May 24, 2019, by Kathryn Steenson
Lady Chatterley’s Cuttings
This is a guest post by Frankie Denton, an English student at UoN.
Undertaking a placement at Manuscripts and Special Collections has been a great experience. I hoped to learn some practical skills in an interesting field while completing my degree, and to gain some inkling as to what career path I would follow after university. I can say now, at the end of my placement, that I feel I have achieved both of these goals.
My primary task has been to sort and catalogue newspaper cuttings from the Forster collection of items relating to D. H. Lawrence. Bob Forster lived from 1914 until 1997, and in this time developed a passion for Lawrence, amassing an extremely large collection including primary editions, criticism, pamphlets, journals, reviews, and ephemera covering the writer. The University of Nottingham was able to acquire part of the ephemera, pamphlets and reviews. In my sessions, I would ensure that envelopes of the newscuttings were ordered properly and logged in Excel, so that they could go on to be used be in Lawrence-based research. It was steady, logical work, which I felt suited me very well, but my favourite part was probably the way in which the newscuttings constructed a story over time. As an English student, I’m used to reading fiction, but I’ve developed now a particular understanding of how even a newspaper creates a narrative over a span as long as thirty years, with newspapers of varying political persuasions writing on Lawrence differently.
Something especially interesting about the cataloguing was the way in which the newscuttings seemed to emerge, relevant, in my everyday life. For one thing, this year I participated in a module focussed on D. H. Lawrence, and so while this developed my knowledge of his primary work, I had an additional means in the placement to see, first-hand, how he was reviewed and how he was viewed culturally years after his death. I also never knew that there had been so many television, film and stage adaptations of both his work and his life, involving many famous actors and actresses such as Ian McKellen and Judi Dench before their popular success. A recurring major topic in the papers, moreover, was the ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ trial of Penguin Books, 1960, which many journalists saw as a watershed in the publication of ‘obscene’ literature.
I’ve received plenty of support and help going forward, and have had a taste of other work besides cataloguing, such as digitizing photographs. I feel that I am now in a confident position to move forward and seek further training, a paraprofessional job, or a master’s degree in the sector. Generally, I would highly recommend this placement to anybody interested in a career in archives or information, or, more simply, anyone with an enthusiasm for history and the Nottinghamshire area.