Category Archives: Illuminating Explorations

Weird and Wonderful Little Books

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.

I’m proud to wrap up the UT Libraries triptych of zine exhibits with Weird and Wonderful Little Books: An Abbreviated History of Chapbooks Published in Austin. My colleagues Daniel Arbino and Sydney Kilgore released their exhibits earlier this year, featuring selections from the zine collections from the Fine Arts Library and the Benson Latin American Collection. Zines have a reputation for being edgy and subversive and are associated with punk and anarchist politics. That reputation at first blush doesn’t seem to align with poetry, but poetry chapbooks and zines have an intertwined history. (See our blog post “Have You Zine It?” for further discussion of these intersections between chapbooks and zines.)

Chapbooks have a curious history. Some scholars argue that the term is a combination of “cheap books” and “chapmen.” (Chapmen were traveling salesmen who wandered England and Scotland with thin, paper-bound books throughout the early Modern era, circa 1500-1800.)[1] The current iteration of the American poetry chapbook is a distinctly 20th century phenomenon, linked to the technological advances of photocopying, desktop publication, and the internet. The UT Poetry Center in the Perry-Castañeda Library includes local poetry chapbooks from the last 40 years. My new online exhibit presents features this collection, with chapbooks from different small presses operating in Austin.

Cover of the poetry chapbook Night Diner: A Report to Edward Hopper by Albert Huffstickler. Cover art by Rob Lewis.

These little books play a profound role in poetry communities because they allow authors to share their work with their readers and fellow writers cheaply and easily. Writers can bypass the elitism and bureaucracy of boutique presses and mainstream publishing companies by self-publishing chapbooks or working with small local presses. These books, then, come with small price tags. Writers often only recoup their production costs, and some give their chapbooks away for free.[2]

This version of a literary gift economy has been alive in Austin since the 1970s. Many outsiders might assume that Austin’s art and culture begins and ends with live music, but Central Texas has a vibrant literary culture, built by dedicated writers and small press editors. This exhibit features chapbooks from the late 70s and early 80s that showcase Austin’s counter-culture and feminist voices, while contemporary examples represent the diversity of writers in this growing city, especially those from marginalized backgrounds.

By highlighting the presses, their editors, and, of course, the writers, I hope to bring to life and document Austin’s literary community. Emmalea Russo and Michael Newton, poets and small press editors, argue that chapbooks create “a space for makers to come together and look at each other’s work. So much of the value of poetry is the community that comes out of it—both in terms of relationships and as a way to discover new ideas. It means everything.” I hope that you will find these selections by Austin writers represent a community where poetry does, indeed, mean everything.[3]

Cover of the poetry chapbook The Queen’s Glory and the Pussy’s Box by Ebony Stewart. Cover art by RaShae L.A. Bell.

[1] Woodcock, Diana Gwen. “The Poetry Chapbook: Blessing or Curse?” International Journal of the Book 8, no. 3 (2011): 27.

[2] Ibid., 28.

[3] “Emmalea Russo and Michael Newton on Ugly Duckling Presse.” Poetry Society of America, n.d. https://poetrysociety.org/features/q-a-chapbook-publishers/emmalea-russo-and-michael-newton-on-ugly-duckling-presse.

On the Zine

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.

Zines, those do-it-yourself publications that have found renewed popularity in the last decade, provide a medium for different groups to cultivate their own forms of expression. And this expression can vary depending on the zine creator. Broadly speaking, recurring themes tend to interrogate identity (gender, sexuality, race), place (home, gentrification, nation), and time (childhood, adolescence, adulthood). For their part, audiences continue to flock to this form of cultural production because zines are affordable, rare, and allow unfettered access to the creator’s perspectives. Such access is significant as many zinesters come from historically marginalized groups that publishing companies have traditionally overlooked. Their perspectives tend to subvert or resist mainstream American ideas.   

A new exhibit, “You Are What You (Do Not) Eat: Decolonial Resistance in U.S. Latinx Zines,” aims to underscore this resistance by examining Latinx zines that interrogate food and its impact in shaping cultural identity. Zinesters draw on memoirs and artwork to promote plant-based diets and condemn colonial impositions regarding food, “healthy” bodies, and medicine. As an offshoot of food, the exhibit also highlights zines that discuss traditional healing, speciesism, and body positivity.

Viewers will find a nice array of zines, with contributors from as nearby as San Antonio and as far as Washington D.C. Some examples will be more text heavy while others will use mixed media to articulate their points.  

This collection will be of interest to anyone who is interested in zine culture, food studies, decolonial studies, and Latinx cultural production. My hope is that scholars will develop similar projects using zines. The print versions of these zines and others are available in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Room at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.  

