Thursday, 13 December 2018

Celebrating the Centenary of women’s suffrage

Centenary of women’s suffrage
2018 marks 100 years since women first got the vote and 14th December 1918 was the first time they could use their vote in an election.

Ilka Heale (Library Metadata Specialist) discovers some resources in the Library’s electronic collections.

CC BY 2.0 Flickr.com
1918 was a momentous year for women. On 6th February Parliament passed a law which allowed some women and all men to vote for the first time.

The Representation of the People Act extended the voting age for men to over the age of 21. More importantly women aged 30 and over, who met minimum property qualifications, were eligible to vote. In other words women now accounted for about 43% of the electorate.

To find out more about the history of women’s suffrage, read this ebook by suffragist campaigner Millicent Garrett Fawcett. However, it wasn’t until 14th December 1918 when the new electorate voted in their first election.

The 1918 General election was called immediately after the end of the First World War. Polling took place on 14th December 1918 but the vote counting did not start until after Christmas, to allow time to include the ballots cast by soldiers serving overseas.



Will There Be Women M.P.s? (1917)
In November 1918, the Government passed the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act which allowed women to be elected to Parliament. It was only one page long and stated “A woman shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage for being elected to or sitting or voting as a member of the Commons House of Parliament.”.

Image in the public domain. Wikipedia









Seventeen women stood in the 1918 general election. One was elected - Irish republican Countess Constance Markievicz, but as a member of Sinn Féin did not take her seat at Westminster. 

Read more about this remarkable woman in The rebel countess : the life and times of Constance Markievicz by Anne Marreco.

It wasn’t until December 1919 that Nancy Astor was successfully elected as the MP for Plymouth Sutton, becoming the first woman to sit in the House of Commons.

Electoral equality was finally realised in 1928. The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 gave the vote to women at age 21 regardless of any property qualification.


The Library has many ebooks and other online resources in it’s collections about the female suffrage movement. Below is a small selection but search YorSearch, the Library catalogue for others.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Paul Wittgenstein and left-handed piano works.

Paul Wittgenstein at the piano
Paul Wittgenstein at the piano, Bernard Fleishcher Moving Images. 
Given the theme of "Disability and music" for this year's UK Disability History month, Paul Wittegenstein is a figure whose life and work calls out to be remembered.

An Austrian by birth, Wittgenstein studied music in Vienna but was conscripted into the army in 1914. The same year, wounded by a Russian bullet, Paul Wittgenstein’s right arm was amputated and he recuperated as a prisoner of war in a Siberian camp. Despite the loss of his arm, Wittgenstein was determined to pursue a career as a concert pianist. Even whilst a prisoner of war, Wittgenstein designed techniques to help him practice and develop as a pianist. Recovering from his amputation in a prison hospital, Wittgenstein practiced on a keyboard drawn in charcoal on a crate. Later he would practice for up to seven hours at a time to develop his virtuoso skills. 


Wittgenstein’s determination to pursue a musical career despite his disability may have reflected his
Geza Zichy, seated, in formal dress
Geza Zichy, photograph from the Budapest Archives.
experience being taught musical theory in Vienna by Josef Labor. Labor was a successful organist, composer and tutor despite his blindness. Wittgenstein may also have drawn inspiration from Count Geza Zichy. Zichy was an aristocratic Hungarian who also lost his right arm, although not as a soldier but in a hunting accident as a teenager. Zichy went on to enjoy a successful career as a concert pianist, as well as variously working as a lawyer, acting as the Intendant of the Royal Hungarian Opera and the president of the Hungarian National Conservatory and producing musical compositions, several operas, an autobiography and two volumes of verse
He studied with the composer Franz Liszt with whom he became close friends and the two later gave concerts together. Zichy’s own compositions are not well-known, but amongst them he produced various piano compositions for the left hand alone, as well as arranging compositions by well-known composers as a piano piece for the left hand.

