Summer Wrap-Up: The Newberry Library and Thesis Focusing

I finished up the summer portion of my honors research with a week-long trip to Chicago, with a day stop in Anderson’s hometown of Clyde, Ohio. I got rear-ended by an old lady outside of Hagerstown, Maryland, which put a little damper on the start of the trip, but I made it in one piece to podunk-nowhere about an hour outside of Cleveland.

Clyde doesn’t look like it’s changed much since Anderson left. The railroad left long ago and only a small piece of the old station platform remains. The fairgrounds and racetrack have been wiped out and replaced by an elementary school. But the streets, the architecture, the two churches every three blocks, the whole vibe in the air feels like it’s been lingering for quite some time.

I saw the public library’s Sherwood Anderson room and his two childhood homes, walked by the streams and steeples that directly inspired Winesburg, and tried to get into the Clyde Museum, but sadly it was closed that day. So much of my reading up until this point has been biographical and historic that actually being in the place hit me harder than I thought it would. Anderson wrote so much from memory that you can feel his prose just by being there, even if, surprisingly, the town itself has long been hesitant to acknowledge one of its greatest alumni.

In Chicago I spent several days going through the Newberry Library’s extensive Anderson collection, focusing primarily on correspondence between his close friendsĀ  and fellow writers. It was an interesting capstone for all the prep research I’ve been doing because I knew so much of it loosely. His relationships, the eras of his work, his emotional highs and lows, I’d read it all one place or several. But seeing that kind of thing in the person’s own hand is another story.

It’s been a summer of exploration for sure. I went incredibly broad and have yet to come fully narrow again, but I’ve learned so much, and going forward into a thesis that will focus, I think, primarily on the shifting canonical relevance of Winesburg, Ohio, I feel very prepared despite frequent uncertainties and misdirections. I guess that’s how research goes.

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