Newberry Library grants English students access to rare texts

Scholarly research in English is typically a solo affair. But during a unique course at the Newberry Library in Chicago, professor Katy Stavreva serves as guide, mentor, and colleague as students dig into the archives at one of the North America’s premier research libraries.

Students at Newberry
During a unique course at the Newberry Library in Chicago, students dig into the archives at one of the North America's premier research libraries to discover texts from the era of Shakespeare.

“For me, the most rewarding part of working at the Newberry Library was being able to use resources that we’d never be able to get here on campus, like books that were actually printed in the 1600’s,” says Allison Reese ’07. “It’s amazing how much more you can take away from a book when you see what it actually looked like.”

The Newberry’s holdings range from ornately produced volumes of Shakespeare to simple pamphlets that flourished in the early days of the printing press.  Stavreva calls the Newberry a “treasure trove” of such works, and she turns her students loose on questions and sources that may never have been investigated before.

Reese, for example, discovered a series of pamphlets published in the 1600’s discussing the nature of women.  She used the material to complete an in-class research project on the subject and then extended the work with an honors thesis: “Staging The Problem Of Women.”

She also produced a short play based on the pamphlets entitled “The Arraignment” that was performed at the Cornell Student Symposium in 2007.  And she hopes to continue the project even further in graduate school.

During evenings and weekends, students in Medieval and Renaissance Drama: Shakespeare’s Rivals spend time exploring Chicago museums, theatres, and other attractions.  They also enjoy accommodations along Chicago’s “gold coast,” just blocks from Lake Michigan.

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