Zichy offered a model of a successful concert pianist and one who created a repertoire for himself after the loss of his arm. Rather than primarily writing pieces for himself to perform, Wittgenstein not only adapted existing compositions to be played with one hand, but also commissioned works by a range of composers. Like Zichy, Wittgenstein came from a wealthy background and commissioned work from composers including Benjamin Britten, Richard Strauss, Sergei Prokofiev and Maurice Ravel, with Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand probably the best known.



Whilst Wittgenstein performed some works widely, he received other commissioned compositions less gladly. Paul Hindemuth wrote a left handed concerto for Wittgenstein in 1923, but Wittgenstein did not understand the composition and filed it away unplayed. It was uncovered decades later in a house that belonged to Wittgenstein’s widow and finally premiered by Leon Fleisher in 2004.

Although Wittgenstein’s commissions and reputation created a new repertoire of work for pianists with only left hand, this did not automatically improve the selection of left handed works available. Wittgenstein retained sole right to perform the compositions he commissioned during his lifetime - even those which he chose not to perform. Like the unplayed work by Hindemuth, a 1931 concerto by Prokofiev remained unperformed by Wittgenstein. The pianist Siegfried Rapp had lost his right arm in the Second World War and in 1950 wrote to Wittgenstein for permission to perform the Prokofiev concerto. Wittgenstein denied him access to the work in no uncertain terms:
  “...those works to which I still have the exclusive performance rights are to remain mine as long as I still perform in public; that's only right and fair. Once I am dead or no longer give concerts, then the works will be available to everyone because I have no wish for them to gather dust in libraries to the detriment of the composer.”

Rapp eventually managed to obtain a score of the concerto from Prokofiev’s widow and premiered the concerto in 1956, to the annoyance of Wittgenstein. Despite his long career as a concert pianist, Paul Wittgenstein made few recordings. Those that exist were made towards the end of his career and are generally agreed to record him past his musical peak. As such Wittgenstein’s most significant musical legacy was to have commissioned and inspired so many works for left hand alone but he was reluctant to share these with those who could benefit most.

Wittgenstein lived a remarkable life. Surviving the loss of his arm and incarceration in a Russian prison camp during the First World War, he nevertheless pursued a career as a concert pianist. His family were of Jewish descent and during the 1930s and 1940s, became targets for Nazi persecution. Wittgenstein’s wife Hilde, herself partially sighted, was not from a Jewish family, leading to accusations of “racial defilement” and prompting Wittgenstein’s departure for the USA, followed later by his wife and children. Of his 4 brothers, 3 committed suicide. His surviving and youngest brother Ludvig followed a career in philosophy, studying with Bertrand Russell, going on to become one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. Wittgenstein’s life is an amazing story of survival and determination.


You can also explore further with related resources in the library, including those listed below:


Spotify Playlist:



Whilst Wittgenstein is the best known of the one handed pianists who performed through the 19th and 20th century, he was by no means the only one. There were and still are numerous composers and performers working in the music industry who have experienced the loss of one or more limbs. Check out our playlist to hear a selection of their work, as well as Rapp’s performance of Prokofiev and Wittgenstein playing the renowned Ravel composition written for him: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7kj4znmMoaQwFoXkXRUo3l

Music scores:



  • Parergon zur Sinfonia domestica: fur Klavier (linke Hand) und Orchester, op. 73 [electronic resource] : For piano (lefthand) and orchestra. LM 14 STRAU/R 55.61 
  • Concerto pour la main gauche : pour piano et orchestre LM 14 RAV 55.61
  • Diversions : for piano (left hand) and orchestra, opus 21 LM 14 BRIT 55.61

Audio CDs:

  • Rattle conducts Britten CD/LM/1770 (features Diversions, opus 21)
  • Orchestral works, Ravel, CD/LM/2810 (features concerto for the left hand)




Thursday, 6 December 2018

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

March 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.   Ilka Heale has been hunting among the Library Collections.

