (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Cristina del Mar Quiles, “Sin fiscalización los programas de desvío para agresores por Ley 54,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Jul 15, 2021. URL: https://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2021/07/fiscalizacion-programas-desvio-agresores-ley-54/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Elithet Silva-Martinez & Jenice Vazquez Pagán, “El abuso económico y la violencia de género en las relaciones de pareja en el contexto puertorriqueño,” Prospectiva, 28 (2019): https://doi.org/10.25100/prts.v0i28.7264 

María de los Milagros Colón Cruz, “Más agresores asesinan a sus parejas con un arma de fuego que mediante otras formas letales,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Jun 9, 2022. URL: https://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2022/06/mas-agresores-asesinan-a-sus-parejas-con-un-arma-de-fuego-que-mediante-otras-formas-letales/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Observatorio de Equidad de Género en Puerto Rico, “Feminicidios,” OEGPR website, May 12, 2022. URL: https://observatoriopr.org/feminicidios (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Patricia Velez & Alvin Báez, “El dolor de los que se quedan: El calvario silencioso de los feminicidios en Puerto Rico,” Univisión Noticias, Jun 16, 2021. URL: https://www.univision.com/especiales/noticias/2021/feminicidios-violencia-genero-puerto-rico-calvario-silencioso/index.html (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Redacción BBC, “Feminicidio en Puerto Rico: 4 claves para entender qué llevó a la isla a declarar un estado de emergencia por violencia de género,” BBC News Mundo, Jan 27, 2021. URL: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-55820829 (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

English

ACLU, “Failure to Police Crimes of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Puerto Rico,” ACLU website, n.d. URL: https://www.aclu.org/other/failure-police-crimes-domestic-violence-and-sexual-assault-puerto-rico (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Aileen Brown, “Dozens of murdered women are missing from Puerto Rican police records, new report finds,” The Intercept, Nov 16, 2019. URL: https://theintercept.com/2019/11/16/puerto-rico-murders-femicide-police/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022).

Brittany Valentine, “Puerto Rico courts face down the greater issue of gender violence on the island,” Al Día, Aug 16, 2021. URL: https://aldianews.com/politics/policy/femicides-puerto-rico-0 (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Carli Pierson, “She just wanted to be safe. Her femicide started a movement in Puerto Rico,” USA Today, Mar 13, 2021. URL: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/opinion/2022/03/13/angie-noemi-gonzalez-santos-puerto-rico-usa-today-women-of-the-year/6795005001/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Cristina Corujo & Penélope López, “Puerto Rican families devastated by gender-based killings remain concerned about government’s approach to crisis,” ABC News, May 26, 2021. URL: https://abcnews.go.com/US/puerto-rican-families-devastated-gender-based-killings-remain/story?id=77739523 (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Cristina del Mar Quiles, “The children whose mothers were taken away by machismo,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Dec 16, 2021. URL: https://bit.ly/3xNHd0Y (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Denise Oliver Velez, “The ‘other epidemic’ in Puerto Rico: Femicide and gendered violence,” Daily Kos, Jan 28, 2021. URL: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/28/2012301/-The-other-epidemic-in-Puerto-Rico-is-femicide-and-gendered-violence (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Jhoni Jackson, “Hundreds Take to the Streets of Puerto Rico to Protest Two Femicides,” Remezcla, May 3, 2021. URL: https://remezcla.com/culture/hundreds-take-streets-puerto-rico-protest-two-femicides/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Lillian Perlmutter, “Deadly Violence Against Women in Puerto Rico is Surging During Lockdown,” VICE, Dec 8, 2020. URL: https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjpj5d/deadly-violence-against-women-in-puerto-rico-is-surging-during-lockdown (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Nicole Acevedo. “Puerto Rico’s new tipping point: Horrific femicides reignite fight against gender violence,” NBC News, May 16, 2021. URL: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/puerto-rico-s-new-tipping-point-horrific-femicides-reignite-fight-n1267354 (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Raquel Reichard, “Feminicide in Puerto Rico: A History of Violence and Resistance,” Hip Latina, Nov 30, 2020. URL: https://hiplatina.com/femicide-puerto-rico-protest-violence/ (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

A 17th Century French Missionary in the Middle East

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired a rare first edition of an account by a seventeenth-century French Carmelite missionary of his journey through the Middle East and India, Philippe de la Tres Sainte Trinite’s Itinerarium orientale…in quo varii successus Itineris, plures Orientis Regiones, earum Montes, Maria & Flumina, Series Principum, qui in eis dominati sunt, Incolae tam Christiani, quam Infideles Populi (Lugduni, 1649).

