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A Richter you should know: Aleksandar Markovic

Aleksandar Markovic ’20 is spending his time in stacks of books in a back corner of the Donnelly and Lee Library finding influences for a great, but not greatly known, author named Hope Mirrlees.

With guidance from Associate Professor of English Carla Arnell, Markovic is seeking to uncover Hope Mirrlees’s life and works. This English writing and mathematics double-major is a Richter Scholar you should know.

Q: What is the focus of your project?

A: My project entails researching little-known author Hope Mirrlees and her great fantasy classic, Lud-in-the-Mist. Many who know about her consider her a “great” author—so much so that they argue that she should be immortalized in the Literary Canon. However, Mirrlees is largely forgotten and no revival of interest in her has driven her name into the recognition she deserves. That being said, I’m just researching her life and works, and I’m trying to categorize her within the circumstances of other literary figures that she was associated with; this includes, but is not limited to, Jane Harrison, Virginia Woolf, Henri Bergson, T.S. Eliot, Alexei Remizov, and the like.

Q: Why did you choose Hope Mirlees in particular?

A: Professor Arnell gave me a bunch of different authors to choose from in the two weeks before my Richter Scholar program began. All of the authors were pretty similar—all in the late 1800s or early 1900s and they usually had to do with fantasy or something along those lines. I ended up choosing Hope Mirrlees because I thought her novel was the most interesting. At the very beginning of the project, the main priority was reading but Professor Arnell gave me a few topics so I could keep my mind open about some of the themes presented in the novel that I could focus on or some of the possible paths the research might take me down.

Q: What is your day-to-day like?

A: I usually start off the day by reading one novel or another, just depending on what I’m focusing on. I read for about an hour and then I’ll transition into researching various things. After some time, I’ll go back to reading and the cycle kind of repeats. On occasion, I might go look for a book or something like that.

Q: How do you decide if a certain book is important or not?

A: Pretty much anything to do with Hope Mirrlees is important, and, for example, I’m studying Remizov particularly because he might have been a huge influence on her. I’m trying to find certain books that were written right around when she would’ve been writing. She acknowledged Remizov as being an influence on her so I’m trying to see if I can find the similarities in the writing style. Unlike Lud-in-the-Mist, which is this high-fantasy folkloric book, everything before that by her was really dry and didn’t have any humor—starkly different from what Lud-in-the-Mist is, so I’m trying to account for that drastic transition in her writing style.

Q: So Remizov, did he also write high-fantasy?

A: He wrote fairytale folklore stuff. He wrote other things, too, but that’s particularly what I’m interested in from him. I’m also trying to take a look at some philosophers that might have influenced Mirrlees, like Bergson. I’ve been trying to learn what his whole philosophy is like, but that’s hard. I have reason to believe that he did have an influence on Mirrlees because he had a big influence on some of the people that she was highly associated with. When you think of all of the literary circles and stuff that she would’ve been a part of, it is likely that influence rubbed off on her as well.

Q: Where are you getting your sources?

A: I went to the Chicago Public Library at one point to access their archives and microforms, particularly of Times Literary Supplement, an outgrowth of the big British newspaper, The Times. There were a lot of important reviews of her works. But usually, for the other books, I just order them from whatever college has them and it just takes a couple of days to get here. 

Q: How do you like working with a professor?

A: It’s helpful to work with a professor this early on because it gives me insight on some of the deeper levels of the English career path. It’s allowing me access and experience with resources I normally wouldn’t get a chance to use. I like working with Professor Arnell. She’s definitely geared for doing research like this. I’m still new to research, so it’s helpful to have someone like her because she’s been doing it for awhile now. Whenever I’m stuck, she always knows where to send me next.