A selection of material from the University Library. Photograph by Paul Shields.
2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s first novel. Written over two years, Frankenstein, Or, The modern prometheus was published anonymously in 1818. With themes of body snatching, early surgery and robotics the novel is widely considered to be the foundation of the modern science-fiction genre.

Born in 1797, Mary’s life reads like a soap-opera storyline: falling in love with a married man (fyi, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) at 16, eloping with him to Europe, marrying him at 19 (after his first wife commits suicide), widowed at 25 and, refusing to marry again, supporting herself and her son by continuing to write, publish and edit and dies aged 54 of a suspected brain tumour.

Mary Shelley portrait by Penn State. Flickr.com.
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

However it is the story of a doctor who builds a creature from scavenged body parts that is her lasting fame. All the more amazing that she was barely out of her teens when she wrote this terrifying tale. Copies of the novel, and other titles authored by Shelley, are at shelfmark MA 153.7 in the Library.

...‘How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and dilate upon, so hideous an idea?’ Frankenstein, 1831, Preface by the Author.

The idea for the novel came about during the now famous summer at Lake Geneva. In 1816 Mary travelled to Geneva with Percy and was joined by the poet Lord Byron and his physician Dr John Polidori. In the introduction to the 1831 edition, Mary wrote: ‘... it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories ... fell into our hands….”We will each write a ghost story, said Lord Byron; and his proposition was acceded to.’

The University Library has a copy of the novel in the Dyson collection, one of many rare books. The original manuscript of the novel is at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. In 1996 it was published in facsimile edition, The Frankenstein notebooks which can be found in the Morrell Library.

Photograph by Erik Sagen.

Flickr.com. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Often adapted and occasionally parodied (see the spoof film Young Frankenstein directed by Mel Brooks), the lasting interest in the novel continues.

The play Frankenstein, adapted from the novel by playwright Nick Dear, was performed in 2011 at the National Theatre. This groundbreaking production saw the two lead actors alternating the roles of Frankenstein and the monster each night. This short video has the playwright in conversation with the director Danny Boyle.

There have also been many reworkings of the novel. Amongst them are Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein and the 1935 horror classic Bride of Frankenstein. We also have a children’s book, Frankenstein’s Aunt, in the Peggy Januriek collection!

Even the circumstances that inspired Mary to write the novel have influenced others and were dramatised in the documentary Frankenstein and the vampyre which is available on Box of Broadcasts, a TV and radio on demand service. [Access is restricted to University of York account holders].

After her husband died Mary continued to write, publishing several novels along with a large volume of miscellaneous prose: short stories, biographies, and travel writings. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness and she died at home in 1851.

Written two years after Frankenstein in 1820, Maurice, or the Fisher’s Cot is also worth a read. Mary had tried to have this children’s story published by her father’s publishing company but he refused, saying that the story was too short for publication. So this unpublished story, written for her goddaughter, was lost until November 1997 when a manuscript copy was discovered in a box of papers in Italy but that’s a whole other story …..

Further information

There are many adaptations and dramatisations of the novel, along with essays and criticism. Search the Library catalogue for details.

To arrange to view an item in the Rare Books Collection, please contact the Borthwick Institute.

There are many events celebrating the novel during this anniversary year. The Shelley Frankenstein Festival website has more information.

The novel has also spawned several essays and articles from scientists (see this interesting article).

Ivor Gurney: War Poet, musician and composer

UK Disability History month runs from 22nd November to 22nd December and the theme for 2018 is disability and music. In the centenary year of the Armistice, Alice Bennett considers the life and work of Ivor Gurney - war poet, musician and composer - and his lifelong battle with mental illness.

At the centenary of the Armistice, there has been renewed focus on the arts produced during the First World War. When thinking of arts from the war, many of us would name Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Fewer would name Ivor Gurney, a poet and composer, despite his inclusion in the memorial naming 16 poets of the Great War at Westminster Abbey’s famed poet’s corner.