Philippe traveled through Syria, Armenia, Persia and India, describing the situation of Christians abroad as well as taking notes on the flora, fauna, and geography of the places he visited. The work contains ten chapters; the eighth and ninth offer descriptions of the various Christian missions to the Middle and Far East, including an account of the martyrdom of two Carmelite missionaries in Sumatra in 1638.

The author (1603-1671) eventually settled in Goa (India), where he taught until he was elected General of the Carmelite Order in 1665.

We have found only three other North American holdings of this edition.  

Four Works by a Controversial Augustinian Hermit

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a rare and beautifully printed edition of Enrico Noris’s two controversial works, Historia Pelagiana and Dissertatio de Synodo V. Oecumenica (Patavii, 1708 and 1707) ; this volume also contains his Vindiciae Augustinianae quibus Sancti Doctoris scripta adversùs Pelagianos and is bound with his Opera Varia.

The first work, in which this Augustinian hermit (1631-1704) attacks Pelagianism and its emphasis on the efficacy of human free will and denial of original sin, was almost immediately suspected of propounding Jansenist doctrines; accompanying this copy is an extremely rare Inquisitorial broadside announcing the suspension of the title from the Spanish Index of Prohibited Books in 1758, accomplished after protracted lobbying by the Augustinian Order and the intervention of Pope Benedict XIV himself in 1748.

The second work on the church’s Fifth General Council deals with the Second Council of Constantinople (553) and supports the council’s condemnation of Nestorianism, which emphasized the distinction between Christ’s human and divine natures and denied that Mary could be called the Mother of God (in Greek, Theotokos).

Cardinal Enrico (or Henry) Noris, of Irish ancestry, held the Chair of Church History at the universities of Pesaro, Perugia, and Padua before gaining a position as Assistant Librarian in the Vatican in 1692; he became the full Librarian in 1700.

We have found only five other North American holdings of this edition.

Acquiring Moosewood Cookbooks to Support Student Research

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

As we approach the end of the term, when research projects materialize like spring flowers, Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) highlights some recent acquisitions that emerged from a student’s research interests.

Last fall a history major inquired about sources RBSC held about new thinking about food during the latter part of the twentieth century. We began talking about alternative cooking and restaurants and the vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York came up. RBSC didn’t hold any of the famous cookbooks (of the same name) that emerged from that 1970s collective, so we purchased three editions (1977, 1992, and 2000).

Cover of the 1977 edition

Mollie Katzen, one of the founders of the Moosewood collective, compiled, wrote, illustrated, and self-published the original book of recipes in 1974. That first edition (with several reissues) circulated in a spiral-bound notebook format and in limited numbers.

Three years later, in 1977, a small, independent publishing house in Berkeley, California, Ten Speed Press, published the cookbook. (The press also produced What Color Is Your Parachute? (1970).) In this first commercial publication, Katzen described herself as the volume’s compiler and editor and she listed all of “The Moosewood People” who contributed to the book’s content. The book’s multiple sources is one of its central themes. Recipes come from different cooks as well as a variety of food cultures.

1977 edition

Commitment to a plant-based diet is another main focus. In the 1977 edition Katzen included a quotation by William Blake that announces the book’s vegetarianism, and her illustrations reinforce the idea throughout (see the speaking duck above the recipe for Chinese duck sauce).

Page 70 of the 1977 edition
1992 edition

Katzen retained important visual aspects of the 1974 book in later editions. Her original drawings, page layouts and cartouches, as well as her hand lettering, were translated into the commercialized editions and provide some of the book’s most identifiable characteristics over its long publication history. 

