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Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities

Message About ACM Off-Campus Study Programs

ACM has discontinued management of its three off-campus study programs (learn more). Students can still apply directly to affiliated programs.

While the ACM Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities is discontinued, students and faculty can still participate directly with Newberry Library programs and activities. Find out more about the collection, see upcoming events, learn more about doing research at the Newberry, and even help the Newberry transcribe its digital collection.

Faculty can continue to apply to the ACM Newberry short-term fellowships.

Join a vibrant research community.

Spend a semester immersed in a research community while living in one of the most culturally dynamic cities in the US. Join a group of highly passionate and motivated students and conduct your own research project at a premier humanities library.

Watch students and faculty describe what immersive research experiences are really like.

Program Overview

The ACM Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities challenges you to immerse yourself in a semester-long research project with the support of a community of scholars and the collections of one of the world’s finest research libraries.

Led by distinguished faculty, you and your peers will explore a compelling, interdisciplinary theme in the humanities; develop your abilities as a researcher; and produce a substantial, well-documented research paper equivalent to a senior thesis or graduate-level work.

Access a collection of rare humanities resources: From cartographic catalogues to 16th century political pamphlets, use some of the world’s finest primary resources to develop your research topic.

Application Process

ACM has discontinued management of this program.

Host institution

Newberry Library in Chicago, IL

Living arrangements

Students live in furnished apartments near the Newberry Library in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

Host institution

Newberry Library in Chicago, IL

Living arrangements

Students live in furnished apartments near the Newberry Library in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

Courses & credits

Recommended credit is 16 semester credits or the equivalent.

Seminar (8 credits)
Independent Research Project (8 credits)

Internships at the Newberry

Students can gain experience working in paid, part-time positions at the library during the semester.

Language requirement

No prerequisites


Newberry Seminar video

Video of Virtual Info Session (from November 4, 2021)

Application deadlines

ACM has discontinued management of this program.


Work with Archival Materials

The seminar theme and a set of common readings create the context for your research. Early in the semester, you’ll discuss the readings, complete workshops and a variety of writing and research assignments, and meet with Newberry librarians and research staff to learn about the library’s resources. These activities refine your skills in working with archival materials, synthesizing a variety of sources, and writing effectively.

You’ll find inspiration for potential research topics as you explore every corner of the Newberry. As you peruse the rich collections of primary sources, you will engage your intellectual curiosity and pursue your individual interests to frame researchable questions, search for and critically assess potential source materials, and formulate a research proposal.

Work on Individual Projects

During the second half of the semester, the focus shifts to the individual projects. You’ll meet one-on-one with seminar faculty and intensively work on your research paper. The community you and your classmates build will continue providing mutual support. You’ll meet regularly to share the results of your research and to receive suggestions for revisions.

At the program symposium, you and your peers will present your projects to the Newberry community. Many students continue the research they began at the Newberry after they return from the program, such as in a senior thesis or in graduate school.

Recommended credit is 16 semester credits. There are no prerequisites for the Newberry Seminar.

Each semester, the Newberry Seminar has an interdisciplinary theme that provides focus for the group’s work during the first part of the semester. Students use the Newberry’s collections and Chicago’s setting as they explore these broad themes, develop their skills as researchers within a community of scholars, and complete a substantial written paper.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes

All ACM colleges are grounded in the liberal arts tradition, and this educational commitment extends to ACM off-campus study programs. By participating in one of these programs, you’ll benefit from studying in a new location that combines experiential, place-based learning with academic purpose similar to your home campus as you pursue the program’s learning goals.

In each program you’ll enjoy small class sizes, allowing you to work closely with faculty and other students. You’ll also live in housing and participate in activities that provide everyday opportunities to connect course-based learning with the local community and culture.

You’ll find that the learning objectives and outcomes of each ACM program reflect these liberal arts educational values.

The Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities program is designed to offer you the unique undergraduate experience of working in a major independent research library with authentic materials to conduct substantive primary research in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, as well as to engage with the library community.

Program learning objectives:

  • Understand the research process of formulating interesting and manageable questions; successfully locating, understanding, critically evaluating, and synthesizing materials from the rich Newberry collections; and effectively creating a substantial, well-written and documented research paper.
  • Develop your skills as a member of a research community, capable of discussing complex texts in an open-ended seminar setting, sharing the results of research and writing with your peers, and offering and receiving suggestions for revisions.
  • Develop your understanding of how a major research library operates through job placements and by participating in the community of scholars at the Newberry.

When you complete the program, you should be able to apply the research process to an original research project through planning, synthesizing a variety of sources from authentic materials, and drawing conclusions; demonstrate an understanding of the theme and concepts of the seminar by applying them to the research project; and identify the various operations of a library through the job placements.


Recommended credit is 16 semester credits. There are no prerequisites for the Newberry Seminar.

Each semester, the Newberry Seminar has an interdisciplinary theme that provides focus for the group’s work during the first part of the semester. Students use the Newberry’s collections and Chicago’s setting as they explore these broad themes, develop their skills as researchers within a community of scholars, and complete a substantial written paper.

The completion of the seminar and the student research paper yield a full semester of academic credit. 8 credits are awarded for the seminar; 8 credits are awarded for the independent research project. The specific distribution of credits is a matter of negotiation between you and your advisor and college registrar. ACM will provide details to your campus upon request.

The 16 semester credits earned may be assigned to one academic area or may be divided among multiple disciplines, depending on the research topic. You are encouraged to confirm credit distribution with your campus prior to the start of the program.

Grade reports

All students who complete an ACM off-campus study program receive a grade report which lists their courses, credits, and grades. Most colleges accept this grade report as an official academic document. If a college requires an official academic transcript, ACM can arrange to have an official transcript issued through Beloit College for a $450 processing fee. To request an official transcript, students must make a formal request through ACM at the time of acceptance.

Independent Study Project

Access Unparalleled Collections

The independent study project is the cornerstone of the Newberry Seminar. Over the course of the semester, you have the opportunity to develop high-level research skills while diving into the extensive collections in the humanities and humanistic social sciences at the Newberry Library.

As a full visiting scholar at the Newberry Library, you can use this seminar to kickstart a senior thesis, showcase your skills for graduate school applications, or lay the foundation for a career in research.

Participate in a collaborative research seminar

The seminar, which varies in topic each year, will guide your core development as a researcher.

The seminar meets every day during the first few weeks of the program. In those first weeks you’ll learn how to use the Newberry’s primary collections while becoming familiar with the individual research process.

The seminar meets less frequently throughout the semester so that you can focus on your research. However, periodic check-ins with instructors and full-time librarians at the Newberry will help you stay on track with your project. By the end of the term, you’ll produce a comprehensive independent research project to present to your fellow Newberry scholars!

Dig into rare primary sources and explore a universe of topics

As more libraries start to maintain digital collections, fewer researchers have the opportunity to work hands-on with a diverse collection of materials like those at the Newberry Library. You’re encouraged to shape your project around these unique collections, which includes materials related to:

  • American Indian and Indigenous Studies,
  • The history of Chicago,
  • Maps and other cartographic collections, and
  • Medieval, Renaissance, and Early Modern artifacts.

Get an insider’s look at the Newberry research experience

 Watch our webinar to hear directly from Newberry students about their research projects.


What topics have students researched in the past?

Past Newberry students have traced the history of Chicago’s “gayborhoods,” investigated stereotypes in media from Pocahontas to The King and I, examined the symbolism of nationalism in the song “Dixie”, compared cartographic representations of Paris during the 17th century, and unpacked the roles of transcontinental railroads in mythologizing the American West.


If you’re drawn to inner workings of the Newberry, or simply want to gain incredible work experience, you have the opportunity to work behind the scenes in one of the departments of the library throughout the semester.

These are paid positions and are limited to up to 10 hours per week on average (i.e., up to 140 hours total over 14 weeks), so as not to interfere with seminar and research time. Supervisors have agreed to be flexible with the number of hours and days of the week students work, and they understand that frequently ACM students can work more hours earlier in the semester, but may taper when their independent research becomes more pressing.