Daniel Arbino is the Librarian for U.S. Latina/o Studies.

Illuminating Explorations: French Communism and Global Revolution

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.


Radical politics in Europe experienced a pronounced growth in strength and popularity in the early 20th century, both before and following the communist revolution in Russia in October 1917. France possessed a unique position in the continent-wide growth of leftist and labor-focused–and specifically communist and anarcho-syndicalist–parties and movements. The Paris Commune and its politics played an important role in the development of Marxism, which would later become the most prominent political position in politically successful leftist parties and revolutionaries from Russia to Western Europe. While very influential and popular throughout France in the early twentieth century, there were also significant forces opposed to the rise of left-wing sentiment both in France and across Europe. This exhibit curates a number of significant holdings of the UT Libraries surrounding communism in France, and is organized into sections containing pro-communist, anti-communist, and leftist but not explicitly pro-communist materials.

The exhibit aims to shed light on the varied political attitudes and interests active in Francophone literature at this time. These perspectives include explicitly pro-Leninist ideas, firmly in line with the Soviet-led Third International, or Comintern, to outwardly monarchist tracts opposed to the Bolshevik seizure of power. Also included are dissenting leftist opinions that, while decidedly pro-labor and in the leftist camp politically, are nevertheless not truly in line with the Soviet model of democratic centralism as propagated and put into practice by Lenin. In addition to French authors, the exhibit also represents a few pamphlets that are French translations of Russian texts, highlighting the truly international character of European socialism during this period.

The pamphlets presented here have been selected for this exhibit not only because of their importance to the UT Libraries’ distinctive collections, but because of their relevance to the political and socio-cultural history of Europe, both Western and Eastern, which continues to influence contemporary politics in France and beyond. Many of the publications also feature graphics and designs that will be of interest to anyone interested in the history of monographic design and publishing in the early to mid-twentieth century.

This collection will be of interest to anyone who would like to learn more about French-language history and propaganda, or who is interested in the development of socialist (specifically communist) and anti-socialist ideologies in Europe. The print versions of the pamphlets are available at the Perry-Castañeda Library and their digitized versions are available through the UT Libraries’ Collections Portal.

Ian Goodale is the European Studies Librarian for UT Libraries.

Illuminating Explorations: Early Soviet Pamphlets on Revolution and War

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.



Political pamphlets played an important role in Soviet propaganda and education efforts, as they provided an easy-to-print and low-cost method for disseminating information to Soviet citizens. These short publications ranged across many different subjects including educational pamphlets promoting literacy among peasants, biographical sketches of popular figures such as Lenin, and pamphlets such as these, which cover a variety of topics related to the Soviet revolutions and military. The subjects of the pamphlets range from literacy manuals for soldiers, to the experiences of a war correspondent, to a booklet addressing the question of whether the Tsar and his family were still alive (note: the Soviet government kept the fact that the Tsar’s family had been murdered a secret from the general populace until 1926, and even after admitting the murders continued to deny that Lenin’s government was responsible).

Russian booklet

This exhibit aims to highlight this broad spectrum of pamphlets tied together by their military themes, illuminating the commonalities between them and how the Soviet government utilized print–often with striking graphics interspersed with the text–to further its agendas, whether they be educational and for the good of its citizens (as in the case of the pamphlets promoting literacy among soldiers) or aimed at bolstering military might, as in the case of the pamphlet encouraging youth to enroll in military schools. While the documents date from 1917 through to the early 1930s, the way in which they highlight the use of media to promote a state’s agenda is relevant to current events involving propaganda being used by states to promote their aims, both within their own countries and on a global stage.

Russian book

The pamphlets presented here have been selected for this exhibit not only because of their thematic unity and relevance to contemporary issues of propaganda and statecraft, but because of their ability to paint a broad portrait of the early Soviet Union and how citizens were communicated with through print. Many of the pamphlets also feature very attractive graphics that will be of interest to researchers and the public regardless of their familiarity with Soviet history.

Russian pamphlet

This collection will be of interest to anyone who would like to learn more about Soviet or Russian history and propaganda, and to anyone interested in the ways in which states have utilized propaganda–and continue to do so–to further their policies.

The print versions of these pamphlets are available at the Perry-Castañeda Library at UT Austin via the Library Storage Facility. Fully digitized copies of the pamphlets are available through the UT Austin Libraries’ institutional repository, Texas ScholarWorks.

Ian Goodale is the European Studies Librarian for UT Libraries.

Illuminating Explorations: Satire at the End of the Ottoman Empire

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.

Esad Arseven, Celal and Cimcoz, Selah, “That's a Young Turk, My Son." 1908.
Esad Arseven, Celal and Cimcoz, Selah, “That’s a Young Turk, My Son.” 1908.

