“The Nature of Labor on a Changing Campus” exhibit – Scholar’s Commons, Wells Library, Fall 2015

IMG_1831My name is Claire Repsholdt. I am an undergraduate majoring in English and History at IU. This summer, I had the honor of working with the IU Archives to select pieces for the exhibit “The Nature of Labor on a Changing Campus” that I curated as part of the College of Arts and Sciences Themester for the Scholars Commons in Wells Library.

RESEARCH

Before I began this project, I had never had the chance to work in an archive. So, along the way, learning procedures for research were just as important as collecting materials for the exhibit. During the first meeting, I was excited to find out about the extensive materials in the IU Archives, which seems to include every memory of IU from students and staff, on campus and off. Furthermore Indiana is especially unique for having such an extensive digitized collection, which is largely available to the public for viewing. I highly suggest exploring it if you get a chance!

CURATION

At first, when I thought about labor, I pictured industry, unions, and blue collar workers with names sewn into their jackets. However, as I learned about the other events sponsored by Themester, I quickly realized that you can find a story of labor everywhere you look. And since I was looking in the Indiana University Archives, there were millions of exciting options to choose from. I needed to narrow my focus. As I looked through materials, I couldn’t help but get excited when I found out new pieces of campus history, especially since it seems that this campus is currently undertaking an enormous period of change. With several new building projects in progress around campus, I hoped that I could use the archives to show some of the campus familiar landmarks in a new light.

DISCOVERIES

'I-League Outfielders, (from right: Mr. Lynch, Mr. Wichterman, Mr. Ruckelshaus), Waseda University Baseball Park, 1922
‘I-League Outfielders, (from right: Mr. Lynch, Mr. Wichterman, Mr. Ruckelshaus), Waseda University Baseball Park, 1922

Selecting what materials to exhibit was, to use a classic labor analogy, like mining for gold. I delved deep into the comprehensive online Archives Photograph Collection and waited for a spark, an image that surprised me, moments when the IU community looked especially unusual or unique. Then I would sit down with what I’d found and ask the archivists for their suggestions. They guided me to rich pockets of materials like the beloved Leonard “Ruck” Ruckelshaus collection, which documents the baseball team’s trip to Japan in the 1920s (be sure to check out the I-Men’s sweater), or to the documents and ephemera of the now-defunct Home Economics department, which includes the personal correspondence and collections of Professor Elizabeth Sage. I was enchanted. I began to shape the exhibit’s narrative around these pieces, learning the careful preservation and presentation requirements that came along with them.

One of my personal favorite discoveries was a collection of photographs taken of staff from about 1949-1970. Only a fraction of the images made it into the exhibit–there were several pounds of folders full of prints–but by studying the collection as a whole I felt that I developed a much more intimate understanding of the story of labor on campus. The pictures were barely captioned, taken by some excited photographer who had access to a great portable camera, possibly for the first time.

IU employee with boxes of Wheaties cereal, December 10, 1964
IU employee with boxes of Wheaties cereal, December 10, 1964

As I reviewed them, I imagined a young guy running around campus, shirt collar flapping in the wind, coercing workers into becoming the subjects of his picture and manically developing the prints for some important project that may or may not have ever been achieved, stacking them into the piles that moved from cabinet to cabinet and now fill the manila folders at the IU Archives. Those pictures became the heart of the exhibit for me. The photographer(s) were engaged in the same process I was, attempting to document labor on campus for posterity. In some way, my exhibit was just finishing what they had begun.

 

PRESENTATION

Though photograph research was an enormous part of the project, it was important to me to present a wide range of materials for the exhibit. I wanted to demonstrate not only what the IU Archives had available, but also to do justice to the experience of labor. I sought methods of displaying materials that would reflect the amount and variety of labor that occurs on campus and the way that labor is always in progress, moving through time.IMG_1843

The exhibit space ended up being a crucial part of the concept of labor in progress, since it is a hallway: most of the visitors are just passing through. The exhibit had to react to constant motion. So, I chose to compose the exhibit within a simulated version of the Sample Gates, one of the most prominent centers of motion on campus. The background of each wall panel is a blown-up drawing of the Sample Gate pillars, and the slides on monitors in between the panels are images of pedestrians walking the cobblestone streets through the gates. Each of the monitors features films and moving text, encouraging viewers to imagine they are passing through the gates into campus as they imagine labor. As for the individual materials and captions in the exhibit, I tried to think of viewer interaction at all times, so that they could enjoy the same experience I did in the archives when I rediscovered campus through labor.

