Author Archives: Ostap Kin

On my final project (part 2)

I would like to outline several challenges I think I might face while working on this project.

First and foremost, you don’t have just one archival collection of materials related to the artist. The papers of Jacques Hnizdovsky are held at several different institutions around the country. There are at least two institutions in New York that preserve his papers. There is another one in Connecticut which has his materials. Finally, a small collection of his papers is part of an institution based in Minnesota. And these are just the collections that have the artist’s materials.

When conducting research, we should not forget about the papers of others who also might have archival materials of Hnizdovsky. And, indeed, I was able to locate several of such collections, where you have Hnizdovsky’s correspondence as part of that archive—and these are a publisher Hnizdovsky cooperated with, as well as several poets he collaborated with.

This leads to the second major challenge—accessibility. I’m hopeful the archives in New York will open soon enough so I can start working and preparing material as early as this summer. The same concerns the institution located in Connecticut. Also, I look forward to trying and requesting scans of archival materials from other institutions mentioned below. Taking into account that often this is something that is done for a fee, it would be worth considering and applying for a grant that can help to cover these expenses.

On my final project

When Jacques Hnizdovsky, born in what is now Ukraine in 1915, passed away in 1985, the New York Times published an obituary in which pointed out that the artist was known for this woodcut prints exhibited in museums and galleries across the country and elsewhere in the world, but also underscored that he illustrated books by John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Frost.

Of course, this was not the only three books the artist illustrated. As the recent bibliographical guide on Hnizdovsky suggest, the artist worked on more than two hundred books (he began as early as in the 1930s and worked until the end of his life). Most of his book cover designs and illustrations were commissioned by various Ukrainian publishing house operating in the diaspora in the United States, Canada and Europe. However, Hnizdovsky also cooperated with American publishing houses—and this cooperation, and the result of this cooperation, is a focal point of my research.

Hnizdovsky’s artworks have their special place in both Ukrainian and American art. And his artworks are interesting for several reasons. First, he really managed to create his own style, a style that is quite recognizable. Second, he was successful in finding his own niche and place in the US, and many American art scholars and critics highly regarded his works—something very unusual for artists of his generations who came to this country as refugees after the end of World War II. Third, throughout his whole career, Hnizdovsky had special attention to books and, more importantly, work on books was a significant part of his creative output.

The visual part of the book—specifically, its cover and illustrations—shapes the way we look at books. They are both fragments and details of these books. As Hnizdovsky himself said: “An artist should not interpret the text. A book illustrator should merely suggest.” The artist’s observation should be formulated in such a manner they don’t create a distorted or limited image of the book.

Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Archive

The Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Archive is an initiative that comes from several partnering institutions, namely the Centre for Manuscript Genetics (University of Antwerp), the Beckett International Foundation (University of Reading), and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (University of Texas at Austin), with the permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett.

The key goal of this project is to “is to reunite the manuscripts of Samuel Beckett’s works in a digital way, and to facilitate genetic research.” More specifically, this platform “brings together digital facsimiles of documents” which are housed in different archives, libraries, and special collections. The project also offers transcriptions of Beckett’s manuscripts, tools for bilingual and genetic version comparison, an analysis of the textual genesis of Beckett’s works, and a search engine.

The resource aims to help researchers and scholars to require immediate access to the manuscripts and typescripts produced by Samuel Beckett. The website, as of now, hosts eight major works: “Endgame,” ‘Waiting for Godot,” “Malone Dies,” Molloy,” Krapp’s Last Tape,” “the Unnamable,” “Stirrings Still,” and “what is the word.” However, only one work is not being password protected and, therefore, accessible. That means that in order to work with all other manuscripts, you should get an individual or institutional subscription.  

If its primary goal, or the first goal, is to make the texts available, the second goal of the project is to build a platform that would serve as an active laboratory studying the “variants” of SB’s works—often produced in both languages, English and French. This is a place dealing with such matters as genetic criticism and textual scholarship relying on different editorial and philological traditions offered by scholars. Of special interest is an introductory essay entitled: “Editorial Principles and Practice.” In it, the editors show their philosophy and practices as they approach the Beckett manuscripts; in particular, dealing with facsimiles and transcriptions (using an encoding in XML [eXtensible Markup Language]), transcription methods (relying, in part, on suggestions by the TEI Special Interest Group), transcription conventions (such as deletion, deletion within a deletion, addition, script, unclear reading, addition on the facing leaf, illegible character, transportation, etc.), collation and relative collaboration.

Manuscripts aside, the project also hosts the Beckett Digital Library—again, available only to subscribers, so it’s hard to say what’s inside. From the description, you can find out that the BDL is a digital reconstruction of SB’s personal library. At the moment it houses 762 extant volumes and 247 virtual entries with no physical copy. The whole project is an example that attempts and succeeds in the “reconstruction of dynamics of the composition process.” By looking and comparing various variants of the same work which versions are held at different places, the project demonstrates the unique opportunities the digital scholarly editions may offer in the future.