Students and professor pose for Sacred Fantasies Book Project photo

By the Book

Robert Waterbury

Morgan Muenster (’20) is proud to be a co-author of a book featuring manuscript illustrations in the Loras College library’s special collections. But it got off to a rocky start.

“I was originally not excited for the class project because I am not usually a fan of group work,” she said.

The book, Sacred Fantasies: Medieval Illuminations in the Loras College Library, originated in a history class taught by John Eby, PhD, professor of history focused on the Middle Ages. One of the assignments of the course was a group projects focused on the medieval manuscripts in the library where students could choose how they wanted to present their findings. The class chose to write a book.

Muenster was joined by Hannah Bernhard (‘19), Brigid Flaherty (‘20), Amelia Foley (‘21), and Courtney Knight (‘21) and planned the outline for the final book.

“It was nice knowing I’d be working with dedicated students and who would put so much effort into the project,” Muenster explained.

Throughout the semester, the class researched not only the subject matter but also all the elements that go into the layout of a book.

“We conceptualized our audience and what we hoped they could gain from such a book, and that the best way to do so would be to focus on the visually stunning images in the manuscripts,” Bernhard explained.

In the end, the ambition of creating a book was too much for a single class so Eby extended an offer to any students interested in continuing the work beyond the semester. Bernhard, Flaherty, Foley, Knight, and Muenster jumped at the opportunity.

“It is honestly wild to think about how much of this book was put together over Zoom calls,” Foley recalled. “We would have entire calls about a single image or a specific detail on one page. Despite years of full class schedules, extra curriculars, study abroad, all of us graduating, living in three different states, and to top it off a global pandemic, somehow we managed to pull it off!”

For Bernhard, the team effort was a major factor in the final development of Sacred Fantasies.

“We spent hours looking through them together both physically and later digitally, sharing discoveries, and discussing what intrigued us. Collectively, in the final product we share the images and ideas that fascinated us the most,” she said.

Eby also played a critical role in advising and shaping the final direction of the book.

“Professor Eby provided a lot of guidance about topics that may be fascinating to readers. He was definitely the creative mind in the group, coming up with many of the amazing chapter titles,” Muenster said.

Sacred Fantasies’ overarching themes include an exploration of Catholic sacramentality through art, the importance of a love of learning for the Catholic intellectual tradition and the importance of the natural world for spiritual reflection.

It is available for purchase at the Loras College Bookstore and River Lights Bookstore in Dubuque.

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