IMG_1842For the west wall of the exhibit, I acquired vintage office items from IU Surplus and picture frames from local thrift stores to create unique frames for the pieces from the Archives. I arranged the pictures and personal possessions of the featured laborers comfortably, the way they might be arranged on a family bookshelf, so they crowded together to take labor out of time, showing that even a historical presentation of pictures and accessories seemed at once familiar and historical, exhibit and display, past and present.

For the east wall, I represented the passage of time through labor by selecting various chronological renderings of both a location on campus, the Sample Gates, and campus as a whole in guided maps. I paired these chronological tours with facts and questions about labor. I hoped to call viewers’ attention to connect labor with time, showing how labor motivates change and pushes the campus to take action.

Both walls of the exhibit culminated in campus films featuring workers going about daily labor rather than sitting frozen in an exhibit. As a viewer notices a film, both the viewer and the exhibit are both on the move, passing through the space together in one group. Maybe for that one moment, there is no difference between being an archive and being alive. Everything is together, moving forward to change labor on campus.

VISION

It is my hope that the materials are provocative enough to interrupt the motions of students for a moment and ask them to recognize the labor that is a part of their daily campus routine. I hope that as they continue on their way to the computers or printers, they’ll look a little askance at the computer cubicles, pondering questions about where they are going, what work that they are doing, what technology they are using, and who is making it all possible.

Part 2: The Indiana University School of Letters and the Mid-Century Transformation of Literary Studies

This is a continuation of a post on the history of the IU School of Letters by guest blogger Dr. James E. Dobson of Dartmouth College. 

Students and Teachers: The School’s Impact on Literary Studies

The impact of the School of Letters on the study of literature is hard to overstate. The School encouraged and promoted the work of scholars, poets, and critics including Richard Chase, Northrop Frye, Monroe Beardsley, Alfred Kazin, and Irving Howe. Perhaps one of the most influential scholars teaching at the School for many summers was Leslie Fiedler.

School of Letters annual report, 1951. IU Archives Collection C211
School of Letters annual report, 1951. IU Archives Collection C211

At the time of his first appointment to the School, Fiedler was working on what would become the manuscript for Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), a book of literary criticism that was one of the first to discuss certain recurring American social-psychological compulsions such as male homo-social bonding expressed in many American literary works. The preface to this famous volume notes the importance of his teaching and his students at the School of Letters in 1952 and 1954 for helping him to develop his ideas.

One of the students who encountered Fiedler’s radical critically transformative ideas at Indiana was James M. Cox, PhD ‘55, who would go one to become a significant American-literary scholar in his own right. In 1951 Cox was a graduate student at the University of Michigan and came to Bloomington for the summer to attend the School. It was his second year at the School; his first was spent in Ohio at the School of English. His experiences in the classroom with Fiedler led Cox to apply for admission to Indiana University. Quickly working through the course requirements for the Ph.D., Cox added the School of Letters as a minor and continued to take classes in the School of Letters. Cox would eventually himself become a fellow at the School of Letters, and after receiving his first permanent teaching job at Dartmouth College, he would return several times to teach classics of American literature including Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, and the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Martha Banta, PhD ’64 took a course on American literature under Cox in the summer of 1962 through the School of Letters while also obtaining a PhD minor in the School of Letters. She would write her dissertation on Henry James and author many important works of literary criticism. Both Banta and Cox would eventually receive lifetime achievement awards from the Modern Language Association and in their responses to the award they cite their time at the School of Letters as a major influential experience.

