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Ransom Center Receives Grant To Catalog Spanish Comedias Sueltas

Comedias sueltas from the Harry Ransom Center's collection. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
Comedias sueltas from the Harry Ransom Center's collection. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

The Ransom Center has received $137,015 from the Council on Library and Information Resources Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives for “Revealing Texas Collections of Comedias Sueltas.”

The Ransom Center holds more than 14,000 “comedias sueltas,” a generic term for plays published in small pamphlet formats in Spain from the late 17th through the 19th century. Purchased in pieces, generally in collections of bound volumes, the materials have been described as one of the major collections of Spanish dramatic literature in suelta form in North America.

While portions of the collection are minimally cataloged, the grant will allow for the creation of individual database records for each suelta, making more extensive information about the collection available on the Ransom Center’s Web site. The grant will also support the cataloging of more than 600 sueltas at the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University.

The project will be completed by February 2014.

Staley to remain Director of the Harry Ransom Center

Bill Powers, President of The University of Texas at Austin, shared the below communication with faculty and staff today:

I am pleased to announce that Tom Staley has agreed to stay on as director of the Harry Ransom Center. Tom was previously scheduled to retire on August 31 of this year.

Tom is one of the world’s most highly respected library directors, and under his leadership the Ransom Center has celebrated the humanities, advanced scholarship, expanded our collections, and brought great distinction to the University.

I know that many people on our campus will join me in welcoming this news.

Thomas F. Staley, Director of the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
Thomas F. Staley, Director of the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

Photo Friday

Each Friday, the Ransom Center shares photos from throughout the week that highlight a range of activities and collection holdings. We hope you enjoy these photos that reveal some of the everyday happenings at the Center.

Sonja Reid, registrar with the Ransom Center's exhibition services, works to de-install the exhibition 'Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection.' Photo by Pete Smith.
Sonja Reid, registrar with the Ransom Center's exhibition services, works to de-install the exhibition 'Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection.' Photo by Pete Smith.
Wyndell Faulk, preparator with the Ransom Center's exhibition services, works to de-install the exhibition 'Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection.'  Photo by Pete Smith.
Wyndell Faulk, preparator with the Ransom Center's exhibition services, works to de-install the exhibition 'Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection.' Photo by Pete Smith.
John Wright, chief preparator with the Ransom Center's exhibition services, works to de-install the exhibition 'Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection.' Photo by Pete Smith.
John Wright, chief preparator with the Ransom Center's exhibition services, works to de-install the exhibition 'Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection.' Photo by Pete Smith.

“The Proper Binge”: Julia Child in the Ransom Center archives

Publicity photo of Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck, and Julia Child by Paul Child.
Publicity photo of Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck, and Julia Child by Paul Child.
The Ransom Center holds the Knopf Inc. archive, which includes material related to the publication of the groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle. View photos and read some of the letters that document the book’s progress and publication over several years.

Spalding Gray's life as told by…Spalding Gray

Film poster for 'And Everything Is Going Fine'
Film poster for 'And Everything Is Going Fine'
Steven Soderbergh’s film And Everything Is Going Fine (2010) documents the life and work of the master monologist Spalding Gray (1941–2004) using only footage of Gray’s performances, interviews, and home movies with Gray and his family.

Last year, the Ransom Center acquired Gray’s archive, which traces the author’s career since the late 1970s, when Gray helped define a new era in theater where public and private life became an indivisible part of each new performance. Recognized for his critically acclaimed dramatic monologues in which he drew upon his experiences, Gray wrote and performed such works as Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in a Box, Gray’s Anatomy, It’s a Slippery Slope, and Morning, Noon and Night.

The documentary splices together footage from these performances and more to show how Gray discovered his gift for storytelling and how he turned the stories of his own life into compelling and deeply personal narratives on the stage.

The documentary has been making the rounds on festival circuits, including SXSW last March, and has played to great reviews. The Alamo Drafthouse is screening the film tonight as part of its SXSW Presents series of popular films from the festival.

The collection at the Ransom Center includes more than 90 handwritten performance notebooks that were the templates for Gray’s live performances and more than 100 private journals. It also includes over 150 audio tapes and 120 VHS tapes documenting Gray’s performances and various interviews, as well as more than 300 letters. The materials will be accessible once they are processed and cataloged.

Fellows Find: Elizabeth Bowen and the Discourse of Propaganda

Elizabeth Bowen. Unknown photographer, May 1953.
Elizabeth Bowen. Unknown photographer, May 1953.

Stefania Porcelli of Libera Università- San Pio V in Rome, Italy, recently visited the Ransom Center on an Alfred A. and Blanche W. Knopf fellowship to research the Elizabeth Bowen collection. She shares some of her findings.

With the support of an Alfred A. and Blanche W. Knopf fellowship, I spent six weeks at the Harry Ransom Center this autumn, carrying out my project on Elizabeth Bowen’s attitude toward World War II and the language of propaganda, which also investigates her involvement in the “media ecology” of the time.

I worked mostly with unpublished material. Encouraged by Ransom Center Director Thomas Staley, and thanks to archivist Gabby Redwine’s help, I was able to access Bowen’s uncatalogued letters to Charles Ritchie. Although intensely focused on their love affair, these letters nonetheless provide ultimate evidence that Bowen constantly reflects upon ongoing political events, and on the language used by media to represent or censor them. This idea finds its perfect literary counterpart in the image of history sitting at the same table with the main characters in Bowen’s wartime novel The Heat of the Day (1949).

Bowen’s papers show that her attitude toward the war is at least ambiguous: while supporting Britain’s engagement in the conflict, she deconstructs the language of British propaganda. While appreciating Irish neutrality as an act of independence, she volunteers to spy on Ireland for the British Ministry of Information. Since my broader research also involves Dylan Thomas’s documentaries written for Strand Film, I was excited to find a contract for a propaganda script Bowen was supposed to write for the same company. I was also surprised to find some correspondence about the Italian translation of three of her novels. Apparently, neither Bowen nor her literary agents were satisfied with these translations. I look forward now to reading them and seeing how these early Italian versions metamorphosed Bowen’s peculiar, challenging style.