New York City & Manuscripts: What’s Not to Like?

Or Why I’m teaching in the NEH Summer Seminar ‘Researching Early Modern Manuscripts and Early Printed Books’ for US College and University Teachers at New York University

Grace Ioppolo writes:

Last year, I received an email from Professor Clare Carroll of Queen’s College in New York City inviting me to participate in a Summer Seminar that she was proposing for university-level teachers on early modern manuscripts, to be funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (the American equivalent of the AHRC). I didn’t know Clare but was thrilled (and surprised!) to learn that she had been using my books and the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project ( in her own teaching and research on early modern Irish and British manuscripts.


I had previously taught in an NEH seminar, but it was held at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal (yes, that’s the city’s name).  That seminar, which was on the topic of Shakespeare’s revision of his plays, one of my specialties, was wonderful, so I had a high opinion of such NEH projects. I also knew that teaching your peers—other lecturers and professors—is daunting because they know so much and ask some very tough questions.

‘College’ in America has a different meaning than in the UK: for Americans such as me, a college is essentially the same as a four-year university except that it does not have many or any post-graduate programs.  Such colleges may not, in fact, have a lower ranking than a very highly-ranked university.  Generally, most Americans use the term ‘college’ to mean any college or university.  So, teaching American college lecturers and professors is as difficult as teaching American university lecturers and professors. 

Even though I knew I would have to be on my toes, I agreed to participate in the NYU seminar this summer. It wasn’t a hard decision, considering that two of my friends, Dr Heather Wolfe (the manuscripts curator at the Folger Shakespeare Library ( and Giles Mandelbrote, the librarian of Lambeth Palace Library ( were also part of the teaching staff. Clare further tempted me with the mention of another teacher, the librarian of the splendid Morgan Library ( in New York, Dr John Bidwell, whom I have known and admired since my post-graduate study at UCLA, where he was a librarian at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (

 So I was being offered access to old friends, new students, rare manuscripts & books, which we can use to teach with in the seminar. What’s not to like, as we say in American slang. But if I’m honest, the lure of New York City was enough to hook me. Although I had enjoyed Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, it isn’t New York City. Many times through the years I have dragged my husband kicking and screaming around New York City (which frightens him). Most recently I forced him to join me in walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (it’s a great walk and he really did enjoy it) and on a three-hour self-guided walking tour of literary Greenwich Village (where you can not only see the former homes of Edgar Allan Poe and Hart Crane but Monica and Rachel’s apartment on ‘Friends’):

So to sum up, the reasons I’m teaching in this NEH Seminar include: sharing my passion for manuscripts and encouraging other people to love them as much as I do; eating a chocolate cupcake at Magnolia Bakery at least once;  having a drink at the White Horse Tavern (where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death); lining (not ‘queuing’) up for cheap tickets to Carnegie Hall and for Broadway shows; and, most importantly, celebrating in New York City with friends and students the reasons why I am an academic who specializes in early modern manuscripts and printed books. And don’t be surprised if I spend my spare time at Bloomie’s.

Here’s a link to the seminar:


About Cindy

Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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