Please note that international students must be authorized to work in the U.S. outside of their college in order to be paid for an internship at the Newberry Library; neither the Newberry nor the ACM can provide sponsorship.

Positions available vary, but the list below is illustrative of the variety of positions typically available for Newberry Seminar participants. Students will receive an updated list of opportunities the summer before the program begins; during orientation week, Newberry staff will interview those interested.

Internship Opportunities

These positions vary year to year. Please see below for a list of internship positions that were available to students participating in the Fall 2019 seminar. Some internship work may be completed remotely, while some may be done in the building; this will be subject to the operations of individual departments.

Location & Facilities

Study in a Diverse and Cosmopolitan City in the Heart of the US

Chicago may be a relatively young city, but its history has already been shaped by countless cultures around the world. No matter your passion, Chicago has a place for you: world-class theatres, museums, parks and conservatories, beautiful architecture, music scenes, and festivals are easily accessible.

Students live and work in Chicago’s prosperous Gold Coast neighborhood, an area lined with quiet streets and classic row houses. The Gold Coast is also close to the lakefront and the Newberry Library, your primary research site for the semester.

On weekends, use Chicago’s extensive public transportation system to explore a variety of neighborhoods, each with its own livelihood, story, and culture – and plenty of delicious food at every turn! Fall into step with the rhythms of this bustling city by hopping on the ‘L’ train and venture somewhere new. Spend a day browsing the Art Institute or the Chicago History Museum, laugh at a comedy club, or wander through small neighborhood bookstores and cultural centers.

As a dynamic city pulsing with both history and progress, Chicago will expand your liberal arts education well beyond the classroom.


The Newberry Library

For an entire semester, use one of the world’s premier independent research libraries as your campus. The Newberry Library’s evolving collections are rooted in the humanities and embrace the history and literature of Western Europe and the Americas.

As a visiting scholar at the Newberry, you can access resources ranging anywhere from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century. Some of the Newberry’s most exciting collections include a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, French Revolution pamphlets, early American treaties, Chopin and Mozart manuscripts, and an edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost in jeweled binding. Use these rare resources to inspire and support your unique research interests.

The Newberry is open to the public and has an active educational and cultural presence in Chicago. Supplement your research with the Newberry’s host of exhibits, lectures, classes, concerts, and other public programming. You’ll also have access to the library’s public reading rooms and free wireless internet.

Excursions & Travel

Class Excursions

Class excursions typically vary based on the seminar topic and the interests of the visiting faculty directors. Excursions in the city will relate to your studies and class discussions, and can range anywhere from museum visits to neighborhood tours.

Exploring Chicago

In a large city like Chicago, you can experience a diverse range of cultures and history within the short span of a few train stops. There are plenty of ways to get around the city in your free time, whether you walk, take public transportation, ride your bike, or take a cab.

The Loop, Chicago’s downtown center, has countless large theaters, restaurants, museums, and music venues to explore. Chicago’s downtown area is also home to world-famous architecture, including the Willis Tower (commonly known as the Sears Tower), the third-tallest building in the US.

Outside of the Loop, explore the various communities where Chicagoans live. To the southwest, you’ll find neighborhoods like Pilsen, home to a sizeable Hispanic and Latino population and known for its beautiful street murals, delicious Mexican cuisine, and the National Museum of Mexican Art. Or, architecture enthusiasts can spend a day in Oak Park, home to several buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, including the architect’s very own home and studio.

By moving south, you can explore Chinatown’s various shops and restaurants, or venture to Hyde Park to visit Chicago’s famous Museum of Science and Industry. A trip to Bronzeville, a well-known African-American neighborhood, will show you some of the area’s many community centers and activist organizations.

To the north, you can enjoy Lincoln Park’s free zoo and conservatory, or enjoy a day at a ball game at Lakeview’s historic Wrigley Field. Spend a day relaxing at Montrose Beach, or visit small Vietnamese restaurants and shops on Argyle Street before heading over to Uptown to see a music performance at the Aragon Ballroom. In Chicago, the opportunities to explore are limitless!

Living Arrangements

Students in the Newberry Seminar live in an apartment building in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood and a few blocks walk from the Newberry Library. Students are housed in the same building as students participating in ACM’s Field Museum Semester.

Typically, two students share each studio apartment (similar in size to a standard dorm room). Each apartment features a kitchenette, bathroom and walk-in closet. The apartments are approximately 15′ x 18′ and are furnished with one or two chairs, tables, lamps, ovens, and compact refrigerators. Some apartments have Murphy beds; others have regular twin beds. It’s an ideal location for young people living in the city.

Health & Safety

The ACM prioritizes your well-being during your time in Chicago. While it is your responsibility to communicate your health and safety concerns to the program faculty and staff, you will be equipped with the proper resources to ensure that you have a safe off-campus semester, allowing you to thrive in your studies and beyond.

The following information provides an overview of some of the ACM policies and procedures for student health and safety. You will receive comprehensive information about health and safety procedures after being admitted to the program.


Health insurance

All ACM Newberry Seminar students are required to carry their own health insurance.

Medications and other medical preparation

If you take one or more prescription drugs regularly, you’ll need to speak with your physician prior to coming to Chicago. You can decide which pharmacy is the best option for your physician to send a prescription to.

Special diets

After your program acceptance, you will be prompted to notify the ACM if you have any dietary restrictions. The ACM will work to make appropriate accommodations for group meals.


The ACM is dedicated to ensuring your safety during your time off-campus while also encouraging your immersion in Chicago. ACM program staff are well acquainted with the city and will advise you on navigating Chicago safely. The program’s comprehensive orientation provides practical information and advice for personal safety while living in Chicago.


ACM strives to make off-campus study a great value for students by offering affordable programs that are academically excellent and focused on experiential learning.

The educational cost ACM charges for the Newberry Seminar includes:

  • The academic curriculum
  • Program field trips to museums and historic sites in Chicago
  • Symposiums for researchers and visiting scholars at the Newberry
  • Presentations by Newberry librarians of rare materials from the library’s collections
  • Opportunities for paid internships with departments at the Newberry Library.

Cost Information for Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities

  • If you are a student at an ACM or GLCA institution, the program educational cost that ACM charges students and their college for the Newberry Seminar is automatically discounted by $5,000.
  • If you are a student at a college that is affiliated with the program, ACM discounts the program educational cost by 5%. See ACM Program Affiliates for a list of colleges affiliated with the Newberry Seminar.

Applying for an ACM program is free. Educational costs for your semester at the Newberry Library will vary based on your individual financial aid package and your school’s procedures, as schools may charge based on either the cost of the ACM program or the college’s tuition price. Additionally, some schools may assess special fees for off-campus study.

Anticipated 2022-2023 Academic Year

(ACM has discontinued management of this program.)

Price Affiliate Price ACM/GLCA Price
Educational Costs* $20,000 $19,000 $15,000
Program Fee** $4,000 $4,000 $4,000
Campus tuition charges and/or fees*** Varies Varies Varies


* Discounts apply to educational costs only. Program-sponsored field trips and excursions are included in the educational costs.
** The program fee covers housing and local transportation. The $50 non-refundable deposit will be applied toward the program fee.
*** Many colleges assess additional fees or charge students full home college tuition instead of the ACM educational costs. This typically relates to expenses for academic support services and the awarding of academic credit and/or financial aid. Please consult your Financial Aid office or Off-Campus Study office for more details about your college’s policies, and to find out what you will be charged for the program.

Paid Internships at the Newberry

Newberry Seminar students have the opportunity to work as assistants in various departments at the Newberry Library. These are paid positions and are limited to 10 hours per week maximum, so as not to interfere with seminar and research time. See Internships at the Newberry for a list of positions typically available for Newberry Seminar participants.

Personal Expenses

To help you budget for additional out-of-pocket expenses in Chicago, see an estimate of what ACM students have spent in the past.