For all its warm, visual familiarity, The Moosewood Cookbook has also changed over time. Katzen has revised its content, layout, and format. In 1992 she added “A Personal History of This Book” section, which has appeared in all later editions, and photos of the Moosewood Restaurant were removed. The 2000 edition includes glossy, professionally staged photographs.

2000 edition

Each edition presents the reader with differences (in format, content, and flavor). Holding multiple editions, a researcher gains side-by-side access for comparative analysis. Libraries and special collections often acquire complete or near complete runs of editions to support research questions that such comparisons can spark.

Women’s History Month 2022

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history by celebrating Women’s History Month.

The Feminine “Math-tique”

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

A lot of recent attention has been paid to the disparity between the numbers of men and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Concomitant differences in professional status, pay, and influence, from Silicon Valley companies, to academic departments, to classrooms, are also part of this discussion. It echoes debate by second-wave feminists more than 70 years ago.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Rare Books and Special Collections highlights a new acquisition about women and STEM: The Feminine “Math-tique” by mathematician and psychologist Lynn M. Osen (1920-2003). In this 1971 article, Osen applied Betty Friedan’s idea of the feminine mystique to ways in which women and girls’ potential as mathematicians and ambitions in math-related fields were suppressed and funneled away into the social sciences and humanities. In The Feminine Mystique (published in 1963) Friedan had shown how social expectations and structures established heterosexual domesticity as the singular ambition for post-war American women (particularly white women), to the exclusion of education or professional expertise. Osen finds similar gender-fueled pressures against women and girls in math. “The mathtique,” Osen observes, “perpetuated the idea that mathematics in its various guises is a male domain.” (p. 2)

Like Friedan, who had articulated an unnamed problem experienced by middle class housewives in the post-war period, Osen identifies a similarly unnamed problem in the field of mathematics: how it had become defined as masculine and inimical to women.

“[Mathtique] encourages the socialization process which reinforces and promotes this assumption. It also serves to perpetuate the destructive and pervasive myths concerning women’s aptitudes, accomplishments and ambitions in mathematical endeavors. It breeds and institutionalizes graceless jokes and stereotypes about the helpless, checkbook-bumbling female, the mindless housewife, the empty-headed husband-chasing coed, the intuitive (but illogical) woman who ‘hates arithmetic.'” (p. 2)

To break down the feminine mathtique Osen analyzes the social science and education literature of the previous decade, whose authors had begun to notice that girls and young women were not equally represented with their male peers in math and science study. Answers to questions about the causes of this disparity became part of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1957 the USSR had launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. The Soviets’ bold breakthrough into space elevated anxiety in the US about Soviet military capabilities into a scientific and technological race as well. As American schools beefed up their math and science curricula to fight this new Cold War front, however, educators and scholars noticed that girls and young women were largely absent from the surge for math and science expertise. The disparity was alarming for the waste of brain power and potential competitive advantage against the USSR. It also became a political embarrassment, as comparative studies of the two nations uncovered no obviously similar gender differences in the USSR.

Osen uses the Soviet example to argue that cultural and social differences, not innate abilities, caused women and girls to lag behind men and boys in math. She cites a 1966 British study of women in the Soviet economy in which Russian educators reportedly expected girls and women to perform as well as their male counterparts in math and science. This confidence in female students, the report concluded, “appears to be borne out by the academic records of students . . . the performance of girls was comparable to that of boys in mathematics and physics.” (p. 7)

Osen also uses an historical argument to show that gender differences in mathematical abilities were not innate but contingent. She compares the number of women awarded doctorates in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley from 1920 to 1949, and from 1950 to 1968. In the post-war period (the “mathtique” era), the percentage of women awarded doctorates in mathematics decreased by nearly half (from 10-11% before 1950 to 5-6% after 1950). Likewise, the percentage of women on the faculty plunged from 20% in 1928-29 to zero in 1968-69. She notes dryly that women did not suddenly lose their abilities to study advanced mathematics after World War II; other factors—cultural expectations, psychological conditioning—were in play (pp. 6-7). Osen concludes that “there is no scientific evidence that any inherently female characteristic enfeebles one as far as intellectual activities are concerned. . . . In countries, cultures, times and intellectual climates in which women have been encouraged to develop their potential, they have obliged by doing so. They can do so again.” (p. 11)

Osen followed this article three years later with Women in Mathematics (1974), a history of “the impact women have had on the development of mathematical thought,” and further dispelling mathtique’s distorted narrative. She included an abridged version of The Feminine “Math-tique” as the book’s concluding chapter.

