Madeline Carlman ’19 has been awarded the college’s Bristol Fellowship for her project “Creating Community in Book Places.” She’ll examine how book places such as libraries, book shops, book clubs, and book fairs work to create community. She will visit Denmark, Namibia, Argentina, Bangladesh, and Greece.
The Bristol Fellowship is designed to encourage Hamilton students to experience the richness of the world by living outside the United States for one year and studying an area of great personal interest. Carlman, one of two Bristol recipients this year, will receive a $30,000 award.
Carlman said she’ll engage with “literary community members, founders of literacy-related NGOs, university librarians, bookstore owners, and book club movement participants in an effort to both immerse myself in and witness the global community development of book culture.”
No stranger to international travel, she studied at Arcadia University in London in fall, 2015, and through SIT’s international honors program in human rights in Nepal, Jordan, and Chile in fall 2017. Carlman is a senior admissions intern, mindfulness intern for the Chaplaincy, and vice president of Woollcott CO-OP, and she participated in the Levitt Leadership Institute in 2016.
Carlman recently took time to answer a few questions about her project and what she hopes to accomplish.
What is the overall goal for the project?
My project represents so many things at once: books to read, the opportunity to be in community with other readers and writers, and time to better understand how different parts of the world approach literacy and literature. While the Bristols have given me many gifts within this one year, I am most grateful for the gift of time.
How do you envision this upcoming year?
Within this next year, I will have time to reflect on my Hamilton career, think about my future goals, and wander. In terms of my project, I want to accomplish a greater knowledge of the book world and what it offers. In terms of my personal growth, I want to nurture my relationship with myself and the world around me.
Majors: Sociology and literature
High school: Journeys School
Hometown: Wilson, Wyoming
What do you plan to do after your Bristol year is up?
While I am still unsure what the future holds directly after this year, my long-term hope is to attend Divinity School and eventually become a college chaplain.
Who at Hamilton most influenced you?
Among those who inspired me to pursue this year of resilience are: Sarah Jillings, Paula Ortiz, Monika Ryback, Jeff McArn, Professor Steve Ellingson, and Ginny Dosch.
What is it about books that intrigues you so in this digital age?
Libraries, bookstores, book clubs, and publishing houses all meet a universal need: they are a haven for knowledge and a catalyst for community. These are book places. They are more than just depots for outdated volumes to gather dust or locations that feed into the transactional nature of books; book places lay the physical groundwork for people to find and provide inspiration, engage in intellectual inquiry, and connect to others over stories. Without these, a community suffers. History is forgotten, stories are misconstrued, the opportunity to pause and read is lost, and literacy rates tank.
While the importance of education and books in society is relatively uncontroversial, at least at a superficial level, book places are under threat. The digital world is transforming the way we engage with books, economic stratification dictates who has access to books, and social isolation is pulling us apart from the organic and easy forms of community often found in book-places. From religious paperback users to glamorous Kindle owners, I am wildly curious about the vibrancy of these communities in all forms.