Sample Budget for a Semester in Chicago

Meals¹ $1,000
Travel to/from Chicago Varies
Cultural events/entertainment $300
Books $100
Miscellaneous² $200

¹ Depending on how often you cook in your apartment or purchase meals out.

² Includes personal travel and entertainment. See below for examples of common personal expenses.

Cost of Living in Chicago

The following chart includes cost estimates for common personal purchases in Chicago.

Chicago sales tax 10.25%
Newspaper $2
Bus ticket or El ticket $2.25
Taxi per mile $1.80
Movie ticket $15
Museum admission $15
Pint of beer $5
Cover charge at a bar $10
Gallon of milk $3.50
Load of laundry $6
Lunch takeout near the Newberry $9
Cup of coffee $3.00
Box of cereal $4.50
Gallon of gas $2.75
Pizza delivery $25
Bagel $1.50
Bottle of Coca-Cola $1.50
Deodorant $3.50
Average cost of weekly groceries $75

This page was updated on June 12, 2020.

Program Faculty & Staff

Faculty are selected for their diverse academic expertise and interests that range across the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

With their passion for research and teaching experience, your professors will infuse your studies with a complex, interdisciplinary perspective. Two visiting faculty directors will lead the Newberry Seminar and mentor you throughout your independent research project.

As a participant in the seminar, you will be part of the vibrant research community at the Newberry Library, which includes the Newberry’s staff of librarians, archivists, and specialists, as well as scholars who are visiting the library to conduct their own research.

In an atmosphere that encourages an open exchange of ideas, members of the Newberry community support seminar participants by offering suggestions about source materials and possible areas of inquiry.

At the beginning of the program, Newberry staff will give your seminar group a library orientation and will educate you about the library’s various collections. Throughout the semester, the librarians will be among your most knowledgeable sources. They’re prepared to help you find information about the Newberry’s holdings and to recommend bibliographic and primary sources.

Please see below for a listing of Newberry Seminar faculty co-directors in previous years.

Faculty Advisors & Contacts

ACM Assistant Program Manager


Our Assistant Program Manager can answer most questions about the program or will put you in touch with someone who can!

Michael Vertovec

Associated Colleges of the Midwest
180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2020
Chicago, IL 60601

As a recognized Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) program, the Newberry Seminar qualifies for special GLCA campus considerations for pricing and financial aid.

Faculty Advisors

How do ACM’s courses and credits fit with your academic plan?

Talk to the program faculty advisor on your campus to learn more.

Albion College

Nancy Demerdash ndemerdash@albion.edu

Lake Forest College

Alexandra Olson aolson@lakeforest.edu

Allegheny College

Paula Burleigh pburleigh@allegheny.edu

Lawrence University

Beth Zinsli beth.a.zinsli@lawrence.edu

Beloit College

Daniel Brueckenhaus brueckenhausd@beloit.edu

Luther College

Sean Burke burke.sean@luther.edu

Carleton College

Beth McKinsey emckinse@carleton.edu

Macalester College

Brian Lush blush@macalester.edu

Coe College

Amber Shaw ashaw@coe.edu

McKendree University

Martha Patterson mhpatterson@mckendree.edu

Colorado College

Amy Kohout akohout@coloradocollege.edu

Monmouth College

Marlo Belschner mmb@monmouthcollege.edu

Cornell College

James Martin jmartin@cornellcollege.edu

Oberlin College

Laura Baudot laura.baudot@oberlin.edu

Davidson College

Naomi Otterness naotterness@davidson.edu 

Ohio Wesleyan University

David Caplan dmcaplan@owu.edu

Denison University

Adam Davis davisaj@denison.edu

Rhodes College

Scott Newstok newstoks@rhodes.edu

DePauw University

Tiffany Hebb thebb@depauw.edu

Ripon College

Ann Pleiss Morris PleissMorrisA@ripon.edu

Grinnell College

John Garrison garrison@grinnell.edu

St. Olaf College

Jonathan Naito naito@stolaf.edu

Hope College

Marsely Kehoe kehoe@hope.edu

The College of Idaho

Susan Schaper sschaper@collegeofidaho.edu

Kalamazoo College

Charlene Boyer Lewis clewis@kzoo.edu

James Lewis jlewis@kzoo.edu

The College of Wooster

Monica Florence mflorence@wooster.edu

Kenyon College

Glenn McNair mcnairg@kenyon.edu

Wabash College

Agata Szczeszak-Brewer brewera@wabash.edu

Knox College

Gregory Gilbert ggilbert@knox.edu

Faculty Research & Teaching

The Newberry program offers opportunities to faculty at member institutions of the ACM and the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA).

Teaching the Newberry Seminar

Each semester, the seminar is led by a pair of instructors from the ACM and GLCA colleges. This is an opportunity to lead advanced students in discussion and research at a world-class library. Past seminar faculty have seen this as the best teaching experience of their careers. Seminar leaders can also do their own research in the library’s collections.

Past Seminar Topics & Faculty

2019: One for the Books: The Pleasures & Politics of Reading – Ralph Savarese (English, Grinnell College) and Elizabeth Prevost (history, Grinnell College)

2019 topic photo collage

This seminar explores not just what people read but how, where, and why they read it. Students will tap the Newberry Library’s original source materials to investigate how, from Gutenberg to digital media, reading has offered a means of defining the self, encountering others, drawing lines of inclusion and exclusion, and imagining change.

“Literacy has often been a weapon in political debates,” Grinnell English Professor Ralph Savarese says. “Take slavery, for example. Frederick Douglass once described the impact of learning to read like this: ‘The silver trumpet of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness.’ He knew what literacy meant and why slaves were forcibly kept from books.”

Frederick Douglass book
Frederick Douglass called reading the “silver trumpet of freedom [that] roused my soul to eternal wakefulness”
Newberry Library

Savarese and Grinnell Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Prevost will lead the Fall 2019 Newberry Seminar, “One for the Books: On the Pleasures And Politics Of Reading.”

Readings and lectures on the inter-disciplinary study of reading itself will serve as a launch pad for participants to complete their own independent study using the Newberry’s research materials relating to the civilizations of Europe and the Americas.

Letters, archival materials and other items make up the Newberry’s core collections in the areas of Chicago Studies, the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Center for Renaissance Studies, Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography and more.

From the history of the ABCs to mass media to the inner life of book readers through history, reading itself has come to be seen as worthy of study in itself.  Prevost and Savarese will focus on readers on the margins of society.

students in library
Students work with archival items as part of the Newberry program

Prevost has researched Agatha Christie, seeking to understand how British-empire readers turned her from a provincial mystery writer into a global celebrity.  Savarese became interested in marginalized readers after completing a book last year about reading literary fiction with autistic people across the spectrum (See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor).

“We’re excited to be looking at very old stuff in the Newberry archives,” Savarese says. “This course is about rescuing those items and their significance from the abstractions of history and thinking deeply about what reading has done for – and to – homo sapiens.”Students in the class will also connect to readers and reading through field trips, such as visiting the Jane Addams’ Hull House Museum to get insight into how immigrants managed the pressure to assimilate.  Guest speakers from area universities will bring expertise on the history and neurology of reading, offering new approaches to the social and physical worlds that readers inhabit.


Ralph Savarese
Ralph Savarese

Ralph Savarese
Faculty Co-Director 2019
Grinnell College





Elizabeth Prevost
Elizabeth Prevost

Elizabeth Prevost
Faculty Co-Director 2019
Grinnell College

2018: Going and Knowing: Travelers and Travel Writers in the Modern World – Meira Kensky (religion, Coe College) and Amber Shaw (Coe College)

S. S. Roosevelt postcard
Postcard of the S.S. Roosevelt passing through State Street Bridge, Chicago, IL (circa 1900-1909). From the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Digital Collection. Courtesy of The Newberry Library.

Travelers were the original social networkers, forging connections between peoples and places while using a variety of media to share their experiences with the wider world.

The fall 2018 Newberry Seminar will explore the history and conventions of travel and travel writing, and what it means to be a traveler, tourist, pilgrim, explorer, or immigrant. Faculty and students will use travel as a way to think about how humans make meaning out of the world and how travel — and where we choose to travel — shapes what we know and how we interact with the world.