Two Years On, and Over 150 Years Ago

by Anne Elise Crafton, Ph.D. Candidate, Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute

Reflecting on the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, one can find historical parallels. A recent addition to the Hesburgh Library, a collection of Harper’s Weekly magazines from the 1850s to the 1890s, reveals that late-nineteenth century Americans were also worried about how to stay safe during epidemics. The magazines document events during turbulent periods of American history: the Civil War, Reconstruction, and multiple epidemics. Numerous articles, cartoons, and advertisements reflect widespread concerns for how best to combat national health crises.

In 1858, a group of rioters attacked a hospital, known as “The Quarantine,” that held patients with smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera; at least two men died. The rioters feared that the quarantined patients represented a threat to the local community rather than necessary protection, as it was believed that disease spread through a miasma in the air.

Since bacteria had yet to be discovered and cures were not readily available, others looked to make a profit from those desperate to stay well. One 1864 advertisement for “Dr. T.B. Talbot’s Medicated Pineapple Cider” suggests that consumers snuff pineapple cider to cure the influenza. The fine print notes that customers might have to wait six months before being cured.

In 1879, America attempted to combat the rising cases of yellow fever by creating a National Board of Health, which ceased operations by 1884 due to various funding and operational issues. 

Despite these ups and downs it is also clear that in the midst of national anxieties, people found joy in life. For instance, each edition of Harper’s Weekly included a section of new chapters of ongoing novels. One of the most popular authors to publish a chapter-a-week was Charles Dickens, whose novels featured prominently in Harper’s Weekly.

The newspaper also frequently printed stories from far-off places; the images provided a taste of the world beyond America for those unable to travel.

Advertisements for the latest Parisian fashions, recipes for the at-home chef, and poetry accompanied news of politics and warfare. During the height of the Civil War, one cartoonist took a break from political imagery to joke about the ever-widening skirts of women’s’ fashion.

The Harper’s Weekly collection reminds us that while many things have changed and some haven’t, we have always found ways to endure.


COVID Policy Update: For fully vaccinated Notre Dame faculty, staff, students and visitors, masking is now optional indoors on campus. Those students, faculty, staff and visitors who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks inside campus buildings, including in Rare Books & Special Collections spaces. Anyone who would prefer to wear a mask in any setting is welcome to do so.

Seamus Heaney’s translation of Henryson’s “The Testament of Cresseid”

by Anne Elise Crafton, Ph.D. Candidate, Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute

In addition to his original works, the Irish poet Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) is also known for his adaptations of ancient and medieval literature. The most famous of these is his translation of the Old English epic Beowulf, but he also adapted a lesser-known medieval poem, The Testament of Cresseid.

The Testament of Cresseid was composed by the 15th-century Scottish poet, Sir Robert Henryson. He was a part of a group of writers dubbed “The Scottish Chaucerians,” for their love of Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400), the author of The Canterbury Tales, a poem in Middle English. The Testament of Cresseid was Henryson’s direct response to Chaucer; in fact, it was meant to be a sequel to Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, one of the first poems to use rhyme. This epic poem tells of the tragic love story of two Trojan youths during the Trojan War. Despite their love, Criseyde is given to the Greeks as a prisoner of war and takes another lover, the Greek warrior Diomedes. While Chaucer’s account ends here, Henryson adds a cruel fate for Criseyde: Diomedes abandons the beautiful Cresseid. The Trojan maiden cries out to the goddess of love, Venus, about her poor luck in love, but the goddess vengefully strikes her with leprosy and blindness. Cresseid goes to live among the beggars by the city gate, where the noble Troilus passes by; however, due to her blindness she cannot see him, and due to her deformity, he does not recognize her. Eventually when they do recognize each other, Cresseid regrets her treatment of Troilus and gives a mournful soliloquy then dies shortly afterwards.

