Saturday, May 30, 2015

How About a Date with a Good Book?: Academic research in UVa's Libraries

One of the summer interns, Tyler Cox in front of Alderman Library

In the first semester of my first year, I took a class called “Crusades” taught by Professor Komornicka in the Corcoran Department of History. I came into the University of Virginia thinking that I was going to become an English major, but this class completely changed that. This is the class that really sparked an interest in change for me and allowed me the opportunity to shift my sails and pursue a double major in Medieval Studies and Religious Studies.
My favorite thing about studying at UVA is writing research papers and the process that goes into it. For the class on the Crusades, we had numerous different assignments that opened up opportunities for research using the UVA library system. The first step for me was to use the Virgo search database and the library stacks to find related sources to build a thesis.
“In the beginning phases of research, my curiosity was fixated on solidifying the textual history behind “The Saga of Sigurd the Crusader” which was featured in The Crusades: A Reader. The authors of this text, S.J. Allen and Emilie Amt, cited Thomas Wright’s Early Travels in Palestine, that was published in 1848, as their source material. Naturally, I wanted to find this source and after much determination I found the book on Virgo and pulled it from its dusty slumber inside Alderman, our main library. Gently taking it out of its protective box, the awe overtook me. Looking under “Contents” I quickly found “The Saga of Sigurd the Crusader, A.D. 1107-1110.” I flipped to the corresponding, delicate pages and immediately looked for Wright’s source. Under the title he writes “From the Heimskringla, or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, By Samuel Laing, Esq.” Continuing my quest for the most precise origin I began researching background information on Heimskringla and Samuel LaingThrough the UVA Virgo resource I discovered a more direct English translation from 1844 without the editing by Mr. Wright. The original Heimskringla was written in Icelandic by Snorri Sturluson in c. 1225.
From 1225, to English in 1844, being edited in 1848, to the 2010 edition assigned for this course it is evident that “The Saga of Sigurd the Crusader” evolved over time. The version in our textbook has been revised from the 1848-edited version. Sections were taken out and an even more positive light was shed on the crusades to construct the edition we have used in our classroom setting. It does appear that the revisions that Allen and Amt made continue this idea to propagandize the crusades.”
After completing this tedious sleuthing, I decided to write my report on the bias that was evident as this Saga was passed down and translated from the medieval era to present day. This is just one narrative of how the University of Virginia library system allows students to really go into depth with their studies and explore the huge selection and variety of sources. Whatever your area of study is, there is opportunity for research in one of our 16 libraries. Find you niche, find your passion, and experience discovery!
-Tyler Cox

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