The Newberry Library’s vast collection of travel literature (both fictional and non-fictional), immigrant and pilgrimage narratives, guidebooks, maps, souvenirs, and ephemera will give students access to research materials for individualized projects in a wide variety of disciplines.

Greetings from Chicago postcard (1942).
Greetings from Chicago postcard (1942).

Drawing on the Newberry Library’s vast collection of travel literature (both fictional and non- fictional), guidebooks, maps, souvenirs, and ephemera, the fall 2018 Newberry Seminar will explore the history and conventions of travel and travel writing in the modern world. How did the changes of the modern world affect the concept of travel itself? How did the technological innovations of the 20th and 21st centuries continue to expand our notion of the world and its boundaries (or lack thereof)?

The seminar will be interdisciplinary, with its core at the nexus of literature, history, and religion, as well as engagement with newer disciplines of tourism studies and human geography. We will read theory about travel as well as writers’ accounts of traveling throughout the United States, Europe, and other places around the globe. While we’ll begin and end the seminar in the US, throughout the semester we’ll study different modes of travel, such as immigration, pilgrimage, and the grand tour, in different places around the world and how they developed across three-and-a-half centuries.

Making meaning out of the world

As we draw on the Newberry Library’s collections in this seminar, we’ll use travel as a way to think about how humans make meaning out of the world, considering why we travel and what it means to be a traveler, tourist, pilgrim, explorer, or immigrant. We’ll also explore how travel — and where we choose to travel — shapes what we know and how we interact with the world around us. Does traveling abroad seem to magnify a sense of belonging in travelers writing about their experiences? Does this change whether one is on a tour or a pilgrimage? And in an age where knowledge of distant places is increasingly available through digital and virtual sources, why does the urge to travel endure?

Part of our journey will be historical. The modern era saw the rise of technologies that made travel easier and more accessible than ever before. We’ll look at how the mechanisms of travel changed with the invention of the railroad and the ocean liner. Having access to the railway archives will bring students closer to the excitement of the opening of the new frontier. We’ll look at the widespread availability of the Baedeker and other guides and pore through some of them ourselves, asking how the way these guides present what people are going to see might have affected how they did see and experience these sites.

Postcard of the Sky Ride & Observation Towers
Postcard of the Sky Ride & Observation Towers, 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, aerial view of fair.

An explosion of travel writing

We’ll also look at how people wrote about their own experiences in foreign and strange lands, because along with this increased ability to travel came an explosion of travel writing. How did the narratives contribute to the way people made sense of the far-off and exotic? How did these narratives of early encounters and some cases first contact shape the way readers mapped the world and their place within it? And what about different kinds of travel? How is pilgrimage different from tourism, and how do they each participate in knowledge-creation? By focusing on how travel, representations of travel, and knowledge-production change in the modern world, this seminar will explore how modes of travel differ and yet somehow share similar modes of engagement and encounter.

Comparing immigrant, pilgrimage, and tourism narratives

Immigrants at Ellis Island,
Immigrants at Ellis Island, New York postcard (circa 1900-1909).

Immigrant narratives represent travel and the reasons for travel while also serving as vehicles for convincing people they are Americans; their rising popularity coincides with the rapid rise in immigrants coming to the United States post-Civil War.

Immigrant narratives offer the opportunity to look at the ways in which people imagined what America should be, and what “going home” should look like, while pilgrimage narratives offer the opportunity to look at what people thought “going to God” entailed (or even “going home to God”). Tourism narratives participate in a discourse of “being away” and also play on the idea of “going to culture.”

All three of these types of literature draw on common conventions and modes of visualizing and consuming landscapes, encountering “others,” and situating oneself in a multi-faceted and increasingly connected world. All the genres also share in the goal of educating an increasingly literate public, and while the travelers and reasons for travel might be different, their expected audience is not necessarily so.

These narratives reflect a common experience of travel as being one of shared yet temporary community, and the tension between the solitary traveler and the fleeting communitas recurs in all these genres. Travelling elsewhere also involves looking inward and learning more about the self, topics that frequently emerge in these texts. We will consider these many topics alongside the history of modern tourism and why people have felt — and still feel — compelled to immerse themselves in other regions, countries, or cultures.

Exploring the Newberry collections

We expect students to be working with both the secondary and the primary sources in the Newberry’s general collection, along with the more specialized materials of the Edward E. Ayer and Everett D. Graff collections, the Rand McNally map archives, the Francis and Robert Tomes papers, and material from the Herman Dunlap Center for Cartography. We’re particularly excited for our seminar students to have access to the Newberry’s vast collection of Appleton, Murray, and Baedeker guides. The sheer breadth of this collection will reinforce the way these mass-market guidebooks changed travel in 19th and early 20th centuries. At the same time, we imagine the Newberry’s collection of 17th-century letter of introduction books, as well as their considerable holdings of 20th-century journals from foreign correspondents (most notably Edward Price Bell) will broaden students’ conceptions of travel and geography across the modern world.

More generally, the Newberry Library’s rich collection of cartography, travel writing, immigrant narratives, pilgrimage narratives, and other travel-related documents will afford students research materials for individualized projects from a wide variety of disciplines.

Postcard of the Newberry Library
Postcard of the Newberry Library (circa 1910-1919).

Students’ research projects

The heart of the semester will be students’ research projects. Our focus will invite students to think about travel, immigration, and mobility expansively — and why such a focus is necessary and productive in this increasingly digital and virtual age. Accordingly, students’ independent projects can draw from the wide resources at the Newberry and consider topics about travel broadly construed.

We imagine this course would be attractive to students from a variety of disciplines, including students pursuing work in museum studies, journalism, publishing, international relations, historic preservation, and ministry. Though the seminar is firmly grounded in the humanities, because of the wide range of primary sources we’ll draw upon in the seminar, we hope also to attract students from social sciences like anthropology and human geography. Students are naturally interested in travel, and the Newberry’s collections are unparalleled in this regard.

Images are from the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Digital Collection. The archive, housed at the Newberry Library, is widely regarded as the largest public collection of postcards and related materials in the United States.

More about the seminar faculty and topic: Discovery Could be Just Around the Corner


Meira Kensky
Meira Kensky

Meira Kensky
Faculty Co-Director, Fall 2018
Coe College





Amber Shaw
Amber Shaw

Amber Shaw
Faculty Co-Director, Fall 2018
Coe College

2017: Nature and Culture in the Metropolis – William Davis (German and comparative literature, Colorado College) and Eric Perramond (environmental & Southwest studies, Colorado College)

The fall 2017 seminar theme explores the themes of nature and culture within the context of Chicago. Whether you’re studying anthropology, geography, environmental history, or another subject in the liberal arts, you will gain valuable research experience while growing as a writer.

Nature vs. Civilization

“Nature” vs. “Civilization” represents one of the fundamental dichotomies of the Western tradition, at least since the time of Homer’s Odyssey, appearing through the years with many variations. In the 18th century, Rousseau gives these concepts a modern twist by insisting that inequality was “almost non-existent in the state of nature,” that it “derives its force and its growth from the development of our faculties and the progress of the human mind, and finally becomes fixed and legitimate through the institution of property and laws.”

In this way inequality, and its myriad attendant ills, become equated with civilization, while the state of nature becomes a scene of inherent unity and fairness. Artifice vs. nature; sophisticated vs. primitive; the city vs. the country: these are only a few variations of the basic dichotomy that have arisen over the past few centuries.

In America, the rise of urbanity and the industrial revolution only increased the tension between these dichotomous concepts. No city better exemplifies the American version of the struggle between nature and polis, pasture and skyscraper, than Chicago. The concepts of nature and culture are fundamental to the Western condition. In most cultural settings around the globe, nature and culture mean very different things to different peoples. Cities, however, are now universal to humanity even as we cope with their meaning for our relationship to or with nature.

