We begin with a portrait of Floyd Dell, a writer long associated with the Chicago literary renaissance of the early twentieth century. If you look at the large painting of Dell—which hangs in the Newberry’s Special Collections Reading Room—you see a self-conscious young writer, off center, sporting a walking stick and gloves. Painted by B.J.O Nordfeldt around 1913 in a brilliant, fauve palette, the portrait is steeped in the avant-garde currents of the time, especially the aura that hung around the 57th street studios where Dell lived (in a studio previously occupied by Thorstein Veblen).
Dell was a writer who welcomed not only post-impressionism but also advocated many new movements, ‘ism-s,’ and ideologies over the course of his life: atheism, free love, anarchism, socialism, psychoanalysis, feminism. He is probably most well-known for his best-selling autobiographical novel Moon-Calf (1920), a word that he defined as “an awkward young man with a touch of intellectual lunacy,” and for his work at the radical magazine The Masses. But Dell is also a figure for tracking cultural shifts and literary fascinations, a barometer of the ideas and activities of his day.
In the same way, we hope Origins will reflect the ideas and scholarly activities that emerge out of the Scholl Center. We revive the name from the Scholl Center’s longstanding printed newsletter, and hope that Origins, as a blog, provides a vibrant new format. As the Newberry’s place for the study of American history, literature, and culture, the Scholl Center promotes research in the humanities by designing workshops, institutes, seminars, and curricular materials that draw on the library’s collections. Origins will discuss the Scholl’s programs and events, highlight upcoming opportunities, and feature the research of center staff and visiting scholars. We also hope that the blog will further connect scholars to the astonishing collections at the Newberry. For instance, you can find out more about the Newberry’s holdings of Floyd Dell’s Papers in here.
Check back for posts on Scholl Center activities, interviews with scholars, and features on the Newberry’s collections.
By The Scholl Center