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VIDEO: UC's 'Dead Poets Society' Comes Alive Through Audio Archive


Decades-old audio recordings of renowned poets – including Robert Frost – are brought back to digital life thanks to The Elliston Project, a collaboration between the English department and UC Libraries.

Date: 11/22/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Courtney Danser
Phone: (513) 556-8577

UC ingot   “Two roads diverged in a wood and I — I took the one less traveled by.”

Robert Frost’s voice crackles to life from decades ago, allowing a new generation to be inspired by the famous American poet's words thanks to The Elliston Project. The collaboration between the University of Cincinnati McMicken College of Arts and Sciences’ English department and UC Libraries makes archived recordings of a host of poets available digitally. 

The Elliston archive houses more than 700 poems and lectures, all of which were recorded on UC’s campus. Audio recordings of poets include Robert Frost, Denise Levertov, Thom Gunn, C.D. Wright, Czeslaw Milosz and Derek Walcott, among many others. 

These recordings, previously stored on audio tapes, can degrade over time and were not easily accessible. However, the English department and UC Libraries combined efforts to convert these recordings into a digital format. Now, not only are the files accessible, they are also available efficiently in an online archive.  

Don Bogen, a longtime professor in the English department, introduced many of the Elliston poets whose recordings are now available online, and he has been an integral person in the formation of the archive this year. This unique experience has made The Elliston Project even more special to him.

“Things stay on the page and they’re always there, but you go back and read them in different stages in your life and they have a different effect,” Bogen says. “The thing with the oral component is quite similar, and that is that you listen to it again and it brings back memories and it seems different.”

In May of 2013 the English department received a UC Faculty Development Council Grant, which is being used to host workshops on campus to educate students and faculty on how to use this archive for instruction and research. The English department also hopes that these recordings will be used more broadly in classrooms around the city to give listeners a tool to engage with American poets and enhance interest and knowledge in poetry. 

This semester the department held three workshops focusing on theory, pedagogy and scholarship. There are two workshops set for next semester:
  • Poetics - examining creative opportunities for poet and other writers
    Workshop leader: Michael Hennessey
    March 8, 2014
  • Technology - training in a variety of digital tools for the productive use of digital audio archives
    Workshop leader: Lori Emerson
    April 5, 2014
Each workshop is held in Langsam Library. For more information please contact Jay Twomey or artsci.uc.edu. 
To search the archives, click here.

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