Explore Chicago and the Newberry Library

While the fall 2017 Newberry seminar will pivot on the period between 1800 and the 1960s, it will draw on other places, authors, and periods for comparative purposes. For instance, what can past ideas, histories, and geographies of urbanized human natures tell us about how to make cities sustainable in the 21st century?

The seminar will explore nature, culture, and the metropolis to foster rich, challenging seminar discussions using the Newberry’s collections and Chicago’s setting. Newberry core collections will serve as examples during the seminar alongside core readings. Participants will then engage in independent exploration of these themes and produce individual research papers later in the semester.

Students will use the Newberry’s collections and Chicago’s setting as they examine these broad themes, develop their skills as researchers within a community of scholars, and complete a substantial written paper.


William Davis
William Davis

William Davis
Faculty Co-Director, Fall 2017
German and Comparative Literature
Colorado College





Eric Perramond
Eric Perramond

Eric Perramond
Faculty Co-Director, Fall 2017
Environmental and Southwest Studies
Colorado College

2016: Novel Action: Literature, Social Movements, and the Public Good – Tori Barnes-Brus (sociology and anthropology, Cornell College) and Rebecca Entel (English and creative writing, Cornell College)

What is social reform? Who are reformers and what are their motivations? What is the relationship between “words and deeds,” literature and action?

old magazine covers
Sampling from the Newberry Library collections, including a poster from the Dill Pickle Club and issues of The International Socialist Review and Mother Earth. Courtesy The Newberry Library.
See these and many more examples in the Newberry Library virtual exhibit, Outspoken: Chicago’s Free Speech Tradition.

The fall 2016 Newberry Seminar will operate at the intersection of literature, social movements, and the public humanities. In readings from America’s “Age of Reform” to contemporary reform efforts, we will explore the relationship between literary and social movements that address multiple systems of oppression and discrimination.

Students will gain hands-on experience with the Newberry Library’s unique collections and will trace Chicago’s long history of social action through visits to historic sites such as Hull House and neighborhoods where activists are currently working to effect social change.

By connecting literature to context and to practice, students will investigate the complex web among writers, communities, social issues, and social change and will embark upon their own research projects as acts of civic engagement. Training as independent researchers, students will learn to share, test, challenge, and develop new ideas within a strong scholarly community of faculty, librarians, archivists, writers, and activists.

With its focus on the relationship between literature and society, the fall 2016 Newberry Seminar will raise questions about the social function of writing and how students’ own archival projects can contribute to the public humanities.

The Newberry’s resources

Detail from Wage Map No. 1, from Hull-House Maps and Papers (1895), showing earnings of families living near Hull-House in Chicago. Map 6F G4104.C6E2 1895 .G7 sheet 1. Courtesy The Newberry Library. View the full map.

The course will draw on many of the Newberry’s core collections, including its unparalleled collection of manuscripts related to settlements, social action, and clubs and organizations; vast holdings on the library’s own history; and cartographic materials relevant to Progressive-era Chicago. Working with these collections will teach students about many activist-writers and organizations they may want to research beyond those in our case studies.

The Newberry holdings related to this interdisciplinary topic can lead to fascinating independent projects for students interested in literature, sociology, anthropology, history, urban studies, women’s studies, African-American studies, and even philosophy and religion. Secondary themes such as the home, immigration, and civil rights, will thread through all of the units and provide springboards for student projects, as well.

For information about the Newberry’s holdings, visit www.newberry.org/research.


Tori Barnes-Brus
Tori Barnes-Brus

Tori Barnes-Brus
Cornell College
Sociology and Anthropology





Rebecca Entel
Rebecca Entel

Rebecca Entel
Cornell College
English and Creative Writing

2015: Knowing Your Place: Human and Social Geography – Ian MacInnes (English, Albion College) and Marcy Sacks (history, Albion College)

The information age has increasingly privileged the virtual over the real, from social media to digital archives. Historically, however, humans have defined themselves in part through a sense of place, both geographical and social, and we continue to inhabit physical places and warm bodies. The sense of physical or geographical place as the foundation for cultural and individual identity permeates texts throughout Western history. Society has been dominated by the tension between a sense of belonging and community implied in having a place and the oppression implied in being told to know one’s place.

map of Africa
Detail from Giacomo Gastaldi, Il disegno della geografia moderna de tutta la parte dell’Africa (Venice, 1564) Novacco 8F 13. Courtesy The Newberry Library, Chicago. Click here for a larger image.

The fall 2015 seminar will use the resources of the Newberry Library to explore the documentary evidence of a sense of place from the ancient world to the modern era, to interrogate the current trend away from the embodied and toward the virtual, and to examine the role of the archive itself in a digital era. We also will draw on Chicago itself — the place the students will be living — with its neighborhoods, festivals, architecture, and rich place-specific history.

In addition to serving as a tantalizing introduction to the variety of collections at the Newberry and to the abundant conceptual possibilities inherent in “place,” the seminar material is also designed to develop students’ skills as scholars and writers, enabling them to turn ideas, interests, and curiosities into full-fledged scholarly projects. Writing will be a large part of our teaching strategy, including in-class “write-to-learn” moments and a required research blog in which students will constantly articulate their claims, their methods, and the challenges they encounter.

The Newberry’s resources

detail from Yellowstone painting
Detail from Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden and Thomas Moran, Tower Falls and Sulpher Mountain, from The Yellowstone National Park… (1876) VAULT oversize Graff 1830. Courtesy The Newberry Library, Chicago. Click here for a larger image.

Students will find the library’s collections to be a vast and stimulating resource for their research. Since “place” is so often tied to geography, we plan to explore the Newberry’s remarkable cartographic collections. To back our discussions about the seminar’s physical location in Chicago, we will draw on the library’s extensive historical and literary materials related to the city. As we develop the symbolic and metaphorical associations of place, including constructions of race and class, the Newberry’s strength in Native American and American materials (notably the Ayers collections) will be valuable, as will its holdings in 19th century popular periodicals and in early modern literature of exploration and travel.

For information about the Newberry’s holdings, visit www.newberry.org/research.



Ian MacInnes
Ian MacInnes

Ian MacInnes
Albion College





Marcy Sacks
Marcy Sacks

Marcy Sacks
Albion College

2014: Knowledge and Technology: from Socrates to the Digital Age – Bridget Draxler (English, Monmouth College) and Hannah Schell (philosophy & religious studies, Monmouth College)

Who produces knowledge? How is it organized? Who has access to it? This seminar will explore the relationship between knowledge, technology, and power, and provide students with a chance to reflect upon and engage in the activity of creating, organizing, and accessing knowledge in a digital age.

engraving of printing press
Jan van der Straet, The Invention of Printing, plate 4 in Nova reperta. Ioan. Stradanus inuent. Phls Calle excud. (Antwerp, s.m. 1600?) Case Wing folio Z 412.85 (Photo: Newberry Library) Click here for a larger image.

Knowledge and technology undergird both the content and the form of the seminar, and the seminar’s cross-disciplinary readings represent literary, philosophical, historical, and religious perspectives.

We will trace the dominant trajectory in Western thought regarding knowledge that begins with the ancient Greeks and then, drawing upon the work of Nietzsche and Foucault, critically interrogate how our categories come to seem natural, beyond history and human agency.

At the same time, we will discuss the interplay of knowledge and technology in the 21st century, the value of the archive in a digital age, collaborative knowledge-creation online, and the ethics of digitization and digital preservation. We will consider the digital humanities not only as a way of using digital tools to conduct humanities research, but as a way of using humanities questions to address the digitization of culture.

Servers hosted at the Internet Archive’s headquarters in San Francisco. (Photo: Steven Walling, Wikimedia Commons)

Students will be encouraged to explore the possibilities of digital publishing for their own research, complementing traditional research papers with digital maps, interactive timelines, multimedia texts, online forums, and dynamic web pages to supplement their arguments.

By experimenting with new forms of digital publishing, students will actively engage and participate in the democratization of knowledge in a digital age.

The Newberry’s resources

Students in the fall 2014 Newberry Seminar will find the library’s collections to be a vast and stimulating resource for their research.

