How Gale Literature Provided Vital Support for My Dissertation

Academic Library Book shelves

│By Rhiannon Green, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham│

The thought of researching and writing a dissertation is often a daunting prospect for any student, yet this is even more relevant for those studying in the Covid-19 era. As an English Literature student, I am heavily reliant on my university library, so when lockdown meant I was stuck at home nearly 300 miles away, I thought it would be impossible to get any work done – let alone start the research process for my dissertation. Closed libraries and remote learning have left many students clueless as to how to obtain relevant resources, yet this is where the Gale Reference Complete package comes in handy, with Gale Literature being especially useful for my own research and learning.

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Exploring Twentieth-Century Art and Social History in Erotica from L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

Montage of images from blog post, of images from L'Enfer collection

By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources

 Please be aware that this blog post contains content that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion. 

Enfer is a French word that translates to Inferno or Hell, and according to some religions, Hell is the place of punishment for the wicked, the damned, the morally corrupt, once death has befallen them. It is thus only fitting that books considered “contrary to public morality” should end up in Enfer. Aside from its literal meaning of Hell, Enfer is the shelf mark of the restricted books collection at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). A shelf mark is simply a notation or classification on a book showing its place in a library. In the 1830s, a time when the BnF was opening to a wider audience, the institution began to assign the Enfer classification to books considered to be obscene works. Whether the books were locked away because they truly were reprehensible, or merely to protect them from those who would proscribe or destroy them, it is to our benefit today as they have been preserved for our study.

On the subject of study, Enfer provides us with many opportunities to explore art and social history in a wide variety of imaginative works. While some of the books simply offer flights of fancy, erotic fantasies to titillate and arouse, many of the works in Enfer offer social commentary and criticism. After exploring the fantastic imagery in texts from the seventeenth to nineteenth century, I was intrigued to continue my search and explore how imagery developed in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, when authors and artists were often at the forefront of the social and cultural movements of their time.

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Exploring Early Modern Erotica and Social History in L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

L'Enfer Imagery - Part 1 post montage

│By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources│

 Please be aware that this blog post contains content that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion. 

Back when Playboy, “an American men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazine”, was still publishing, the usual comment from anyone observed purchasing an issue from the newsstand was, “I just get it for the articles.” In the case of my latest research foray into L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque national de France, I really was just looking for the pictures.

As so often happens in research, we travel down one path, only to encounter interesting intersections. I started out studying the evolution of beauty and body standards in erotic art through the centuries. Along the way, I became equally as interested in the books themselves. The histories of the lives of some of the authors and artists was intriguing. The motivations and movements behind the books they wrote were fascinating. The themes and agendas written into the texts were engrossing. There are a wealth of topics to explore once you slip beneath the covers of the books and plumb the depths of Enfer.

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Misanthrope or Friend of Man? Revising the Byronic Hero with Gale Primary Sources

The reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi by Theodoros Vryzakis

By Harry Walker, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham

“I stood among them, but not of them.” This famous quote is from Lord Byron’s poetry and one which formed the basis of the discussion in my final essay at university. The line is taken from his early work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and has come to epitomise the “Byronic hero’s” attitude towards sociability for posterity, portraying him as a misanthropic, isolated figure. My essay argued that the idea of the “Byronic hero” as a misanthrope was more complex than this quote in isolation would suggest. My essay was naturally, being a literature essay, focused on the manifestation of this idea in his poetry. However, it was useful to support my argument with contextual details about his own social life, seeing as the “Byronic hero” is semi-autobiographical. This is where I found Nineteenth Century Collections Online and Gale Literature: Dictionary of Literary Biography to be instrumental. This blog post shows how I used these great resources to support my argument.

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The Phantom of Popularity

"Tills ringing Phantom keeps audiences enthralled." Financial Times, 30 Apr. 2007, p. 20. Financial Times Historical Archive

│By Evelyn Moran, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway│

Most of us grow up watching musicals on TV, our childhood a medley of singing animals and cartoon princesses. Sometimes we even sing the songs in the shower. As a society we’ve created academic courses on the subject and vigorously debated the merits of live shows versus DVDs. One musical that has without a doubt entered the collective consciousness is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, itself an adaptation of the Gaston Leroux novel. Phantom has left its imprint on pop culture and on the theatre. In this blog post I use Gale Primary Sources to learn more about the musical, which movies may have influenced it, and perhaps shed some light on how it has so enchanted us.

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“Whoever Expected Prophets to Agree?” – Predicting the Future One Hundred Years Ago

: New aeroplane designs shown off at the 1920 International Aircraft Exhibition in Paris

│by Matthew Trenholm, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter│

In my last blog, I chose to focus on one Gale archive, Nineteenth Century Collections Online, but this time I wanted to demonstrate the full power of the Gale Primary Sources platform by looking at one topic across many archives simultaneously. The topic I have chosen is “the future” and what people a century ago believed it would look like. “The future” is an idea that is still endlessly debated, from dire warnings to wonderful promises; there is always something to discuss and the same was true a century ago. So, let’s jump into the archives and take a look at what the prophets of 1920 were saying!

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Liberating, Stultifying or Provocative: Mary Quant’s Miniskirt

Mary Quant

│By Eloise Sinclair, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham│

Mary Quant’s miniskirt of 1966 not only transformed the look of London’s youth but, according to Jonathan Aitken in a 1967 article in The Sunday Telegraph, inspired the “swinging revolution, the sexual revolution, the restaurant and night-club revolution”. The newspaper archives in Gale Primary Sources are particularly valuable for assessing the effect of Quant’s designs on the fashion industry and British culture, revealing the range of contemporary responses and reactions to this iconic item of clothing.

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Are We Obsessed with Serial Killers?

Newspaper advert for a book: What makes a serial killer?

│By Chloe Villalon, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway│

In the last decade, television series such as Dexter, Mindhunter and Bates Motel have encountered overwhelming success. Based on true events or completely fictional, the narratives are told from the investigators’ or killer’s perspective. The public is not only interested in the gory, bloody aspect of serial killing cases but the science behind understanding and catching serial killers. Many such programmes try to answer the key question: Why do serial killers kill? Using Gale Primary Sources and its many research tools, I will use this blog post to explore the topic of serial killers, considering questions such as: where does the term “serial killer” come from and what does it mean? And what is the role of the media in serial killing cases?

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How Gale Primary Sources Helped Me with My Dissertation – and Can Help You Too!

Women on laptop

│By Lily Deans, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham│

Writing a dissertation is undoubtedly daunting, no matter how competent or confident you may feel by the time you proudly hand in the 12,000-word masterpiece! Just like writing a good essay, it is not just your own opinion that gets you the marks, but the opinions of others – and the way you use these opinions to either substantiate or contradict what you have said. So, naturally, the wider, more varied and unique the sources are that you use, the better awareness you will show of the existing discourse, and thus the more convincing your argument will be. “Ah yes,” I hear you say, “but where can I find these unique sources?” Well, with Gale Primary Sources, of course! This blog will show briefly the quantity and variety of sources I have found in Gale’s archives as I have been researching and writing my dissertation.

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Heroic Hedgehogs – The Hedgehog in Popular Culture

Hedgehog in a cup

│by Constance Lam, Gale Ambassador at the University of Durham University│

The twenty first century marks the return of the hedgehog: from the recent February 14th release of Sonic the Hedgehog, to the rise of hedgehog cafés throughout Japan and Hong Kong, it seems hedgehogs are resurfacing in popular culture.

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