Henryson’s poem was written in Middle Scots. This language, confusingly known as Inglis (English), is not the same as Middle English. Middle Scots was informed heavily by Irisch (i.e., Scots Gaelic not Irish) and maintains unique spellings such as substituting quh- for wh-, and ane for one, an, or a. For example:

Henryson’s Middle Scots (15th c.)

Ane doolie sessoun to ane cairfull dyte Suld correspond and be equivalent: Richt sa it was quhen I began to wryte This tragedie…

Heaney’s Modern English (21st c.)

A gloomy time, a poem full of hurt Should correspond and be equivalent. Just so it was when I began my work On this retelling…

Seamus Heaney cites three motives for his translation which distinguish it from others: the “advocacy for the work in question,” a “refreshment from a different speech and culture,” and “the pleasure of writing by proxy.” However, Heaney also admits in the preface that when he went to translate the poem, despite these grandiose motives, he found himself already stumped by the opening scenes. Both the complexity of Middle Scots and the phonetic power of Henryson’s verse were difficult to render into modern English, especially if Heaney wanted to retain the essence and feel of the original. However, the Middle Scots reminded Heaney of the Ulster-dialect of his family and as he continued his translation, he found himself “entirely at home” with Henryson’s poetry.

The Hesburgh Library owns the 2004 de luxe edition of The Testament of Cresseid signed by Heaney and illustrator Hugh O’Donoghue. Hugh O’Donoghue is an English artist known for exploring the universality of the human experience – a theme fitting for a poem so interested in love, loss, and fate. The deluxe edition does not include the Middle Scots text next to Heaney’s translation, unlike other editions. This situates Heaney as the sole access to the medieval past.

O’Donoghue’s paintings give the harsh poem an unexpectedly ethereal quality. The reader can revel in Cresseid’s legendary beauty, brought to life by O’Donoghue, and shudder at what she becomes in the end. By pairing O’Donoghue’s compelling art with Heaney’s translation, the edition fundamentally changes the experience of the poem. Altogether, the project expands beyond translation and continues a cycle of storytelling that transcends multiple languages, nationalities, and poetic traditions: Chaucer’s 14th-century English imagination of a mythic Mediterranean past, Henryson’s 15th-century Scottish response, and a 21st-century exploration of art, poetry, and memory by an Irish poet and English artist.

Oliver Twist — An Affordable Edition

by Daniel Johnson, English; Digital Humanities; and Film, Television, and Theatre Librarian

The Household Edition of Charles Dickens was a new, quarto-sized version of the novelist’s works published by Chapman and Hall starting in 1871, after the author’s death, answering “calls for a truly popular and affordable edition of Dickens that were being voiced even before Dickens’s death” (Louttit 2014, 323). Like the novels in their original run, the Household Editions were printed both serially (either weekly or monthly) and as whole volumes. The whole-volume printings were themselves subject to “two methods of volume release: the distinctive green cloth and gilt boards (which adorn many of the volumes in circulation today) at 4s., and a cheaper ‘stiff paper wrapper’ priced at 3s” (2014, 326).

The history of the Hesburgh Library’s recently-acquired volume is not clear, but if it was originally purchased in whole volume form, it is a curious one — it does not bear “distinctive green cloth and gilt boards,” and for good reason. It is a Sammelband, seamlessly binding the Household Dickens Great Expectations together with Oliver Twist. The other method of whole volume distribution, via “stiff paper wrapper,” means the book would have come with no cover, making it cheaper to purchase but also enabling the book owner to order custom book binding. In either case, whether obtained serially in parts or as whole volumes, the book was bound by custom order, as can be further confirmed by the stamp on the back cover, “Bound by W. Drewett, Printer, Binder, Stationer.” Why a person might join together two Dickens novels with no apparent contiguity (Oliver Twist was the first book in the Household Editions, Great Expectations in the middle, and the novels were originally published decades apart) would be a worthy subject of exploration.

Title page, with frontispiece: “The evidence destroyed”.
The first page of Chapter 1, headed with an illustration of Oliver asking for more, while the boys around the table lick their fingers, their spoons, or their empty bowls.