For example, students may wish to explore the Newberry’s extensive holdings on book arts and book history, the history of printing and publishing, and the history of libraries and archives.

The library’s collection extends well beyond books, encompassing a world-class assemblage of maps, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, broadsides, ephemera, music, photographs, paintings, prints, drawings, and much more.

For information about the Newberry’s holdings, visit www.newberry.org/research.


Bridget Draxler
Bridget Draxler

Bridget Draxler
Monmouth College





Hannah Schell
Hannah Schell

Hannah Schell
Monmouth College
Philosophy & Religious Studies

2013: Representing the Other in Image, Text, and Landscape – William Davis (comparative literature & German, Colorado College) and Eric Perramond (environmental science & Southwest studies, Colorado College)

The Fall 2013 Newberry Seminar in the Humanities will focus on encounters between the “Old” World and the “New” World from the early-modern period to the 20th century.  We will examine maps, literary and philosophical texts, images, as well as historical and anthropological records, as a means of discovering how the encounter with the “new world” became a transformative force that would leave the Old World forever tormented by the haunting specter of the “other” just as it had dramatic, and often shattering consequences for indigenous peoples.

glyph map of Aztec migration
Frédéric de Waldeck, Nahuatl glyph map of Aztec migration from Aztlan to Tenochtitlán. Ayer Art Waldeck E1 #21. Courtesy of the Newberry Library.
Click here for a larger image.

Together we will consider such questions as: How did this new world, this new paradise, come to be transformed?  How did Europeans and indigenous American groups view each other at first and over time?  What were the long-term environmental and cultural changes wrought from these repeated encounters as Old World met New World?  How did European thinkers deploy this vision of otherness in particular forms of cultural representation?  What was the response from indigenous communities?  How did the notion of the other change with the arrival of African peoples into the Americas?

In the first half of the semester students will study texts relevant to this topic, as they also become familiar with methods of conducting research in general and working in the Newberry Library specifically.  In the second half of the semester students will conduct their own research, and create their own document of their findings, drawing on the rich resources the Newberry Library has to offer.

Throughout the semester faculty and students will work closely together in the process of framing a topic of investigation, conducting research, and creating scholarly texts that can share our discoveries with a wider audience.

The Newberry’s resources

“S. Domingo,” in Walter Bigges, A Summarie and True Discourse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian Voyage. Ayer 116. D8 B5 1588. Courtesy of the Newberry Library. Click here for larger image.

Participants in the Fall 2013 Seminar will find the Newberry Library’s collection to be a vast and stimulating resource for exploring encounters between the Old and New Worlds.

The Library’s huge collection of maps will interest students working in a number of areas beyond geography itself.  We might wish to consider how Europeans chose to represent the Americas, what they put in, left out, invented and imagined.  These maps are also aesthetic objects in themselves—artistic encounters, if you will, with the New World.

The Hermon Dunlop Smith Center also offers specific support for the study of cartography and the amazing map collections the Newberry holds.

The Edward E. Ayer Collection is one the best collections focused on Native Americans and indigenous peoples in the world.  Scholars from across the globe, who are interested in history and representations of Native Americans, come to the Newberry to take advantage of this collection.


William Davis
William Davis

William Davis
Colorado College
Comparative Literature & German




Eric Perramond
Eric Perramond

Eric Perramond
Colorado College
Environmental Science & Southwest Studies

2012: Wild Cities: The Nature of the Modern Metropolis – Brian Bockelman (history, Ripon College) and David Miller (English, Allegheny College)

The Fall 2012 Seminar will examine the history, literature, and geography of the new mega-cities that emerged in the Americas between 1850 and 1950, taking Chicago and Buenos Aires as its point of departure and exploring two distinct but interrelated understandings of what made the modern metropolis “wild.”

  • The first is environmental.  Although seemingly divorced from nature, modern cities developed their own ecology, extracted considerable resources from their natural surroundings, and remained perennially subject to natural disasters.
  • The second is cultural.  Thanks to its colossal size, unstable politics and populations, and artistic dynamism, the modern metropolis came to be seen as a new kind of wilderness, complete with its own distinctive flora — skyscrapers, monuments, factories, parks — and fauna, with workers, bosses, flâneurs, bohemians, street vendors, prostitutes, and neighborhood toughs.

While some at the time feared this new “wild” side of the city, others embraced its creative potential or sought to channel its energy.

During the first half of the semester, the seminar will meet regularly to explore the Newberry’s collections and to discuss common historical and theoretical texts, urban literature, city maps and plans, and popular music — especially tango and jazz.  In the second half of the semester, students will conduct original, extensive research using the Newberry’s multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural resources.  Throughout, faculty and students will examine the role of conversation and debate in shaping scholarly inquiry (framing questions), research (investigation into the sources), and writing (developing conclusions).

The Newberry’s resources

Chicago map
A Map of Chicago’s Gangland from Authentic Sources ([Chicago?]: Bruce-Roberts, Inc., 1931). Map G 10896.548. Courtesy The Newberry Library.  Click here for larger size.

Participants in the Fall 2012 Seminar will find the Newberry Library’s collections endlessly stimulating.  There are vast holdings relating to various aspects of Chicago, including environmental and ecological themes, booster literature and guidebooks, diverse materials on westward expansion, and the personal papers of artists, writers, city planners, and activists.

  • Like Theodore Dreiser, in writing The Titan (1914), students may want to research Charles T. Yerkes, Chicago’s streetcar Czar and the model for Dreiser’s protagonist Frank Cowperwood, offering insight into Chicago’s amazing economic development.
  • Those of a literary bent can consult the Newberry’s extensive holdings in regional literature, exploring the cultural relationship between hub and frontier tied to this development.  The city’s giddy expansion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is further illuminated by the Chicago Region Map Collection, along with photographic resources.
  • Popular culture enthusiasts will find a motherload of material in the Driscoll Collection of American Sheet Music.
  • Students interested in the settlement house movement can examine the extensive papers of Graham Taylor, a leading figure in this effort to “tame” the city’s wildness.
  • Those who instead wish to focus their research on Buenos Aires will find plenty of materials relating to their interests in the Edward E. Ayer and William B. Greenlee collections as well as elsewhere.


Brian Bockelman
Brian Bockelman

Brian Bockelman
Ripon College




David Miller
David Miller

David Miller
Allegheny College

2011: Crossing Boundaries – Diane Lichtenstein (English, Beloit College) and Linda Sturtz (history, Beloit College)

The Fall 2011 Seminar will focus on geographic, national, racial/ethnic, and gender role boundaries and the myriad ways in which those boundaries were crossed and re-crossed between 1492 and 1900 as Europeans traversed the Atlantic, indigenous people con-fronted newcomers, and Africans crossed the ocean and cultures, usually by force. It will also emphasize the constructions and representations of identities in the border spaces.

Colombus map
A map hand-drawn by Christopher Columbus. Photo courtesy of the Newberry Library.

Frontiers, borders, and “middle grounds” define the geographic and cultural spaces that shape the experiences of people living in locations where interactions with “others” are common. “Boundary crossing” is an especially rich topic for research in the humanities and social sciences—and especially for the unique collections of the Newberry Library.

During the first half of the semester we will meet regularly to explore the Newberry’s collections and to discuss common texts including Native Americans’ representations of Europeans, slaves’ own accounts of their lives, popular fiction, photographs, and music. We will also study maps to understand how people and ideas “flowed” across geographic and national boundaries.  In addition we will study theories about boundaries, their crossings, and the cultural genesis that occurs in those border spaces.

During the second half of the semester, students will conduct original, extensive research using the Newberry Library’s multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural resources.  Throughout the semester we will examine the role of scholarly conversation and debate in shaping inquiry (the questions scholars ask), research (investigation into the sources), and writing (framing conclusions).

