Don’t forget to check out our ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Frankenstein’ rare-book exhibits

This year we’ve got two — two! — exhibits for attendees to view at Wilson Library. Read on for a guest post on our “Northanger Abbey” display by teaching fellows Taras V. Mikhailiuk and Carlie N. Wetzel, and a sneak peek at our exhibit on “Frankenstein.” Both exhibits will be open on Thursday, June 14, so make sure to make your way to UNC’s campus to view these great treasures. (The “Frankenstein” exhibit runs through Aug. 26.)

‘Northanger Abbey: Imagination & the Gothic’

This year’s exhibit is “Northanger Abbey: Imagination & the Gothic.” Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817) and the texts that surround it engage with one or both of these concepts. We celebrate the bicentennial of Austen’s novel with this rare-books exhibit. Like Frankenstein, Northanger Abbey examines the tangles and twists of imagination and pushes against the limits of the Gothic as a literary genre.

Title page of the 1907 edition of Northanger Abbey, illustrated by C. E. Brock (Photo courtesy of the Rare Book Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

To exemplify this theme in the novel, we selected this 1907 edition of Northanger Abbey, which boasts delicately colored illustrations by Charles Edmund Brock (1870–1938), a famous English painter, line artist and book illustrator. The frontispiece image shows the unexpected meeting of Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe in Bath. It seems a moment after the initial excitement of their surprise has subsided and the ladies settled into a happy conversation catching up on everything that happened since they last met.

Other images in this edition similarly represent a particular episode or moment in Northanger as an excerpt caption guides the reader to the appropriate place in the novel. This precise pairing of the illustration and the text is striking, carefully drawing our attention to the vividness of Austen’s language. We enjoy the artist’s imagining of particular scenes, while each illustration also directs our pleasure back to the enjoyment of Northanger. Just like these images visualize the novel for us, they also showcase the Edwardian fascination with the novel’s power to stimulate imagination almost a century after its first publication.

Title page of William Gilpin’s famous text on the picturesque, Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, . . . Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty (1782) (Photo courtesy of the Rare Book Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

William Gilpin’s Observations formulated the picturesque in a way that shaped aesthetic ideas, promoted domestic tourism, and stimulated a widespread interest in Gothic architecture—what art historians term the Gothic Revival. Henry Tilney’s talk of “foregrounds, distances, and second distances—side-screens and perspectives—lights and shades” displays this popular taste.

Gilpin’s Observations also promoted a fascination with remnants of the Medieval past that permeate Gothic literature. Catherine Morland absorbs this cultural trend through her reading of Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic novels and can’t wait to visit Northanger Abbey. Although Henry’s discussion of the picturesque baffles her, Catherine is a beneficiary—or perhaps a victim—of a wider cultural iteration of Gilpin’s idea of the picturesque and the Gothic.

Fashion plate from Sacheverell Sitwell’s Gallery of Fashion, 1790-1822: From Plates by Heideloff and Ackermann (1949) (Photo courtesy of the Rare Book Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The exhibit also features a collection of reproduced fashion plates titled Gallery of Fashion, 1790-1822. These beautiful fashion plate series were decorated with watercolor and metallic embellishments, and they depict the English and classic influences on dress after the French Revolution, particularly the popularity of high-waisted garments.

Many discussions about dress appear in Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and Doris Langley Moore’s note on the fashion plate pictured here describes it as “a perfect illustration for the novels of Jane Austen.” The garment is a “promenade pelisse of gros de Naples,” meaning an outer garment of silk, with “vandyked epaulettes,” or shoulder pieces with decorative edging, and a “patent lace ruff” at the neck. The woman depicted also sports a “black silk bonnet with full plume and cerulean silk under the brim.” One might imagine Mrs. Allen dressing in this fashion at the pump room in Bath and happily noting that “the lace on Mrs. Thorpe’s pelisse was not half so handsome as that on her own.” Here a history of fashion helps us visualize the microcosm of the novel created by Austen’s imagination.

About the curators:

Taras V. Mikhailiuk is a Ph.D. student and Teaching Fellow in English at UNC-CH. His research focuses on the unsayable in English Romantic poetry. Taras also serves as an Assistant Editor for the Keats-Shelley Journal. He lives in Durham, NC, with his wife and their four young children.

Carlie N. Wetzel is a Ph.D. student and Teaching Fellow in English at UNC-CH. She earned her B.A. at Colgate University in 2014. Her research focuses on elegiac English Romantic poetry. Carlie also serves as Editorial Intern for the Keats-Shelley Journal.


Selections from the June 14 exhibit will be on view through July 31 in the display cases on the main floor of the Wilson Library next to the special collections research room. The display will be available for viewing during regular hours.

‘Reconstructing Frankenstein’s Monster: Mary Shelley’s World in Print’

Reconstructing Frankenstein’s Monster: Mary Shelley’s World in Print,” an exhibit of rare books and medical instruments that illuminate the contexts of Frankenstein, opened April 26 in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Room at UNC’s Wilson Library. It was curated during Spring Semester 2018 by nine honors students in Jeanne Moskal’s English 295H undergraduate research seminar, with the help of Grant Glass, the course’s graduate research consultant,  and of Wilson Library’s Emily Kader and Rachel Reynolds, who designed its museum-studies approach. Emily Sferra produced two audiocasts to accompany the exhibit, one for adults and one for children.

Logbook of HMS Salsette, in which Byron’s famous swim across the Hellespont was first recorded. Byron and his fellow swimmer Lt. William Ekenhead were passengers on the Salsette. Photo credit: UNC Libraries.