The poet and literary critic John Hollander PhD ’59 took his studies under School of Letters Senior Fellow Lionel Trilling at Columbia University to the English Department and the School of Letters, completing a PhD minor alongside James M. Cox. Hollander would go on to teach at City University of New York and Yale University. In 1961 Steven Marcus, a professor of Victorian literature at Columbia University came to Bloomington as a fellow of the School of Letters during which a chance encounter on campus launched him into a fundamental rethinking of Victorian culture and literature. Marcus describes this encounter in the preface to his highly influential critical work The Other Victorians (1966):

In the summer of 1961 I was teaching at the Indiana University School of Letters. It is a tradition at the School of Letters that each summer its several Fellows, or instructors, be conducted on a tour of the Institute for Sex Research. I was impressed by and interested in what I saw on this tour…I was invited to return to the Institute to conduct researches in its library and archives. These had largely been amassed by the prodigious energies of the Institute’s founder, the late Alfred C. Kinsey. They had also, I was told, gone largely unused and unexplored. It was the opinion of the Directors that the time had now come to begin to exploit this material, as it was also their belief that the time had now come to begin to open up the heretofore locked doors of the Institute, and to extend the use of its immense resources to scholars from other fields of study.

Marcus returned in to Bloomington in 1962 to teach for another summer session and continued the research that exposed a completely new account of the Victorian era’s concern with the centrality of sex. Prior to his groundbreaking book, this topic had been just as locked as the doors of the Kinsey archives.

The philosopher Stanley Cavell would come to lecture as part of the faculty in 1969 while researching a topic that would soon after be published as the well-received The Senses of Walden (1972), a radically new look at Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Other important students of the School included Ihab Hassan, a theorist of what was then termed avant-garde literature, who was a summer student in the School and came back to teach during the summer of 1964; Mark Spilka M.A. ’53, who would later become chair of the English Department at Brown University and author of books on Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and D. H. Lawrence. Among the School’s important critical participants, one must also cite Geoffrey Hartman. He attended the School in 1951 in its first year at Bloomington, and distinguished theorist of literature as well as member of the Department of English at Yale University.

Irving Howe, American literary and social critic, served as a member of the School of Letters faculty. (Photo source: 1968 Michiganensian, p. 82)
Irving Howe, American literary and social critic, served as a member of the School of Letters faculty. (Photo source: 1968 Michiganensian, p. 82)

The End of the School

Indiana University announced the end of its formal relationship with the School of Letters on July 28, 1972. The Director for almost the entirety of its twenty-year existence, Newton Stallknecht, gave as his reason the same budgetary difficulties that initially necessitated the move of the School from Kenyon to Indiana: “This action has been taken owing to grave budgetary problems which the University faces, along with many other schools of higher education.” With Stallknecht also eager to retire, Dean of the Graduate School George W. Wilson proposed closing the School of Letters. The other major reason given was that the program had become less popular—it granted only two or three M.A.’s per year in the last few years—ironically due to its success: the School, along with its students and faculty fellows, was ultimately instrumental in carrying out its goal to transform literary studies. Literature departments had come to embrace, in turn, both the New Criticism that was the founding raison d’être of the School and the catholic approach to literature that subsequently became the School’s enduring trademark. Despite its historical eclipse, this Indiana University-sponsored program constitutes a lurking precedent for the various kinds of institutionally concentrated literary-critical study that still take place to this day.

The Archives has a number of collections containing information on the School of Letters, including the Director’s records spanning 1947-1979. Contact the Archives for access or further information! 

The Indiana University School of Letters and the Mid-Century Transformation of Literary Studies

James E. Dobson, PhD ’14 recently defended his dissertation “The Awkward Age of Autobiography: Modernization, Temporality, and American Self-Representation, 1865-1914” in IU’s English Department. He teaches at Dartmouth College and works on intellectual history and American literature. He would like to thank the archivists and staff at the Indiana University Archives for their assistance in locating materials on the School of Letters.

The School of Letters

In 1951 a group of distinguished scholars gathered in the heat of the Bloomington summer for the first year of the School of Letters at Indiana University. These scholars were among the very best in the nation working on literature and literary criticism. They had been invited to Bloomington at the invitation of Indiana University President Herman B Wells. As the School of English, the program had been, for the three previous years, housed at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, but financial difficulties required that another institution host the yearly summer institute. Over the next twenty years the School of Letters at Indiana University would be responsible for instituting major changes in the way that we read and talked about literature. The students and teachers participating in these annual institutes would use their time and proximity to each other and to resources like the Kinsey Institute during the summer months to conduct research and to produces theories that have utterly transformed our understanding of major literary works.