Newberry Resources

For participants in the Fall 2011 Seminar, the Newberry Library’s collections hold extraordinary riches for exploring the topic of boundary crossing. Countless opportunities exist for significant independent research in many fields.  History majors and Art students can investigate the Edward E. Ayer Collection which contains 1,350 single manuscripts and manuscript collections written by both whites and Indians as well as photographs and art works.  Students from any discipline with a reading knowledge of French, German, Spanish, Latin or Portuguese will be able to delve into seldom-used texts in those languages by individuals who crossed geographic borders throughout the Americas such as Humboldt’s 1811 account of Mexican culture including its technological achievements, Dominican friars’ accounts of their missions among the Mixtec and Chochona peoples of Mexico, or early French accounts of their settlements in the Caribbean, Canada, or New Orleans. Creative Writing majors can examine nineteenth-century mid-western literary journals such as the Prairie Flower.  Women’s/Gender Studies students can compare the ways in which gender roles operated among groups that met in the “borderlands” of contact.  Religion majors might want to explore new acquisitions from Lane Theological Seminary in the context of antebellum American Protestantism.  And Music students can explore the Driscoll collection of early U.S. printed sheet music.



Diane Lichtenstein
Beloit College, English

Linda Sturtz
Beloit College, History

2010: On the Road: Intercultural Encounters in Europe and the Americas – David George (modern languages and literatures, Lake Forest College) and Benjamin Goluboff (English, Lake Forest College)

From explorers to immigrants to tourists, ours is a world in motion. Ancient peoples followed the movement of wild game. Native Americans migrated across the continent. Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere against their will. Nineteenth-century Americans looked for whatever was beyond the frontier, while their children and grandchildren visited Europe to soak up the culture. Whatever the motive, humans are rarely still.

The Fall 2010 Newberry Seminar in the Humanities will take a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary look at travel and travel writing – surveying Europe, Latin America, and the United States – across more than 400 years of history. The seminar will compare European experiences and texts with their New World counterparts from the United States and Latin America.

The first five to six weeks of the seminar will focus on group reading and discussion, looking at travel narratives from the ages of European discovery and conquest, the American frontier, and modern tourism. Through these readings and discussions, seminar participants will encounter a representative body of travel accounts while being introduced to the Newberry’s extraordinary collections, refining their individual research projects, and developing critical perspectives.

The heart of the seminar will be students’ independent research. While research projects need not be about travel, the Newberry’s holdings are a splendid resource for the study of travel and travel writing. The collections about the European exploration and settlement of North America are virtually bottomless. Students can explore Cortes’s first reports from the Americas, discover how American Indians’ maps of the land compared to John Smith’s, trace how the Grand Canyon – described by early explorers as a wasteland – was rehabilitated as a national treasure and tourist destination.

The Newberry offers extensive holdings in European and North American travel guides, rare accounts of U.S. tourists abroad, and documents and ephemera relating to the development of the railroads in North America. The Library’s extensive cartography collection has a wealth of maps and atlases, from 15th-century portolan charts that guided sailors through the Mediterranean to 20th-century tourist road maps of the American West.

This seminar will present many opportunities for students in a variety of fields. Historians will be able to delve into voyages of discovery and conquest, colonial life, independence movements, slavery, and the experience of Native Americans. Philosophers can consider how travel accounts influenced Rousseau’s conception of human nature. Students interested in literature can look at fictional and non-fictional travel narratives, including first editions of More’s Utopia, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and many more.

For students particularly interested in Latin America, the Newberry’s Edward E. Ayer Collection on the American Indian and the William B. Greenlee Collection on Portuguese and Brazilian history will be very useful. Here they will find material relating to travel in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies and subsequent republics. Those in religious studies will be able to look at 400 years of Catholicism in Spain and the Americas, religious practices of Native Americans, and African traditions in the New World such as vodun, santería, and macumba.

The Newberry seminar can be a decisive experience for humanities majors who consider a future in graduate study. It fosters a collaborative spirit among its participants who live and work together on Chicago’s Gold Coast, and offers the opportunity to work closely with Newberry staff as well as with the two ACM faculty members who lead the program.


David George
Lake Forest College, Modern Languages and Literatures (Ph.D. University of Minnesota)

Benjamin Goluboff
Lake Forest College, English (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania)

2009: Placing Race: Investigating the History and Memory of Racial Pasts – Jane Rhodes (American studies, Macalester College) and Lynn Hudson (history, Macalester College)

Students will have the opportunity to discover and investigate the meanings attached to race across time and space.  This seminar will draw on the groundbreaking scholarship about histories of race, race relations, and racial representations that are the foundation of interdisciplinary fields such as American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Cultural Studies, as well as United States history. The seminar’s location at the Newberry Library enables students to have access to a world-renowned collection of manuscripts, documents, visual culture, and other primary sources that can shape our understanding of race from the colonial era to the present. Students will have the opportunity to conduct research guided by two scholars who are experts in the field.

One of the central tenets of this scholarship—and of this seminar—is that meanings attached to race are historically constructed and dependent upon a number of constitutive conditions such as gender, class, and status (free or slave, for example).  Definitions of race also depend upon time and place. The way we often explain this in an introductory class would be to use the example that a person called “colored” in Jamaica in 1850 would be “black” in New Orleans.  We have found that the best scholarship on racial construction—whether the place under investigation is France, Canada, or Ghana—makes these frameworks explicit.

Students in the twenty-first century have important questions about the role and representation of race in their world.  Recent developments in the U. S. presidential campaign, for example, make explicit the significance attached to shifting meanings of racial identity.  Sadly, students rarely have a chance to explore the history of these meanings and to see for themselves—and in the archives—how meanings of race take shape, and how they change over time and space.

There will be four workshop themes:

  • Native America and the U.S. West,
  • Slavery and Abolition,
  • Orientalism at Home and Abroad, and
  • The Great Migration.

These topics will guide the seminar’s reading and provide background for student research.  Student’s will be encouraged to make use of resources across the city of Chicago.

After four weeks of intensive study and proposal writing, students will launch into their independent research.  The group will come together in a regular collaborative workshop to report on their progress, give each other feedback and suggestions, and discuss inevitable problems and roadblocks.  Students will also meet independently with faculty to review their research.  The culmination of the semester will be a research symposium, designed by the students, in which they will present the results of their research.


Jane Rhodes
American Studies and Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Macalester College (PH.D. University of North Carolina)

Lynn Hudson
History, Macalester College (PH.D. University of Indiana)

2008: Community and Memory: Texts, Images and Monuments – Ellen Joyce (history, Beloit College) and Hannah Schell (philosophy & religious studies, Monmouth College)

The 2008 Newberry Seminar in the Humanities will investigate the intersection of community and memory in Western culture, from the Middle Ages to the present.

How do communities remember their past and how do those narratives of memory influence the present? How do such narratives form the identity of a community, whether social, political or religious in nature? How does literature reflect or reshape memory? How do communities remember their dead? Seminar participants may look at a variety of communities, from medieval monks and nuns to Mormons on the American frontier, from planned communities such as the Pullman company in South Chicago to more abstract notions such as “textual communities.”

illuminated manuscriptFollowing the usual practice of the Newberry Seminar, the class will meet regularly over the first weeks of the semester to discuss common readings that will provide a shared context and language for the seminar’s work. The seminar will be structured thematically, focusing on the relationship between reading, writing and memory; theories about “community” and “memory”; and explorations of various types of community (intellectual, religious, national, ethnic and political). The seminar will also take advantage of the Library’s setting, using the city of Chicago as a “text” to be explored through social activities and field trips.

The heart of the seminar will be students’ individual research, supported by the seminar faculty and the Library staff. In the early weeks of the term, Library staff will visit the class to introduce the Newberry’s eclectic and fascinating collections, including novels, histories, philosophical treatises, plays, and maps. During this time, students will meet one-on-one with the seminar faculty to develop their independent research topics. As they begin their own explorations of the Library’s collections, students will present their discoveries in class.

