Michelson finds intersection of art and literature

Sometimes there’s one course that forever alters your plans and even your outlook on your area of interest.

Cornell College junior Laura Michelson found that last year in Michelle Mouton’s Victorian Literature class. The course concentrated on Charles Dickens’ novels, and students familiarized themselves with the 19th-century letterpress in the basement of the college’s Van Etten-Lacey House.

Cornell College  junior Laura Michelson using the college's 19th-century Washington letterpress.
Cornell College junior Laura Michelson using the college’s 19th-century Washington letterpress.

The press, which is part of the college’s Center for the Literary Arts, sent Michelson in a new academic direction, one that she hadn’t considered before.

“I now have a strong interest in something that I didn’t really have a concept of before,” she said.

Michelson has designed an individualized major, which combines medieval and early modern studies with a concentration in literature and book culture.

Her first experience with the press was making a book that used design concepts inspired by David Copperfield.

Mouton’s class sparked Michelson’s interest in the world of book arts and typography.

“I discovered the intersection between artwork and literature. There is something so visceral about seeing words on a page and placing them there physically. You get into a different mindset of what’s important and what the words on the page mean to you,” she said.

Since then, Michelson has worked with the press on other fronts. She created a broadside as a final project for English and creative writing Professor Leslie Hankins’ Wilderness Literature course, helped with projects in the Introduction to Book Arts course, and is working on a final broadside using linoleum block prints for an independent project.

After she graduates Michelson hopes to go onto graduate school and focus on historical book arts.