Here is an excerpt from Jeanne Moskal’s welcome at the opening celebration. “With considerable envy, Mary Shelley’s step-sister characterized Frankenstein as ‘a novel that by its originality knock[ed] all other novels on the head.’ In its 200 years, Frankenstein has given Western culture its go-to metaphor for humanity’s relationship to science, as the word ‘FrankenFoods’ attests. It has inspired innumerable reboots in film, TV, and material culture. This exhibit returns us to sources of the 1818 novel, walking us through the plot, quoting salient passages, and displaying carefully-chosen objects that illuminate Mary Shelley’s world. Mary Shelley was the same age as our undergraduate curators when she wrote and published Frankenstein. Most days this semester, I have witnessed firsthand the curators’ creativity, their smarts, and their ability to ask hard questions. And, many evenings this semester, I have been riveted by screens where young student activists prick our gun-numbed consciences. These contrapuntal experiences have fostered a new hope in me for the future our students and their nationwide cohort will lead. On its bicentenary, we reflect on Frankenstein’s strength, its uncanny ability to address generations of readers and viewers in new ways. Frankenstein is strong, in part, because it strips away the daily routines that distract us from the wonder that life itself deserves. Since the scientist’s experiment could easily have failed, we feel more keenly its triumph when his 1931 cinematic avatar exclaims: ‘It’s alive! It’s alive!’ For most of us this awareness is fleeting, prompted by contact with newborns, say, or with the freshly bereaved.

Phantasmagoriana (1812), the collection of ghost stories that inspired Mary Shelley to Frankenstein.

“With more stamina, Martin Heidegger wrote a weighty philosophical tome that began, ‘Why is there something, instead of nothing?’ The experiment could have failed but did not. More recently, Lin-Manuel Miranda has renewed Mary Shelley’s invitation to marvel—and to tremble—at life itself. His character Eliza Hamilton sings: ‘Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now. … The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.'”

This exhibit and the 2018 Jane Austen Summer Program contribute to hundreds of worldwide celebrations of Frankenstein‘s bicentenary, which culminate in “FrankenReads,” marathon readings of the novel on (when else?) Halloween. The Keats-Shelley Association of America has a complete list of events, as well as suggested teaching materials, and ideas for organizing your own celebration, at

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Photo credit: UNC Libraries.

Playlists while you pack for the Jane Austen Summer Program

My Post (27).jpgWhile you’re digging through your closet to start packing for the Jane Austen Summer Program, we’ve got playlists to keep you moving. What songs are perfect for thinking about Catherine Morland and Victor Frankenstein? Listen up:

Catherine Morland

Catherine’s playlist combines dark, rhythmic melodies (Halsey’s “Castle”), murder ballads (the Secret Sisters’ “Iuka”), dashes of romance (Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” from, ahem, “Twilight,” a story Catherine would probably love) plus some upbeat tunes to make you dance. Spotify not displaying below? CLICK HERE.


Victor Frankenstein/Creature

This playlist is more rock-oriented and darker than Catherine’s, with tracks such as Evanescence’s gothic “Bring Me to Life,” Southern roots rock such as Barns Courtney’s “Fire” and Bastille’s “Oblivion.” Spotify not displaying below? CLICK HERE.

Dining around JASP: What are you in the mood for?

The Jane Austen Summer Program is drawing ever closer, and if you’re already making plans to meet up with friends, we’ve got you covered. In 2016, we rounded up a few restaurants to try around the hotel, but here’s a more tailored list.

oakleaf.pngI want to eat someplace new: Oakleaf. This farm-to-table restaurant, a recent transplant from Pittsboro, opened this year. Oakleaf spotlights seasonal ingredients, with a menu that changes daily. Recent dishes included tagliatelle with spinach, ramps and Parmigiano. You’ll want to make reservations. 310 E. Main St., Carrboro. 0.1 miles from hotel.


als.pngI want to eat outdoors: Al’s Burger Shack. This fast-food joint specializes in, well, burgers, as well as hot dogs and milkshakes made from local ingredients. Next door to the main building you can grab a seat outside; some seats are semi-enclosed. (Note: Al’s offers a vegetarian burger.) 516 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill. 0.2 miles from hotel.


bonchon.pngI want to eat something fried (I’m in the South, after all): Bonchon. This chain serving made-to-order Korean fried chicken opened on East Franklin Street this winter. The menu includes Korean favorites such as bibimbap (rice with vegetables) and bulgogi (sauteed beef). 205 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill. 1 mile from hotel.


gray.pngI want a good cup of coffee: Gray Squirrel Coffee Co. This casual spot roasts its own coffee and offers drip coffee and espresso. Note the early closing hours: 6:30 to 3:30 during the week, 7:30 to 4:30 on the weekend. 360 E. Main St., No. 100, Carrboro. 367 feet from hotel (across the parking lot).


Untitled design (5)I want a glass of wine with dinner: Glasshalffull. This restaurant offers season American fare, with gluten-free and vegetarian options available. The wine list includes vino from Italy, France, Argentina and Austria. 106 S. Greensboro St., Carrboro. 0.3 miles from hotel.


steel.pngI want to grab a beer: Steel String Brewery. If you’re looking for craft beer, you won’t have to go far from the hotel. Steel String has a number of beers, including ales, sours and a coffee stout. 106A S. Greensboro St., Carrboro. 0.3 miles from hotel.


target.pngI want to buy snacks for my hotel room — oh, and I forgot socks at home: Target. If you forgot something at home or are looking for snacks, you can always visit the Target on Franklin Street. The national chain opened this store shortly after JASP last summer. This being a college town, it’s open until midnight daily. 143 W Franklin St, Suite 120, Chapel Hill. 0.6 miles from hotel.