Filson Fellowships: Denise Gigante

By John B. Westerfield II
Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator

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Stanford University Assistant Professor of English Denise Gigante, Ph.D. is one of the most recent recipients of The Filson Fellowship award. Her studies while at The Filson of “British Romanticism and America” present an in-depth look at the origins of the letters of poet John Keats to his brother George.

Gigante’s original plan to visit the George Keats collection at The Filson Historical Society was part of a larger study of transatlantic Romanticism, which highlights unexpected points of contact between British Romantic writers and nineteenth-century America. In particular, Gigante insists that the letters from poet John Keats to his brother and sister-in-law George and Georgiana “contain some of the most original and profound statements of poetic theory and the philosophy of identity in British literary tradition.”

As recorded by New Albany, Indiana, native and teacher, Naomi J. Kirk, George Keats immigrated to America in 1818 and settled in Louisville after a brief stay in Henderson, Kentucky. He was a successful mill owner and active in civic and cultural life while residing in Louisville. In fact, legend has it that George was the first millionaire to call Louisville his home. Throughout her life, Kirk’s goal was to publish a biography of Keats. Between the years of 1934 and 1958, Naomi struggled helplessly to find a publisher for her biography.

At the time, her 650-page biography was well composed and very intriguing, yet she received no offers for publication. Thus, Naomi condensed her work to 239 pages. Included with this work, she gained permission and submitted 90 pages of letters from John Keats to his brother. She also supplied a list of inventory and appraisal for George’s possessions that were auctioned, including his library of over 300 books after his death.

In an attempt to justifiably publish Kirk’s work, Denise wishes to take it upon herself to find a suitable publisher for such a unique collection. In fact, Gigante plans on contributing to the biography as well. “I feel like I have gathered enough interesting information to write an introduction for it. The biography should be published and I should do some of the work. The weeklong Filson Fellowship allowed me to review the Keats archive with an eye toward the book-historical aspects of the budding cosmopolitan centers of America.”

Filson Fellowships and Internships encourage the scholarly use of our nationally significant collections by providing support for travel and lodging.  Fellowships are designed to encourage research in all aspects of the history of Kentucky and the regions of the Ohio Valley and the Upper South.  Internships provide practical experience in collections management and research for graduate students.  Application deadlines for all fellowships and internships are February 15th and October 15th each year.  Applications are reviewed twice a year.  For more information about fellowships and internships, Visit The Filson's Fellowships Website.

Volume 5, Number 3

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