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Adam Callaghan ’07 (South Portland, Maine) has a knack for collecting autographs, even if they are from the 16th and 17th centuries. He is researching early modern alba amicorum, autograph albums similar to today’s yearbooks, event guest books, and celebrity albums.

He is collaborating with June Schlueter, Charles A. Dana Professor of English, through Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

“Alba amicorum were popular in Germany during the 16th and 17th centuries, and give an interesting look at contemporaries in the era,” says Callaghan, a double major in English and German. “The one Professor Schlueter is currently pursuing is that of the Englishman Francis Segar, who spent much of his career in Germany at the court of the Landgrave Moritz, who hosted a troupe of English actors. However, materials on Segar’s life by no means abound, and they are quite scattered.”

Schlueter explains album analysis requires diligent work.

“The first task is to research the life of the album owner,” she says. “Materials on Francis Segar will not be abundant, but understanding who the album owner was is essential to establishing a context for the album. I would ask Adam to undertake this research in our library, online, and by examining some arcane early modern materials I have collected. I would then ask him to draft a sketch of Segar’s life based on these materials.”

Callaghan, who is fluent in German, also will read the album pages, many of which are in 17th century writing that is difficult to discern.

“I started off with a huge stack of papers that June had collected pertaining to Segar and his family,” says Callaghan. “Anything from detailed accounts of his brother and father to brief, vague mentions of the Segar name were worthy of a look. I have gotten fairly far through the stack, doing my best to interpret and extrapolate useful information.”

Callaghan believes the hard work is worth the effort, especially for a project focused on a type of historical document many people are unaware exists.

“What’s interesting about this project is that it shows a connection between our modern interests and the interests of people from centuries past,” says Callaghan. “I had never heard of these autograph albums before, and I suspect many people have not. While the first reaction tends to be one of confusion, when I explain what these albums are, people realize that we still have similar albums today. Whether as guest books, yearbooks, or ‘celebrity autograph’ albums, we enjoy collecting signatures, statements, and other marks of people and places we’ve seen.”

Schlueter sees promise in Callaghan’s research and is pleased with his progress.

“Adam is well-qualified to assist with this research project,” she says. “He spent the Fall 2005 semester in Germany, where he took courses in German, including one that prepared him in early modern texts.”

Callaghan is a member of Lafayette’s track and field team and is a past recipient of the Rexroth Prize in German Culture/Language Studies. Along with English major Hannah Schorr ’08 (Vestal, N.Y.), he directed the film ghost/people, winning the Filmmakers’ Award at Lafayette’s Documentary Film Festival. He is a graduate of South Portland High School.

Recently stepping down as provost after 13 years, Schlueter has been a member of the faculty since 1977. Schlueter, whose area of expertise is Renaissance and modern drama, holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She is the author or coauthor of five books and numerous essays and reviews on a range of early modern literature and culture and on modern drama. She will spend the next year on sabbatical, pursuing her research on 16th and 17th century autograph albums, coming to campus one day a week to search for more connections between the albums and William Shakespeare. She also will make a few short trips to England and Germany. Along with Lafayette alumnus Paul Nelsen ’69, professor of theater and drama at Marlboro College in Vermont, she is editor of a new book of essays in honor of the late James P. Lusardi ’55, Francis A. March Professor of English.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News