Photograph of Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters
The Cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral. Photograph by Michael D Beckwith. 
Although commemorated there for his poetry, Gurney was primarily a musician and composer. He served as chorister and organ scholar at Gloucester Cathedral, before winning a composition scholarship to the Royal College of Music. His first major composition was the set of Five Elizabethan Songs, produced over 1913-1914, prior to his enlistment in 1915. He turned to poetry as an artistic outlet for expression as trench life made composition increasingly difficult.

Like fellow poets Owen and Sassoon, Gurney’s war service was marked by mental illness. Unlike them, his problems with mental health were not purely precipitated by the war. Gurney had suffered a breakdown in 1913 and despite the global chaos his war years were amongst those of his greater mental stability. It has been suggested that the camaraderie of war service and the shared suffering of so many during this time helped to give Gurney a sense of stability and support, which helped his mental health. He spent time in military hospitals following a bullet wound in the spring of 1917 and after suffering a gas attack in September 1917 but remained in the army. He was eventually discharged from the army on medical grounds in October 1918, on the basis of his mental instability following a suicide attempt in June earlier that year.

Following the war, Gurney’s mental health deteriorated further, causing him to abandon his studies at the Royal College of Music which he had resumed after the war. Erratic behaviour and further suicidal episodes eventually led to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in September 1922 and with it to his entry to Barnwood House Asylum in Gloucester. Gurney’s state continued to decline, seeing him transferred to the City of London Mental Hospital, near Dartford in Kent only a few months later.

Despite his situation, works of Gurney’s did reach a wider audience during his time in hospital. Two song cycles, based on the works of A E Housman, Ludlow and Teme and The Western Playland, were included as part of the Carnegie Collection of British Music in 1923 and 1926, whilst small selections of poetry were also published. Gurney remained in the City of London Mental Hospital until his death. He died from tuberculosis on 26 December 1937 and was buried a few days later on 31 December in St Matthew's churchyard at Twigworth, Gloucestershire.

Gurney’s declining mental health inevitably affected his work. The music manuscripts produced during his time in hospital were cluttered and hard to decipher and only reached a wider audience through the patience and perseverance of his friend Marion Scott. Scott, a musicologist, had saved Gurney’s manuscripts and having preserved them, found editors willing to undertake the difficult task of creating a workable edition, notably Gerald Finzi, who did much to create and promote editions of Gurney’s compositions. This championing of his talent has ensured that his works not only survived but are still known today.

Portrait of Ivor Gurney as a young man in uniform, unknown photographer.
Ivor Gurney in uniform. Copyright The British Library. 
Gurney is often primarily considered through the lens of the First World War - recognition of the frank but moving accounts he gives of life in the trenches and a reputation cemented by his inclusion in the group of war poets commemorated at Westminster Abbey. But although the legacy of his way poetry is strong, it does not take into account his musical works or the influences and themes of his work. Gurney drew great inspiration from the natural world, writing evocatively but without sentimentality about the Gloucestershire landscapes which he loved. This rural inspiration worked across both his writing and musical composition, his choice of Housman for the libretto of his song cycles and the strong influence of Ralph Vaughan Williams on his work. Gurney looked to the Elizabethans for both literary and musical inspirations, writing in praise of Ben Jonson and resetting old English songs to his own compositions. This pre-industrial aesthetic was in part inspired by his love of the Gloucestershire countryside but was shared by composers like Vaughan Williams. It is difficult to separate his poetry and his music. Gurney set surprisingly few of his own poems to music but many more by Housman - notably in his song cycles - and also by other contemporary poets. Poetics do seem to have influenced Gurney’s musical life - few instrumental compositions survive, in contrast to a far greater number of songs, many of which were poems Gurney had set to music.

Posthumous diagnosis is always problematic when discussing historical figures, particularly so in mental health due to major changes in classification, diagnosis and understanding. Trying to definitively identify particular illnesses and conditions of individuals from history is tempting, it gives a feeling of more concrete connection, of better understanding of how they were. This is often the case in the study of notable historic individuals, with historians and biographers attempting to pinpoint any medical conditions.