Course offerings, School of Letters, 1951. IU Archives Collection C36.
Course offerings, School of Letters, 1951. IU Archives Collection C36.

The School of Letters was initially organized and run by three senior fellows: John Crowe Ransom, F. O. Matthiessen, and Lionel Trilling. Some of these scholars participated in various degrees in a scholarly movement called “The New Criticism” and referred to themselves as the “new critics.” New Criticism was a revolt, begun almost a decade before the creation of the School of Letters, against the dominant reading methodology at the time that worked to place literary texts in their historical context, the historical time of authorship. The New Critics sought to shift the emphasis away from the biography and social circumstances of the author to an examination of literary aesthetics, the structural and formal features of a particular text. The famous literary journal run out of Kenyon College, The Kenyon Review, provided a platform for the articulation of the new critical credo and the School of Letters, a training ground for the dissemination of their views of the proper way to read and teach literary works to a new generation of scholars. The School was announced under the following description that made explicit the focus on the New Criticism: “The school is devoted to the critical analysis and evaluation of literature in the belief that such study has as much validity as a graduate discipline as the more frequently recognized historical scholarship, with its equally valid emphasis on textual, bibliographical, biographical sociological, and philological studies.”

Indiana Innovations

The first summer session at Indiana ran from June 25 to August 3, 1951 and enrolled fifty-three students. The university decided to expand the program inherited from Kenyon by offering a graduate degree, a Master of Arts in literary criticism. This new and innovative degree program would bring students back to Bloomington for a second summer, provide a sense of continuity, and enable people with teaching appointments elsewhere to gain a graduate degree during the summer months. In addition to the M.A., the Graduate School made the School of Letters available to students as a Ph.D. minor, enabling those studying within a wide range of graduate departments at IU to have intimate contact with some of the best scholars working in literary studies. The innovation of the Ph.D. minor in literary criticism rendered the otherwise traditional departments cutting edge and attracted a great number of students to take up graduate study at Indiana University. In addition to course work, the Ph.D. Minor required taking an extemporaneous exam. The exam asked questions that required students to think in terms of the ideals of criticism taught at the School. In the early years, when formalist and aesthetic questions dominated the scene, students would be asked if a work of literature can adequately be “judged on purely literary (aesthetic) grounds” or if it was possible to give an allegorical reading of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” In addition to the courses that were available to registered students, the School of Letters also sponsored a series of public lectures—known as the “Evening Forum”—to be given by the visiting faculty fellows. These lectures proved to be very popular to the university community; some lecturers, such as Robert Lowell, Allen Tate, and Cleanth Brooks, were able to attract nearly two hundred audience members.

John C. Ransom, one of the School of Letters organizers and among the first fellows.
John C. Ransom, one of the School of Letters organizers and among the first fellows.

After implementing these academic innovations, the School of Letters began to revise the content of the courses taught and issued an updated new mission statement. The announcement for the 1955 session revised and “corrected” the original mission statement inherited from the Kenyon days. While the School maintained its insistence that “the usual college and university courses in English have not discharged their responsibility for the art which is in their keeping,” the School recognized it could not be too dedicated to “some particular doctrine of criticism.” It now dedicated itself to representing “various modes of contemporary theory and practice” as applied to an increasingly diverse body of world literature. The School’s primary adherence to New Critical ideas helped continue the quiet revolution begun in these early summer sessions. Faculty and students came to Bloomington over the following two decades to learn and develop new theories and methodologies for the reading of literature.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Guest blogger! IU’s “Marriage Course”

L. Guest

 

 

Lacey Guest, senior at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, recently visited IU Bloomington for research on IU’s well-known Alfred Kinsey and his Marriage Course. Lacey had a phenomenal time and agreed to share some of her discoveries as our first ever guest blogger! 

