Three Questions is an initiative to share the value that our faculty, students, and others in the UNT community derive from using The Portal to Texas History at UNT Libraries.

1. How important are Unique Collections in your teaching, learning or research?

As a researcher and teacher of medieval English literature with interests in textual studies and book making, I regularly integrate Unique Collections into my undergraduate and graduate classes. In the Middle Ages, reading texts meant interacting with manuscripts: books crafted with parchment (treated animal skin), written with hand made inks, and decorated with gold and precious minerals. In order to give my students a hands-on experience with such artifacts, I schedule classes with the Special Collections librarian and we team teach manuscript making, book binding, and paleography. Students examine and handle individual leaves and entire facsimiles of these artifacts. By using Unique Collections, my students become knowledgeable about textual studies and the history of the book. As a result, they acquire a different perspective on medieval texts that includes their compilation, circulation, and consumption by a reading public.

2. How have Unique Collections changed the way you approach your research, teaching or learning?  

Because of the manuscript leaves and facsimiles, rare books, and early printing tools that are available for student use in Unique Collections, I have been able to schedule several classes in the Rare Books room for undergraduate and graduate students taking courses in medieval English literature or textual studies. These classes allow us to explore the artifacts with our hands and eyes so that we can experience the colors of the illuminations, the weight of the manuscript, and the smell of the animal skin. Students learn the intricacies of paleography and printing, and they begin to see that the making of a literary text is far more than just composing words on a page.

3. What do you want others to know about your research, teaching or learning?

My area of expertise is late medieval English literature with particular interest in Geoffrey Chaucer, women’s literature, and guides to pastoral care. Currently, my research focuses on a fourteenth-century Middle English explanation of the Apostles’ Creed that was written for and read by women aristocrats and nuns. This work, called A Christian Mannes Bileeve, exists in only four manuscripts, and I am preparing a critical edition of the text that will be published by Middle English Texts (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter).

A native New Yorker, Dr. Nicole Smith is University Teaching Professor and Associate Professor of English at UNT. Inside the classroom, she is inspired by smart students and strange texts. Outside the classroom, she enjoys dancing, practicing handstands, and spending time with her son and daughter.