Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Nixon edits collected works of Gerard Manley Hopkins
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
|Jude Nixon (right) is part of a team working on a collect works of Gerard Manley Hopkins.|
When the Oxford Press decided to publish a collection of the work of the late poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins, they made sure to involve those they considered Hopkins scholars and Victorian-era experts. The list of editors includes professors from Cambridge University, Oxford University, York University, the University of Newcastle and the only American, Jude Nixon, director of Oakland University’s Honors College.
Born in 1844, Hopkins was winning poetry contests in elementary school and later in life wanted to become a painter-poet. After college, he went on to become a Jesuit priest and felt that poetry was too individualistic and self-indulgent for Jesus and burned his early work. In 1872, he decided his work did not conflict with Jesuit preaching and began writing again.
“He did not want his work published,” said Nixon. “It’s extremely torturous. It’s not easy reading. His work wasn’t published until much later after his death, partially due to its complexity.”
Hopkins’ first collected work was published 50 years ago. The group composed by the Oxford Press, the holder of the copyright to Hopkins’ work, will put out an eight-volume collection of Hopkins’ collected work including sermons, poems, artwork and other newly discovered work with new introductions and additional annotations.
“The new collection of work is going to bring together all of his work in total,” said Nixon. “The Oxford Press put together a team of people and they wanted people who, in their estimation, have done the best work on Hopkins and were experts in the Victorian era. This is a collection of his work. If we get it wrong, then everyone gets it wrong.”
Nixon has a long history with Hopkins. He became interested in Hopkins’ work in graduate school because it was so difficult. Nixon is also on the Board of Scholars of “The Hopkins Quarterly,” the advisory board of “Victorian Poetry” and has written many essays and articles on Hopkins.
For his part in the project, Nixon will be editing volume six of the collection, “Sermons and Spiritual Writing,” with Philip Endean from Campion Hall at Oxford University. The volume will tentatively be completed in 2008.
The new edition will examine Hopkins’ sermon assignments, frequency and his role as a preacher. It will also include an updated chronology of Hopkins’ life and new annotations.
“We are helping the readers to read the text sensibly,” said Nixon. “We are taking a person’s work and making sense of it for the general reader — making it more accessible to them.”
This summer, Nixon will spend three weeks in England, his fourth such trip in the past two years, with the other five members of the group working on the collections. The group communicates via e-mail and meets at various conferences to discuss their work and look for any inconsistencies.
Nixon has received a research grant from the American Philosophical Society, which helps cover the cost of travel, research and food. He also noted the support of Oakland University’s Provost’s Office. As a group, the Hopkins’ scholars will look for more grants in the future.
Nixon said the project is large and takes up a lot of time, but he has been able to draw from it for the journals he submits articles to and for his classes at OU. He said his students are interested in the research and methods for research that he uses. Also, Hopkins was an environmentalist and Nixon was able to tie that into the classroom experience, especially as part of the College of Arts and Sciences 2005-2006 theme, Environmental Explorations.
Nixon is honored to be a part of the group compiling the collected works for the poet, but he is also appreciative of the notoriety it provides the university.
“This gives Oakland recognition as well,” said Nixon. “People will see Oakland University and know we are out there doing great work.”