This semester, students taking Hadas Elber-Aviram’s London in the Literature of the Fantastic course were some of the first to interact with the G.K. Chesterton Collection at the Notre Dame London Global Gateway.
Students on the course explore literature set in London, where the city is weaved into fantastical stories. Alongside reading these texts, students are taken on excursions across the city of London, exploring what is about London that so inspires these authors.
Interacting with the Chesterton Collection, which is now in place at the Gateway, was a particular treat for students on this course. Having previously read the Father Brown novels via digital copies, access to the original physical manuscripts allowed the students a fuller experience, gaining insight into the author’s thoughts and experiences while writing the text. This was never more true than when they were examining Chesterton’s writings and scribbles, found on the margins of original copies. Equally, they had access to his personal books and art that he likely consulted while writing Father Brown.
Elber-Avriam commented, “students were able to walk away with a greater appreciation for the physicality of a book, especially those within a particular collection.”
Elber-Aviram thinks that students went away considering the writing process, and how the context of a book can inform their understanding of a particular story. This experience and access to the collection pushed the students to understand the work of Chesterton, and all authors, in a new light.
After examining the Chesterton Collection, students took part in an enlightening class discussion. One student commented on a collection of essays from Chesterton, noting that the handwritten comments in the manuscript added insight into the writer’s mindset. This had allowed him to understand the individual essays on a deeper level, and how the author used the order of the stories to build on the meaning.
Elber-Avriam concluded that she hoped “this experience allowed students a greater appreciation of the work of Chesterton, and the importance of archival collections.”
The London Global Gateway seeks to offer this opportunity to deepen understanding and appreciation of Chesterton to the wider community. Independently compiled by Aidan Mackey, one of the foremost Chesterton experts, The Collection, contains books, artwork and personal items belonging to G.K. Chesterton, who was widely considered one of the premier English Catholic intellectuals of the 20th Century. As the London Global Gateway begins to open to researchers, scholars, and all those who appreciate Chesterton, Notre Dame hopes to provide a place where the conversation on the great author can flourish.