Darryl Dedelow ’10 – I am writing this at one of the most intellectual-stimulating, self-fulfilling moments of my life. I am at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut working on a research project on women and the Spanish Civil War with Dr. Isabel Jaén Portillo. The stories that I have to tell after just one week here are astonishing. In addition to visiting new sites and meeting numerous influential people in the academic community, I am spending close to six hours a day in the mesmerizing Sterling Memorial Library. Have you been in an environment where the air in the atmosphere has been as motivating to get to work than the project that you are working on? Well, that is the feeling that I get from the entire campus, no exaggerations. I have also posted some pictures from the different places that I have been and wow!
My Research Adventure
A good place to begin this adventure is the Yale Sterling Memorial Library. It is inexplicably gigantic. I truly believe that it is one of those places in which you have to have been yourself in order to feel the true grandness that it offers. However, in an attempt to describe it to you, I will start by painting the picture of an old, gothic church or even a cathedral, if you will. Upon entering a “church” of that magnitude one could usually encounter tall ceilings with arcs everywhere and painted glass windows. Well, that is what you encounter when you first walk into this library. I’ll be honest: the first time I entered the building I kept telling myself, “Darryl, don’t let your mouth drop and hang open in astonishment,” and, believe me, that was a lot harder to do than it sounded. The Yale Library is also a place of never-ending surprises, very similar to the “Babel Library” that the Latin-American writer, Jorge Luis Borges, described in his famous story. The library also reminded me of another text by Borges that I read for a Spanish course: “El etnógrafo,” where the protagonist is a Yale librarian. Its book collection is kept in “the stacks”, which consists of 14 floors, and the system that they have in place to find a book is so intricate that I was confused by just listening to Dr. Jaén Portillo explain it to me. However, after finding a couple of books with her I became familiar with the system and have acquired certain techniques to help me resolve any problems that I may encounter on my own.
In comparing the Yale Library to the New York Public Library, one finds of course similarities and differences. Therefore, I will now go through what one would do if they wanted to read a book from the New York Public Library. First they would need to fill out a little ticket, once they found a book or video that they desired at the electronic catalogue. The ticket is very similar to bank deposit tickets with, of course, the appropriate changes. For example, instead of an account number the slip asks for the call number of the book. Then one needs to take it to a designated area and give the ticket to a person who will give you a yellow copy of the ticket, for your records, and tell you when you could pick up the book. That’s right, you do not go and retrieve the book for yourself. My initial reactions to that system were mixed. On one hand I liked going and finding the book myself, indulging in a world of books beyond books beyond books; however, after seeing how complicated the Yale library could be I was grateful that I did not have to learn an entire new system.
Dr. Jaén Portillo and I have also worked at the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, which are located at the Tamiment Library in New York University. This library, in comparison to the others that I have described, contributed something altogether unique. The structure of the building was very open and conducive to studying. Not to mention the amazing view that one could acquire from simply looking out a window, which overlooked the mid-town Manhattan skyline. While we were examining the archives I was shocked at the realization that I have stumbled upon the actual letters that were written by Martha Gellhorn, a wife of Earnest Hemingway to the then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Reading those, as well as the testimonies of some of the American women who participated in the Spanish Civil War, was a momentous event that I am sure to remember from this excellent opportunity that I am grateful to have been given.
This aspect of my trip has been as exciting as I anticipated, and meeting renowned academic scholars has been especially humbling. Think about it, here I am a 20 year-old student who has just completed his second year of undergrad and is now spending a month at Yale University working on a research project that my advisor, Dr. Jaén Portillo, and I have created. We are investigating the role of women in the Spanish Civil War through literary texts, cinema, memoirs, historical documents, and other sources. This investigation began last semester, Spring 2009, and we plan to complete it during the spring of 2011. It is during my last semester of undergrad, Spring 2011 that we also plan to co-author a journal article. One could claim that I am slightly ambitious; well my response is that I am only utilizing the great resources that Wabash College has to offer as I am preparing myself for my future as an aspiring Spanish professor.
The scholars that I have meet here so far have been numerous but those who work in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese have been indeed a privilege to meet. I will begin by telling you about Professor Juliana Ramos, who is one of the language coordinators at the Yale Spanish Department. There is also Professor Yovanna Cifuentes who is working on neurolinguistics. I also met the chair of the Portuguese Department, Dr. David Jackson. However, the most relevant of the scholars that I could have meet for my project and did meet was Dr. Noël Valis. Dr. Valis has studied and published several books and articles about the Spanish Civil War and I was truly honored to have been in her presence. I was also very fortunate to be able to have a sit-down conversation with her and Dr. Jaén Portillo, during which I asked her a couple of questions about her latest book that I had read before our meeting. Professor Valis’s homepage at Yale is very descriptive and I found it to be quite interesting; therefore, I am attaching it immediately below this paragraph in case any of you are interested in this topic or in her research.