Although some illnesses described in historical accounts and sources appear to be recognisable conditions, in many instances the information provided is too scant and vague to offer the basis of anything other than speculation. Even when the affliction appears to be identifiable, such diagnosis relies wholly upon the details provided and assumes that the symptoms recorded are both accurate and comprehensive. Similarly, any analysis of the incidence of named diseases assumes accuracy in not only the contemporary diagnosis but also classification. Ultimately, most posthumous diagnoses are theories. Some are coherent and have evidentiary support, whilst others are essentially speculation. It is extremely rare, if possible, to be able to prove the correct identification of condition suffered by an individual.

Soldiers in the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme
Aftermath of the Battle of the Somme. Copyright Imperial War Museum. 
This is the case with Gurney, whose experiences were recorded in a time when mental illness was still little understood, his situation exacerbated by the trauma of World War I. It was during the war that there began to be a recognition of the post traumatic stress experienced by combatants, then termed shell shock. Shell shock was first described in print by Dr Charles Myers of the British Psychological Society in 1915. The term was used during World War 1 to describe a very wide range of symptoms, for which there was no obvious physical cause. Most of these would now be understood as forms of post traumatic stress disorder, some perhaps as nervous breakdowns. There was discomfort and embarrassment about mental health generally, as well as shell shock more specifically, which was often seen as an inability to cope with warfare and even as cowardice. To the right is an image showing a shell-shocked soldier being led away, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme. This photograph is from the collections of the Imperial War Museum. Gurney’s fist volume of verse was entitled Severn and Somme, published in 1917, the year after the battle.

Gurney’s mental health problems during the war were attributed to shell shock, an interpretation of his illness perpetuated by Marion Scott in her championing of his poetry and musical compositions. Shell shock is still referred to in discussion of Gurney’s mental health, but whilst the trauma of the war undeniably affected him, others have suggested genetic predisposition. Diagnoses of Gurney’s state through his own lifetime. He was diagnosed with neurasthenia following his breakdown in 1913, treated for shell shock during the war, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his own lifetime and more recently has been suggested as having had bipolar disorder. The emphasis on shell shock, during his own lifetime and to an extent afterwards, may have been partly an effort to protect Gurney’s personal and professional reputation. Perhaps it is easier to consider Gurney alongside fellow war poets suffering from shell shock, primarily damaged by the trauma of war, rather than dealing with chronic underlying conditions. In artistic terms, the place of a war poet is perhaps a more respected and celebrated reputation than that of a “mad” poet, as demonstrated by the discomfort around the interpretation and acceptance of poets like Christopher Smart.

In some sense, the Gurney’s diagnosis is immaterial - his lived experience and the art he produced are of greater interest than assigning a medical label. Gurney was a composer and poet inspired by the Gloucestershire countryside, with a deep interest in Elizabethan music and literature. He was a poet who captured life in the trenches for the ordinary soldiers of the First World War and with a gift for setting poetry - whether his own or that of other authors - to music. Gurney spent much of his life confined to hospitals but mixed in the literary and musical circles, remaining a lifelong friend of figures including Edmund Blunden, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells and Marion Scott. Just as his poetry defies easy categorisation, as Gurney shifts between pastoral poet, war poet, local poet and mad poet - so too does his life and legacy. He was never well known during his lifetime, but nor was he unknown. He has perhaps not had the artistic recognition deserved, but was never fully forgotten and his works are still known today. Gurney was a composer and musician who turned to poetry for convenience in time of war, but never abandoned the art form, who experienced greatly prolific periods of creativity but spells where he was unable to work. At its heart, Gurney’s work, both musical and literary, provides intense lyrical expression of personal experience.

To hear some of Gurney's compositions, check out our Ivor Gurney spotify playlist to accompany this blog post.