Turkey, or the Ottoman Empire, has long occupied the political and strategic sights of the West. Today’s news often focuses on the constitutional amendments—in some cases styled as reforms––that the Erdoğan government has pursued. In Western academia and media, these maneuvers are most often read as an “Islamist” approach to governance; they may be more accurately labeled neoliberal, and indeed follow patterns shared with other eras of reform and significant political change in Turkish history.

In recognition of the contemporary significance of Turkish political change and development, UT Libraries’ “Satire After the Young Turk Revolution” online exhibit brings to the fore poignant political cartoons featured in the bilingual (Ottoman Turkish-French) weekly magazine Kalem. Kalem was founded following the Young Turk Revolution in the early 20th century, a movement that sought to implement significant political and social reforms in the late Ottoman Empire. These reforms and the political issues raised at the time would continue to roil Ottoman society through the First World War and into the formation of the Turkish Republic.

Esad Arseven, Celal and Cimcoz, Selah, “Funeral of the Eastern Question." 1908.
Esad Arseven, Celal and Cimcoz, Selah, “Funeral of the Eastern Question.” 1908.

The cartoon images have been selected for this exhibit because of their accessible meaning, illustration of the top issues of the time period, and aesthetic value. Kalem magazine was chosen for this exhibit because it represents UT Libraries’ rare Ottoman collections that are ripe for digitization to increase access for the public.

This exhibit will be of interest to those fascinated by pre-WWI Europe, the Ottoman Empire, satirical and political cartoons, and French publications in the Middle East. It will be of particular interest to researchers and students of the Middle East, early 20th century Europe, and popular art and literature across cultures.

Esad Arseven, Celal and Cimcoz, Selah, “Now the Ministers Do the Cleaning." 1908.
Esad Arseven, Celal and Cimcoz, Selah, “Now the Ministers Do the Cleaning.” 1908.

The print magazine is available at the Perry-Castañeda Library at UT Austin and through the Center for Research Libraries. An incomplete digital copy (issues 2 – 40) can be found through the HathiTrust Library. It is hoped that a full-color and complete digital copy of Kalem magazine will be available as an initiative of the Middle East Materials Project of the Center for Research Libraries.

Dale J. Correa is the Middle East Studies Librarian & History Coordinator for UT Libraries.

 

 

Pastorelas: Past and Present

“Illuminating Explorations” – This series of digital exhibits is designed to promote and celebrate UT Libraries collections in small-scale form. The exhibits will highlight unique materials to elevate awareness of a broad range of content. “Illuminating Explorations” will be created and released over time, with the intent of encouraging use of featured and related items, both digital and analog, in support of new inquiries, discoveries, enjoyment and further exploration.

Zayas, Manuel Antonio, El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo : pastorela en cuatro actos. 1853.
Zayas, Manuel Antonio, El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo : pastorela en cuatro actos. 1853.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many in the Latinx community are gearing up to celebrate both Christmas as well as Las Posadas. A lesser known celebratory act performed during the holiday season are the plays known as pastorelas. Pastorelas can be traced back to the 16th Century when Franciscan monks leveraged the strong artistic culture of the Mexica people in Tenochtitlan to evangelize them by incorporating Christian ideals into their performance tradition.

Historically, pastorelas have told the story of how Satan attempted to thwart the travels of the shepherds following the Star of Bethlehem in search of the baby Jesus. While pastorelas have maintained the general premise of good vs. evil, the roles of what constitutes both the good and the evil have changed to encompass contemporary issues that have faced the Latinx communities. Immigration, racism, politics, and a plethora of other topics have been incorporated into pastorelas to transmit opinions and ideas to audiences, both religious and secular.

Fragment of Aztec manuscript, 1520, written in Spanish on native paper, is an illustrated account of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. (G8 Ms.)
Fragment of Aztec manuscript, 1520, written in Spanish on native paper, is an illustrated account of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. (G8 Ms.)

While pastorelas have typically been an oral tradition, some have been transcribed to paper. A beautiful example of this is Manuel Antono Zayas’ “El triunfo de Jesús contra la lengua del diablo: pastorela en cuatro actoswritten in 1853. This illustrated play, held in the Benson Rare Books and Manuscript Collection, includes multiple hand drawn illustrations of the costumes to be worn during performances, including those of the angel, San Miguel, and even Satan himself.

Please visit the digital exhibit to see the beautiful illustrations in “el Triunfo” as well as some of the other spectacular rare books available to view from the Benson Collection. Also, peruse Zayas’ entire book, which has been digitized and can be viewed at Texas ScholarWorks.

Gilbert Borrego is the Digital Repository Specialist for Texas ScholarWorks, UT’s institutional repository (IR).