Student-Faculty Collaboration Results in Book Contract

May 02, 2011

photo (2)
Photo by Brittany Fornof

Anne Fertig (Class of 2013) and Professor of English Ed Cohen will have their research on 19th century feminist poet Marion Bernstein published  in a book titled The Collected Poems of Marion Bernstein.

It was a Tuesday morning. Anne Fertig (Class of 2013) walked into the Orlando Hall classroom and set her books down on the oval wooden table. Taking a seat near the professor, she looked around the room at her Major English Writings II classmates. It was her first semester at Rollins, and this was one of many classes that she would take as an English major.

Fertig watched the clock ticking on the wall. The minute hand crept toward the 12, marking the top of the hour. With his hand on a worn edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Professor of English Ed Cohen cleared his throat, announcing the start of class.

“This is Major English Writings II,” said Cohen. “We will be reading the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill and many more renowned authors.”

Fertig listened attentively as Cohen continued. As a literary buff, she knew she would like this class, but she didn’t realize the extent that taking this course would impact her educational and professional experience.

After a semester of having Fertig in his class, Cohen invited her to team up with him in a project as a part of the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program. The two then spent the summer of 2010 working on a project they entitled, “Marion Bernstein and the Glasgow Weekly Mail.”

“I asked Anne Fertig to collaborate with me on this project because I discerned, when she was a student in one of my classes, that she has a sharp critical eye, a facility with written expression and the perseverance required to identify and connect sources that inspired many of the 198 poems that Bernstein composed during her lifetime,” said Cohen. “There aren’t many students who would devote the time and energy that Anne has committed to our research partnership.”

“I was very excited,” said Fertig. “I have always been fascinated by Scottish culture, so to be offered something in that area was fortuitous.”

With a scholarly interest in Victorian poetry, Cohen has published several pieces about English and Scottish literature, including articles about a series of “hospital poems” composed by an English writer who spent twenty months as a patient in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and a book about a quarrel between this same poet and his Scottish friend, Robert Louis Stevenson. This time, Cohen decided to focus his new project on Marion Bernstein, a popular English poet who emigrated to Glasgow in 1874.

An active author, Bernstein published witty and radical feminist verses in the literary columns of several Scottish newspapers. She established a reputation as a champion of women’s rights and social justice, but after her death she and her works were forgotten. Bernstein was resurrected in 1990 when a few of her poems began to appear in anthologies of Scottish literature.

Studying microfilms of archived editions of the Weekly Herald and the Weekly Mail from 1874-1880, Cohen and Fertig sifted through dozens of issues, searching for news stories, political events, and letters from the editor that would indicate sources of inspiration for Berstein’s poems.

“Scholarship in the humanities is often a lonely pursuit,” said Cohen. “We faculty labor long hours in dusty libraries and try to extract poems from newspapers published more than a century ago and preserved on microfilm.”

“The most interesting part of it is being able to do the research myself,” said Fertig. “I am working with the primary source. Instead of reading someone else’s research, I am making my own discoveries.”

As a student, Fertig benefits tremendously from the program. In the classroom, she is a subordinate to her professors. However, as a part of the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program, Fertig and Cohen are equals, both pulling their weight in the project.

“It’s great because he values my opinions,” said Fertig. “He seriously considers everything I bring to the table. He has always emphasized that I am as much of a part of the team as he is. He may be the professor, but I am still a part of project. And I am still going to share the credit.”

“The purpose of the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program is to involve students in close collaboration with faculty so that they can work together to develop unique research projects or scholarship in the faculty member’s field,” said Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Laurie Joyner. “Dr. Cohen’s and Anne's scholarship exemplifies the very best of this program."

As the summer progressed, the pair brainstormed how they could expand their project. “As our research evolved, Anne and I realized that a number of current scholars—particularly in Scotland—have begun to take note of this reclusive and disabled figure who spent most of her adult life in pain and poverty,” said Cohen. “We drafted a proposal to publish Bernstein’s collected poems, submitted it to the Association for Scottish Literary Studies at the University of Glasgow and were awarded a contract for the volume.”

The book, which is scheduled for publication in 2015, will be titled The Collected Poems of Marion Bernstein.

This summer, Cohen and Fertig will continue their research, focusing on issues of Scottish newspapers from 1880 forward. The duo will also start the process of putting the book together by establishing the text of Bernstein’s verses, completing notes on all of the poems and drafting their introduction to the work.

“The universal standard for scholarship, and the goal of each project supported by the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program, is publication of the work at the professional level,” said Director of the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program and Professor of Physics Thomas Moore. “Ed and Anne's book contract demonstrates that the goals of the program are realistic and achievable, even in subjects that are often considered as not being optimal for such collaboration. I hope their example will encourage other faculty and students to work together on original, high-quality scholarship.”

By Brittany Fornof (Class of 2011)

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