Last Day at the Library of Congress

It’s my last day at the Library of Congress and that means: returning books and saying goodbye to the most convenient work place I have ever had the pleasure of working at. Soooo many books, most of them deliverd to your desk within hours; supportive librarians everywhere; reading rooms with everything from handwritten letters to original copies of magazines, to audiovisual material … it’s hard to imagine a better place for research.

I have learned a lot these past few months and my project (and my understanding of it) has grown tremendously, I’ve also submitted an article which has been accepted (! more on that when it’s out), I organized a panel with a colleague (which also got accepted), I met great people, and I’ve read so much gossip! In magazine articles, in conduct literature, in diaries, in letters – gossip was everywhere I looked. In reading all of this material alongside each other, gossip emerged, among others, as a very specific form of public intimacy which reached its readers (whether in Godey’s Lady’s Magazine or in Eliza Potter’s Experience of a Hairdresser in High Life) in a public, massmediated setting, yet addressed them as intimate friends and like-minded individuals. This paradoxical use of public gossip for intimate purposes (such as: distracting from the public and economic role of the women from which it originates) promises to be an exciting new avenue of inquiry into gossip’s uses at the end of the nineteenth century.
After the fun part of discovering so much primary and secondary material, now it is time to analyze, combine, revise, summarize, re-think, and form all of this into coherent thoughts and sentences. That might take a while. So for now, I’ll allow myself a short break and simply enjoy the memories of full bookshelves and an extremely scenic walk to work.

First Day at the Library of Congress

Long overdue, but what better topic for my first blog entry than my first day of archival research at the Library of Congress? I am currently a Kluge Fellow here and will stay until Christmas, so expect a couple of additional posts from this amazing place.
My first trip after getting orientated was to the “Rare Books Reading Room,” where I had a glance at sample issues of Godey’s Lady’s Book (later Godey’s Magazine) to get an idea of the role of gossip in this seminal 19th century publication. Turns out, I’m lucky! In 1894 at least, there was a regular column titled “Foreign Gossip” (the first issue I came across incidentally covered Bayreuth of all places) and in 1895 they seemed to have introduced “Women Up to Date” – a comparatively tame tabloid column, but a tabloid column nonetheless. I also came across a lengthy portrait of the actress Mrs Potter, whose marriage and divorce drama already provided an insightful case study for my analysis of Town Topics‘ rhetorical style (the magazine’s evocation of a gossip community between “The Saunterer” and his readers will be the topic of another post soon).
​All in all, off to a promising start!