February 23, 2016 at 10:54 am

Reynolds Seeks Undergraduate Apprentice for Project on Soldier-Poet Edmund Blunden

Dr. Nicole Reynolds, Associate Professor of English and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, is seeking an undergraduate research apprentice for a project on “Edmund Blunden, Poet and Bibliophile.”

Currently enrolled Ohio University undergraduates from all colleges are invited to apply for the Research Apprenticeship Program. Administered by the Honors Tutorial College and sponsored by several other units across campus, the program enables students to build skills in research and creative activity by supporting faculty projects. Selected students are paid $10 an hour and agree to work during the time period specified in the description.

This apprenticeship is for 10 hours a week for academic year 2016-17.

How to Apply

Applications are due by March 18, 2016. To apply for apprenticeship(s), a student must e-mail Dr. Nicole Reynolds. Contact information is listed in the apprenticeship description. The email should explain the student’s qualifications and interest in the project (no more than three paragraphs) and have an attached resume. It is strongly recommended that students meet with an adviser in the Career and Leadership Development Center in Baker Center 533 to help them compose their letter and resume before applying. Late applications will not be accepted. Notification will occur by April 15, 2016. For more information about the application process, contact Laura Schaeffer, Director of Honors Enrichment Programs at or 593-2725. Students may apply for as many apprenticeships as they wish.

Project Description

Over the past two years, I’ve been studying the unpublished manuscripts, letters, and journals of Edmund Blunden (1896-1974): poet (of the First World War, chiefly), literary critic, scholar of British Romanticism, and passionate bibliophile. In his lifetime, Blunden amassed an enormous collection (some 10,000 volumes) of rare and unique 18th- and 19th-century books. Blunden’s collecting practices and his emotional and intellectual engagement with books-both as repositories of mind and as material artifacts-have caught my scholarly interest because OHIO owns Blunden’s extraordinary library. Over the course of two trips to the University of Texas’s Ransom Center, I’ve taken hundreds of digital images of the Blunden material held there (war diaries; decades­ long correspondence with fellow poets, publishers, and booksellers; notebooks, lectures, and essays). In these manuscript documents, Blunden records the motivations and processes behind his collecting, whether explicitly and consciously or in passing mention. Through such evidence, I assess the integrity and logic, the organizing principles and coherence of Blunden’s book collection, and trace the relationship between Blunden’ s books and his poetry.

Walter Benjamin claims that while public collections like Ohio University’s might be “less objectionable socially and more useful academically” than private ones, “the objects get their due only in the later.” By learning more about Blunden’s collecting practices, I aim to give the objects in Ohio University’s Blunden collection their due: to learn more about their provenance, to assess their cultural value, to bring them into greater use among College of Arts & Sciences faculty and students, and also to promote them (through presentations and publications) to a broader, national and international audience of book historians, Blunden scholars, and historians of eighteenth and nineteenth century British literature. As it stands, with the Blunden collection OHIO owns 10,000 objects: remarkable, rare, but largely without a cultural and intellectual context. The act of collecting, of course, amounts to more than the static and finite assembly and display of objects; collections are built through affective impulses, intellectual programs, and commercial exchanges. As we mark the centennial of the first World War, uncovering the “how” and “why” of this soldier-poet’s book collection, now housed at Alden Library, promises to shed light on our own, twenty-first century interactions with books and on the role books play in creating and disseminating culture and cultural heritage in a digital age.

Student Contribution to Project

The student will work on two key aspects of this project: 1) to help me organize and transcribe (into Word documents) the many digital images I’ve taken of Blunden manuscripts held in the Ransom Center; 2) to help me work my way through Blunden’s book collection here at Alden Library. I’ve identified many volumes in the collection that I’d like to examine closely for evidence of Blunden’s interactions with his books. Blunden’s books are copiously annotated: his marginalia is at once scholarly and personal, and is often in conversation with marginalia from previous owners. This collection is a valuable example of how one collector and book-lover treated his books: not as rarified objects but as vital companions on life-long scholarly, intellectual, and emotional journeys. Blunden also was inclined to write poems in the flyleaves and endpapers of his books; this is a rich store of unique, often unpublished, Blunden poems, and recovering these would be a major contribution to our understanding of this important poet and literary critic. With roughly 10,000 volumes in the collection, another pair of eyes (several pairs of eyes!) to examine books and to document what’s found there would be an enormous help.

Desired Qualifications for Apprentice

This student would need to be detail oriented, focused, and motivated. Basic word processing skills and ability to manipulate PDF documents, digital scans/images required (I suspect most undergrads will be able to school me on many of these points!). Ideally the student is keen to work with old books and knows, or is willing to learn, the basics of book history and of British literary history from the 18th through the 20th centuries.



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