In more general terms, collecting witnesses of the Household Edition can help scholars make comparative analysis against the volumes printed during the author’s lifetime (such as the handsome, two-volume first edition of Our Mutual Friend which the library purchased in 2016). Indeed, the Household Edition is receiving renewed attention, particularly for its visual content. By the late twentieth century, it had become commonplace to read Dickens as inextricable from his original illustrators – George Cruikshank, Hablot Knight Browne, and Phiz – which is logical enough. Many period readers would have closely tied the novels to the caricature-like images of these artists.

But approbation was not universal. As Chris Louttit shows, many who wrote on Dickens in the late nineteenth century “preferred instead the more realistic and less emblematic productions of the generation of artists including Fred Barnard, Charles Green and James Mahoney” who adorned the Household Edition (Mahoney was illustrator of the Household Oliver Twist) (2019, 150). Indeed, one Victorian critic, Edwin Pugh, claimed the original illustrations “are as unlike the creations of the Master’s brain as a painted, stuffed wax effigy is unlike the warm, breathing body of a beautiful woman or man” (ibid). Much could be made about the reading of the text based on the visual commentary available to readers at a given period.

The Household Edition of Oliver Twist (and Great Expectations) joins over a hundred other Dickensian special collections holdings of various kinds in the Hesburgh Library, including a Cruikshank-illustrated first edition of Oliver Twist, with a fireside plate “canceled in later issues.”

Title page and frontispiece of Great Expectations ‘with thirty illustrations by F. A. Fraser.
Sources consulted:

Louttit, Chris. 2014. “‘A Favour on the Million’: The Household Edition, the Cheap Reprint, and the Posthumous Illustration and Reception of Charles Dickens.” Book History 17 (1): 321-64. http://doi.org/10.1353/bh.2014.0013

—–. 2019. “Boz without Phiz.” In Reading Dickens Differently, 149-64. John Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119602262.ch8.

Seventeenth Century Dominicans Supporting the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

The Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a rare, early modern compilation of works by four authors from the Dominican Order supporting what was then the still controversial doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which holds that the Virgin Mary was free of original sin from the moment of her conception. This doctrine was not elevated to the status of dogma until 1854, when Pope Pius IX issued his bull, Ineffabilis Deus.

The volume, Monumenta dominicana: ex quatuor auctoribus Sacri Ordinis Praedicatorum qui pro Immaculata Virg. Conceptione ex professo scripserunt (Lovanii, 1666), was compiled by Pedro de Alva y Astorga and features the earliest appearance in print of Tommaso Campanella’s De Immaculata Conceptione. Campanella (1568-1639), a philosopher, theologian and poet, was known as a strong supporter of Galileo during the latter’s first trial; Campanella’s astrological speculations and opposition to the authority of Aristotle led to his prosecution by the Roman Inquisition in 1594. He was confined to a convent until 1597.

Other writers in this compendium include Ambrogio Caterino Politi (1487-1553); Vincenzo Giustiniano Antist (d. 1599), and three sermons by Guillaume Pepin (d. 1533). Interestingly, the Dominicans (including Thomas Aquinas) had mostly opposed the doctrine during the Middle Ages, but by 1431 the Council of Basel declared Mary’s Immaculate Conception “a pious opinion” consistent with faith and Scripture and in the 16th century, the Council of Trent—while not making a definitive pronouncement on the subject—exempted her from the universality of original sin.

We have found only one other North American holding of this title.

A Seventeenth Century Look at Christians in the Middle East

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a rare early modern title on the Christians of the Middle East, La Turquie cretienne, sous la puissante protection de Louis le Grand, protecteur unique de cristianisme en Orient (Paris, 1695), by “M. de La Croix”, secretary to the French embassy in Constantinople.

The first three parts of the work examine the churches of the Greeks, the Armenians, and the Maronites. The fourth part includes several accounts of various contemporary events, such as the martyrdom of a Greek boy named Nicholas in Constantinople and the story of a French-sponsored seminary and college built for the education of Oriental Christians.

This book provides a fascinating look into the lives of Middle Eastern Christians living under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century. We have identified only five other North American library holdings of this work.