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Browning scholar makes trek to Waco

Nov. 30, 1999

By ALLISON WILSON

Reporter

Who would think that someone from the republic of Moldova, bordering on Romania and Ukraine, would have an interest in the Armstrong Browning Library?

Dr. Dimitry Usenko, a visiting scholar, heard about the Browning collection from an Austrian who had visited Waco and 'found a very good book collection.'

Usenko graduated from Moldovan State University, where he studied the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

'All that I had at my disposal was a 19th century edition of her collected works,' Usenko said. 'There were, however, some relevant books in Moscow, which took a month's travel in order to be able to complete my thesis.'

Later in 1991, he entered the Institute of World Literature in Moscow as a doctoral student. There he changed his studies from Elizabeth's to Robert Browning's poetry.

'It was there I first learned about the Armstrong Browning Library. I kept the Austrian visitor's advice in mind for many years, and in 1998, as I eventually became a doctor, I decided at last to make use of it,' Usenko said.

'I contacted Dr. Mairi Rennie, attaching my application for a research project. To my greatest surprise, her response was prompt and positive,' Usenko said. 'I received an invitation to spend a month at the library as a visiting scholar.'

Rennie, director of Armstrong Browning Library, said she was honored when Usenko came to study at the Armstrong Browning Library.

'They have been very restricted in what they have been allowed to read. I am very flattered that he came to find a sort of haven here to study Browning. It's offering a hand of friendship to those in areas where English literature and culture is not easily studied,' Rennie said.

Usenko's trip to Texas was made possible through a grant from the Soros Foundation.

Usenko has been studying here for three weeks and will be here for another three weeks.

'I must say that my visit has proven very useful so far. I was able to consult nearly all materials that exist on the subject, and I am going to write an article about Browning's view of Russia,' Usenko said.

According to Rennie, Armstrong Browning has the largest centralized collection of the works of Browning and houses 20 percent of all the related materials in the world. The rest of the materials are scattered in about 500 locations.

About six scholars come per year to study at the Armstrong Browning Library.

For the first time in his life, Usenko does not feel lonely in his research efforts.

'There are few experts in the Victorian literature in Russia and almost none of them in Moldova, to say nothing of Browning specialists. Here, I finally found a circle whose interests and aspirations are similar or identical to mine,' Usenko said.

The role of Baylor in the international community is unique in bringing people together.

'In short,' Usenko said, 'I found at last that there are people who are really concerned about what I may think and write about Browning.'