Harvard College Library

Houghton's Dennis Marnon Receives the Bryant Fellowship for 2001-2002

May 6, 2002 -- Dennis C. Marnon, administrative officer at Houghton Library, is the recipient of the 2001-2002 Douglas W. Bryant Fellowship. Marnon will use the fellowship to pursue his work on the recovery and description of Charles Olson's research notes on Melville's life and works.

Dennis C. Marnon

Charles Olson was among the generation of scholars who contributed to the Melville revival in the 1920s and 1930s. The work of these biographers and critics catapulted Melville from obscurity to the heights of the American literary canon. At one point Olson planned a large-scale study of Melville's life and reading, but he never saw that major work into print. The documentary basis for this project was his collection of nearly 1,200 five-by-seven-inch note cards on which he transcribed his reading notes, his notes of interviews with surviving family members and acquaintances, and his notes on Melville's reading and marginalia. After Olson's death in 1970, his research on Melville and on several other large subjects were stored in a friend's basement, where much of it, the 1,200 note cards on Melville, were substantially damaged by water and mold. The University of Connecticut purchased the Olson Archive and the Olson copyright in the early 1970s. Since that time the damaged note cards have been unavailable to scholars.

Marnon and University of Connecticut librarians have pursued the cleaning and preservation of the note cards, the cataloging of the cards, and their scanning and mounting on an interactive web site for a number of years. Marnon's role is to transcribe the notes, to relate the content of the cards to Olson's published and unfinished work on Melville, and to supply explanatory text incorporating subsequent developments in Melville studies. Marnon's transcriptions and notes will be mounted on the web site next to color images of the cards.

The jury for this year's award (Karen Nipps, senior cataloger at Houghton Library; Anne Tanguay, head of access services at Hilles Library; and Judy Greene, project image cataloger at the Arnold Arboretum) was unanimous in praising the project. This documentation of the inventive work of an important writer on the life and mind of an American literary giant will be of considerable benefit to both Olson and Melville scholars and enthusiasts.

Established with a gift from Charles and Mary Tanenbaum, the Douglas W. Bryant Fellowship supports research both within and outside the field of librarianship. Available each year since 1974, the fellowship has helped provide incentive and assistance to those seeking to develop or complete projects of scholarly importance. For more information on the Bryant Fellowship, including a list of past award winners and application forms, visit the homepage of the Librarians' Assembly Professional Development Committee, which is located at http://hul.harvard.edu/assembly/pdc/.

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