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Boise State researchers present at international conference

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering shared research at the Fourth Colloquia Ceranea International Conference hosted by the University of Lodz in Poland, May 12-14.

The conference’s session, “Melville Reading Hawthorne: An Inside Story of Literary Influence” was devoted to information on Herman Melville’s reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Elisa Barney Smith, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Steven Olsen-Smith, Department of English Literature, originated the project presented during a special session at the conference alongside students Remington Lambie, Abby Price, and Hunter Tonkin, and independent scholar Jonathan Cook, of Virginia, who introduced the panel.

Barney Smith’s and Olsen-Smith’s work included computer-assisted investigation as well as close historically-informed reading to examine Melville’s markings and annotations in the volumes of Hawthorne’s fiction that survive from his library. This analysis identified subject matter and high-frequency terms and concepts appearing in passages and text. 

The analyses of Melville’s markings explored some of Hawthorne’s themes, motifs, symbols, images, characterizations, irony, and plot devices through XML-encoded marginalia in surviving copies of Hawthorne’s fiction at Melville’s Marginalia Online.

The panel also explored a number of parallel passages in Melville’s fiction that demonstrate how his reading of Hawthorne prompted his creative imagination, influencing his characterization of Ahab in “Moby-Dick” as well as perspectives he articulated in his 1850 literary manifesto, “Hawthorne and His Mosses,” which Melville penned shortly after meeting the older author.

The group is now writing a collaborative article on Melville and Hawthorne for submission to Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, which is published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.