Meet Eve Houghton, early modernist scholar, rare books geek, pied piper of Senior Seminar 2015, recent birthday girl (Happy Birthday, Eve!), and April’s Nerd of the Month!
Name: Eve Houghton
Current life status: I’m a junior at Yale University, studying English and working as a curatorial assistant for early modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This semester, I’m studying at the University of Oxford.
Special Projects: I’m currently curating a small exhibit at the library on early modern annotations and marginalia–I’m particularly drawn to the figure of the recalcitrant or even irritable reader, so it’s fun looking for vituperative annotations at the Beinecke! (Sample from a sixteenth century reader: “in his great chronicle ye shall find great lyes.”) I’m also helping with some production tasks on a forthcoming edited collection, which I’m really excited about.
Relationship to Great Books: Program Assistant, Amherst College, Summer 2015! (And one half of the Senior Seminar PA team “Greve” [Greg + Eve] to an amazingly talented group of graduated high school seniors, including past Nerd of the Month Diva Parekh.)
Nerdy fun fact: I taught a class on rare books and manuscripts for Great Books last summer, if that counts! We looked at some medieval manuscripts and early printed books at Amherst College Special Collections, and we had a “traveling scriptorium” day where we practiced writing with a quill pen and parchment.
Nerdiest attribute: I think probably…a sort of driving, propulsive obsession with knowing as much as possible about fairly niche topics? What excites me in the classroom is the chance to focus in-depth on a particular text, or to really get to know the critical conversation. I’m typically not very interested in taking classes outside the English department, for example. But I recognize that this is not the case for most people—I have some friends with really wide-ranging academic interests, and I’ve always admired that, because it’s so different from my own brand of nerdery.
Favorite book: O cruel world! Why would you ask this?? This is probably cheating, but I think I can answer if I divide it into three categories:
Fiction: I love all the novels of Hilary Mantel—Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are probably her best-known books, and are wonderful. But if I could only keep one, I would choose A Place of Greater Safety, which is about the French Revolution.
Scholarly: Margreta de Grazia’s Shakespeare Verbatim and Bill Sherman’s Used Books are two books that changed the way I think about the history of editing and reading, respectively, and are also just really entertaining and lively. I wish I could write academic prose (or prose, period) like them!
Drama: Shakespeare’s Richard II—I could ramble on embarrassingly about this play, so I’ll just say that I love it.
Currently reading: I’m currently working my way through a stack of twentieth century editions of the Earl of Rochester’s poetry for an essay project on the Rochester manuscripts at the Beinecke, and I’m also halfway through Meredith McGill’s American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting to try to brush up on antebellum book history for another essay. On the non-academic front, I’m reading Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? (Thank you to fellow PA Kaitlyn for this suggestion!)
First fictional crush: Lord Peter Wimsey! (Of the 1930s detective novels by Dorothy L. Sayers.) An English aristocrat who collects rare books, wears a monocle, and solves crimes? Mere mortals cannot compete, I’m afraid.
Which author would you want to write your story?: Hmmm…I think I would commission Alexander Pope to write scathing denunciations of my literary enemies in artful couplets.
Can the movie ever be better than the book?: Yes, absolutely! Tom Ford’s adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man is one of my favorite movies ever, and I love the Ang Lee Sense and Sensibility.
Hardcover or paperback?: Oh, gosh, I can’t decide. Can I cast a vote for early modern stab-stitched bindings?