Find Ivor Gurney and his works in the University of York library collections:

Biography and criticism:

Michael Hurd, The ordeal of Ivor Gurney, MA 181.9 GUR/H
Daniel Hipp, The poetry of shell shock : wartime trauma and healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon, MA 181 HIP
Pamela Blevins, Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott: song of pain and beauty, LM 0.92 GUR/B
Ivor Gurney, War Letters: a selection, MA 181.9 GUR

Poetry:
Severn & Somme and War's embers MA 181.9 GUR
Poems of Ivor Gurney, 1890-1937 MA 181.9 GUR

Compositions:
Five Elizabethan songs: for low voice and piano, LM 43.1 GUR
Severn meadows, LM 40 BUS
Ludlow and Teme : song-cycle for tenor voice, string quartet and pianoforte, LM 43.1 GUR
The western playland (and of sorrow) : a song-cycle to poems of A.E. Housman, LM 43.13 GUR

Recordings:
Audio CD Songs CD/LM/2550
Audio CD War’s embers CD/LM/2528

Friday, 30 November 2018

Open Data in Practice: success stories and cautionary tales


Open Data in Practice is a series of events that provide researchers and those who work with them an opportunity to share their experiences of data management and open data, including the opportunities it creates and the challenges it presents.






We held the first, of what we hope will be many more, Open Data in Practice event on Thursday 15 November 2018. On the day, staff from different departments shared their data stories including their success with open data, insights into project managing research data and the development of open research initiatives.

Aidan Horner (Psychology): 'Psychology's open science working group'

The event was opened by Aidan Horner, one of our lecturers in the Department of Psychology, who spoke eloquently about what open science is and why we should care about it. Aidan came along to talk about Psychology's Open Science Interest Group, a group that discusses and shares best practice in open science and provides support for those outside of the group who wish to engage in open science. Aidan went on to give a valuable insight into his own open research practice of sharing data, sharing code, using the Open Science Framework to share project information and sharing preprints.



Fleur Hughes (Social Policy and Social Work): 'Data Management in the Welfare Conditionality Research Project'

Fleur Hughes, project manager for the Welfare Conditionality research project, gave those who attended an appreciation of what is it like to manage and also prepare data for archiving for a large and complex project. This collaborative project involving researchers and PhD students from six universities, required planning to achieve its goal to share and archive the valuable longitudinal research data it generated. Fleur spoke about the sensitivities of the data collected and the decision to archive the data with the Timescapes Archive, a specialist resource of qualitative longitudinal research data “which serves as a safe place for primary researchers to store large volumes of data for ongoing use”.



Cylcia Bolibaugh (Education): 'Reproducibility, open data, & GDPR'

Cylcia Bolibaugh of the Centre for Research in Language Learning and Use in the Department of Education was next to take the floor. Cylcia spoke briefly about Education Researchers for Open Science, an open science working group within the department, and then went on to talk about her concerns and the difficulties encountered in defining personal data, with anonymisation and sharing.



Kevin Cowtan (Chemistry): 'Open data and the scientific gift culture'

Last but by no means least, Kevin Cowan gave what one attendee described as a “really inspirational” talk on the significant benefits he has gained from openly sharing his research data. Kevin is an interdisciplinary data scientist working in the fields of X-ray crystallography and climate science. If Kevin’s slides whet your appetite why not read his blog post on the value of open data for scientific research.



Questions

In addition to questions about data management (e.g. recording datasets in PURE, restricting access to data), a number of questions were asked about preprints, for example: when can you or can’t you post a preprint; how are DOIs for preprints reconciled with DOIs then assigned to published versions; what are the benefits?

For more information see:

Want to join in future conversations?

You can attend future Open Data in Practice events and benefit from your colleagues’ experiences, or come and present your own experiences. We welcome talks and input from early career researchers as well as from more experienced academics or research support staff; research students are welcome to attend. Speaker slots are available for our next Open Data in Practice event so please get in touch. Your talk should not be longer than 20 minutes.

If you have any questions about Open Data in Practice, contact the Library’s Research Support Team. See our web pages for guidance on: Research Data Management and Open Access.