Sophomore gets published after discovering poem in Wilson Library for a class assignment


UNC sophomore, Grace Towery, wrote a paper for English 120, using the rare book collection in Wilson Library, that is now being published in a humanities journal.

The paper was originally an assignment for her ENGL 120: British Literature, Medieval to 18th Century class with Professor Reid Barbour.

“It was a small assignment to go to the Rare Book Collection and write a short paper about a book from the time period we were studying,” Barbour said.

As she was searching for materials for the assignment in the Rare Book Collection in Wilson Library, Towery found a poem written in 1641 in a book by Edmund Spenser.

“What she found that was especially interesting was not the print text itself, but a handwritten poem in the book,” Barbour said. “The poem was not attributed to anyone. It was anonymous.”

After finding the poem, Towery said she spent the rest of the semester researching the poem and its origin.

“The research snowballed into all these questions about the attribution, the authorship, who the scribe was and the interpretation,” Towery said. “Eventually, it turned into a paper that I submitted to Notes and Queries.”

Barbour said the poem is extremely old and it’s commendable for Towery to be able to transcribe the poem and interpret it.

Towery completed Barbour’s class in fall 2015, but continued to develop her paper.

“The process was long but she was persistent,” Jacklyn Googins, Towery’s roommate, said. “It was so fun and innovative for her. I felt like she was involved in ‘National Treasure’ or something.”

Towery said she submitted the paper to Notes and Queries in September 2016 and got accepted to be a published author earlier this month.

“It’s kind a big deal for her to find an interesting 17th century poem that nobody, no scholar has ever seen before,” Barbour said. “She not only found a new poem — she found a really valuable poem.”

Towery said she developed a passion for the novelty and complexity of the poem which prompted her to write numerous drafts of her paper.

“Dr. Barbour’s class was so awesome because he intentionally gave us the ownership of our own learning,” Towery said.

Towery’s journey writing her paper impressed her professor and her friends.

“It’s really inspiring to witness (Towery) getting published by a publication as an undergrad and getting to showcase her research,” Googins said.

Barbour said it’s extremely rare for an undergraduate student to be published in a renowned scholarly journal.

“When I found out that (Towery) was being published, I was thrilled, I was psyched,” Barbour said. “This is exactly the humanities undergraduate research that we are dedicated to supporting.”

Towery said being a future published author is an amazing and surreal feeling.

“The publication was huge blessing, and I definitely didn’t think I would get this far,” Towery said.

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