__________________________________________

If you are like me, the first time you ever experienced a school sanctioned sex education course was in late elementary or early middle school.  To us this seems completely normal… well somewhat normal.  Regardless about how we felt at the time, being forced to watch a video about where babies come from as an adolescent is a fairly traditional rite of passage for my generation.  Learning about the mechanics of reproduction was an integral part of public school education in the 1990s.  Sure, my parents had to sign a permission slip and the class wasn’t mandatory, but while almost all the kids in my class had to sit through the awkward lesson plan, I distinctly remember that some kids were not allowed to go to the class and others were clearly hearing about the facts of life for the first time.  Later, when high school biology and physical education classes both referenced this material, instead of red faces, our teachers got giggles and inappropriate comments from the peanut gallery.  As familiar as this story probably is to most of us, it is a fairly new phenomenon that this institutionalized version of sex education was delivered to public school classrooms filled with adolescents.  So how did we get here?

On my recent research trip to Bloomington I began to discover how some of the first American sex education classes began.  I dug through collections at both the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and the Indiana University Archives searching for anything I could find on the second “Kinsey report.”  I stumbled across a few interesting tidbits of information about early 20th century sex education.

Undated IDS announcement regarding Marriage Course from Herman T. Briscoe's files -- presumably, with his edits.
Undated IDS announcement regarding Marriage Course from Herman T. Briscoe’s files — presumably, with his edits.

I was shocked to discover that in the summer of 1938, IU joined a few other pioneering universities in providing what they called a “Marriage Course” to their upperclassmen and married students. This course was proposed by various organizations on campus to President Wells on May 14, 1938 and on June 9th, he brought it to the Board of Trustees who passed the motion for the organization of such a course under the chairmanship of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey.  Still shocked?  I was.  Not because of the chairman, and not because IU offered a Marriage Course.  My surprise was founded on the information I gleaned from several of the student evaluations I came across.

The Marriage Course included lectures on several aspects of marriage given by a board of faculty members of various departments including psychology, biology, economics, and government.  It came as no surprise to me that the student evaluations of the course praised the biology lectures with the most frequency or that when asked about the distribution of material for future semesters fifty-two of the ninety-eight students voted in favor of expanding the biology portion.  I thought, “What college student isn’t a little preoccupied with what the Marriage Course had termed ‘The Anatomy and Physiology of Marriage?’”  However, I was caught off guard when I noticed that ninety-seven of the ninety-eight students enrolled in the course listed the biology lectures as the “most significant in answering their personal needs.”  With so much information at our fingertips today, our generation can just open a book or key an internet search for questions we have concerning the biology and physiology of sex.  In 1938, Hoosiers had all their questions about sex, love, and marriage answered in a college classroom (if they met the qualifications to take the class).  Since all of these students were seniors, graduates, married, or over the age of twenty one, it can be assumed that a vast majority of these young women and men sitting in on the Marriage Course lectures were already engaging in sexual behavior.  The information provided in the course was interesting, but ultimately useless to many of the students according to their evaluations.  One woman stated that it would have been very helpful information to have when she and her husband were undergoing their “sexual adjustment period.”  The course seems to have filled a very noticeable gap in the American education system, but at a point in many students’ lives where the information was redundant.  Kinsey wrote in his notes on the course that almost all the students in the course expressed “unreserved approval” regardless of their previous knowledge of the material.

kinsey006Fortunately, these glowing reviews of the course were taken into consideration when determining if it would become a more permanent fixture in IU’s course catalog.  In the fall of 1938, with the full support of President Wells and the Board of Trustees, the Marriage Course was offered for the first time during the regular academic year as a sixteen week non-credit course.  Its continued success can be fully discerned by looking through several of the letters and memos between the course staff, IU administration, and letters from students.  The taboo of sex was slowly being eliminated through the process of education at the collegiate level and Indiana University faculty along with several other universities’ faculty across the country successfully pioneered this form of education in a quest to supply necessary information to their students.  Today, there are over thirty undergraduate courses offered at Indiana University on the subjects of gender, sex, and sexuality.  While these courses would no longer be considered as innovative or controversial as the 1938 Marriage Course once was, they still play a vital role in the discipline of sex education.  While many people at the time found it disconcerting that IU would offer such a course to college students, today we can attribute the development of the Marriage Course to the insatiable Hoosier thirst for knowledge and commitment to education of all varieties.