Throughout the second half of the term, students typically spend most of their time working independently, allowing them to dig deeply into their own interests and the Library’s wealth of materials to produce a substantial research paper, usually in the range of 60 pages. Students continue to meet with the seminar faculty and Library staff throughout the term, receiving guidance as their research projects develop. Each student also connects with a mentor from among the Newberry’s resident scholars who can offer advice on research, writing or careers. At various points during the term, students will present their works-in-progress to their colleagues and critique each other’s work. During the last week they will make formal presentations of their research to the Newberry community.

This seminar’s broad topic lends itself to research in a variety of disciplines. Students with literary interests might look at how a novelist’s community shapes storytelling or how literature can serve to preserve certain aspects of a community’s experience while silencing other voices. History majors could research how a particular document does or does not reflect historical memories or could explore the tensions between various ways of constituting and defining identity. Religion majors could investigate memorials as ritual sites. Students of sociology or anthropology might focus on a particular community within Chicago and explore how it has historically constructed its identity.

While students are encouraged to write on topics connected to the theme of the seminar, any topic appropriate to the Newberry collection, and identified early in the semester, may be chosen by a student with a particular research interest.


Ellen Joyce
History, Beloit College (Ph.D., University of Toronto)

Ellen Joyce studies the history of Medieval Europe and is especially engaged with questions about the role that the medieval church played in shaping Western European culture between the eighth and twelfth centuries…

Hannah Schell
Religious Studies, Monmouth College (Ph.D., Princeton University).

1965-2007 Topics

  • 2007: Words and Deeds: Speech and Action in Western Culture – Kevin Miles (philosophy, Earlham College) and Robert Southard (history, Earlham College)
  • 2006: On the Road: Intercultural Encounters in Europe and the Americas – David George (foreign languages and literatures, Lake Forest College) and Benjamin Goluboff (English, Lake Forest College)
  • 2005: The Problem of Slavery and Visions of Freedom in Western Culture – Robert Bennett (classics, Kenyon College) and Glenn McNair (history, Kenyon College)
  • 2004: Encountering Worlds: Human Views of Nature – Carol Neel (history, Colorado College) and John Horner (psychology, Colorado College)
  • 2003: Picturing the Past: Studies in the Visual Representation of History – Clay Steinman (communication studies, Macalester College) and Paul Solon (history, Macalester College)
  • 2002: Confluence of Cultures: Histories and Fictions of the Americas – Gilberto Gómez-Ocampo (modern languages, Wabash College) and James Fisher (theatre, Wabash College)
  • 2001: Religion and Secularism – David Spadafora (history, Lake Forest College) and Richard Mallette (English, Lake Forest College)
  • 2000: Enlightenment Dreams/Enlightenment Realities – James Diedrick (English, Albion College) and Deborah Kanter (history, Albion College)
  • 1999: Art and Culture – James Martin (music, Cornell College) and Susan Wolverton (theater arts, Coe College)
  • 1998: Unmasking Gender – Carla Zecher (French, Coe College) and Terry Heller (English, Coe College)
  • 1997: The Contested Past: Histories and Fictions of Human Conflict – Robert Warde (English, Macalester College) and Paul Solon (history, Macalester College)
  • 1996: Landscape and Culture – Juliana Mulroy (biology, Denison University) and William Nichols (English, Denison University)
  • 1995: The Paradox of Slavery and Freedom in the Western World – Harry M. Williams (history, Carleton College) and Darrell LaLone (anthropology, DePauw University)
  • 1994: Frontiers of the Land, Frontiers of the Mind – Lance Factor (philosophy, Knox College) and Laurel Carrington (history, St. Olaf College)
  • 1993: The Self in Context – James Cook (English, Albion College) and James Diedrick (English, Albion College)
  • 1992: The Dialogue with Progress – (David Hopper (religion, Macalester College) and James Fisher (theater, Wabash College)
  • 1991: Concepts of Freedom in the Modern Age – Paul Cohen (history, Lawrence University) and Deborah VanBroekhoven (history, Ohio Wesleyan University)
  • 1990: Distant Encounters: Journeys and the Image of the Other – Kathleen Adams (anthropology, Beloit College) and Charles Stoneburner (English, Denison University)
  • 1989: The Self in Context: Exploration of Selfhood in Western Culture – James Cook (English, Albion College) and Peter Frederick (history, Wabash College)
  • 1988: Cultural Encounters in the New World – Pamela Jensen (political science, Kenyon College) and Donald Irving (English/American studies, Grinnell College)
  • 1987: The Ruling Taste: Governmental Influence on European and American Culture – Debra Mancoff (art, Beloit College) and Lyman Leathers (history, Ohio Wesleyan University)
  • 1986: Cultural Ideals and Realities in History and Literature – Steve Fineberg (classics, Knox College) and Roy Wortman (history, Kenyon College)
  • 1985: Play and Society in Literature and History – Phyllis Gorfain (English, Oberlin College) and Clark Halker (history, Albion College)
  • 1984: Crime and Justice in Literature and History: the 16th-20th Centuries – Joseph Musser (English, Ohio Wesleyan University) and Charles Flynn (history, Denison University)
  • 1983: Love, Marriage and Family in Western History, 1100-1914 – Penny Gold (history, Knox College) and Warren Rosenberg (English, Wabash College)
  • 1982: Literature and Politics – Catherine Zuckert (political science, Carleton College) and Michael Zuckert (political science, Carleton College)
  • 1981: Cycles of Change: The Concept of Revolution in History, Politics, Art and Literature – Susan McCarthy (French, Hope College) and Peter Weisensel (history, Macalester College)
  • 1980: Public vs. Private: the Dilemma of Liberalism in England and America – William Frame, (political science, Kenyon College) and Randall Schrock (history, Earlham College)
  • 1979: Changing Concepts of Nature in the Western Tradition: Enlightenment in the 20th Century – John Riker (philosophy, Colorado College) and Charles Miller (political science, Lake Forest College)
  • 1978: Individualism and Community: Studies in the Relationship of Self and Society, 1750-1900 – Robert Fogerty (history, Antioch College) and Rosemary Jann (literature, Ripon College)
  • 1977: All Coherence Gone: the Modern World Emerging – Paul Solon (history, Macalester College) and Lowell Johnson (English, St. Olaf College)
  • 1976: Art and Capital: the Creative Arts in a Commercial World – Robert Shimip (history, Ohio Wesleyan University) and William Nichols (English, Denison University)
  • 1975: Myth and History: the Social Uses of the Imagined Past – E. Gordon Whatley (English, Lake Forest College) and Tom K. Barton (history, Colorado College)
  • 1974: The Machine in the Garden: the Impact of Industrialization on Society and Social Ideals – Richard Gamble (English, Coe College) and George Tselos (history, Monmouth College)
  • 1973: Alienation & the Search for Community: Studies in Literature and Social History – Robert Hellenga (English, Knox College) and Kirk Jeffrey (history, Carleton College)
  • 1972: Radicalism and the Radical Temperament: Studies in the American and English Traditions – Harley Henry (English, Macalester College) and James Stewart (history, Macalester College)
  • 1971: Eighteenth Century Enlightenment – Jean Kern (English, Coe College) and John Treon (history, St. Olaf College)
  • 1970: Origins of Anglo-American Culture, 1576-1688 – William Schutte (English, Lawrence University) and Thomas Schlereth (history, Grinnell College)
  • 1969: Renaissance –- Focus on the Elizabethan Court – Milton Krieger (history, Cornell College) and William Schutte (English, Lawrence University)
  • 1968: Nineteenth Century Studies – Michael Crowell (English, Knox College) and Henry Fritz (history, St. Olaf College)
  • 1967: Eighteenth Century Studies – Thomas Gilmore (English, Cornell College) and J. Lynn Osen (history, Beloit College)
  • 1966: Seventeenth Century Studies – Robert Irrmann (history, Beloit College) and Sheldon Zittner (English, Grinnell College)
  • 1965: Renaissance Studies – John J. Murray (history, Coe College) and Richard VanFossen (English, Cornell College)


Michael Vertovec, Assistant Program Manager
180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2020, Chicago, IL 60601
312.561.5934 / mvertovec@acm.edu

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