NEH Summer Seminar, “Mapping, Text, and Travel”

Deadline: March 1, 2016

Dates: July 11-August 12, 2016

Location: Newberry Library (Chicago, IL)

Program Link

The five-week NEH Seminar, led by James Akerman and Jordana Dym, will examine the complex relationship between text, mapping, and travel from the emergence of the modern world to the dawn of the digital age, focusing on the genre of travel mapping within the wider context of the history of cartography and travel publication. The program of lectures, workshops, and discussions encourages 16 participants to cross disciplinary boundaries and move beyond regional and chronological specialties to reflect on the ways in which mapping has shaped travelers’ imagination and the experience of place and landscape, of identity and history, and of time and space. The seminar will embrace a broad geographical and chronological focus on the Atlantic World richly supported by the Newberry’s rich holdings of cartography, geography, art, history, literature, and the history of printing from the 15th to the 21st centuries.

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NEH Summer Seminar: “Take Note and Remember”

“Take Note and Remember: The Commonplace Book and Its American Antecedents”

Deadline: March 1, 2016

Dates: July 17-July 31, 2016

Location: Asheville, NC

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How do we manage information overload and make our own sense of the world? How, why, and in what ways do we take note and remember? Feeling overwhelmed with information is not only an aspect of the digital age. Earlier attempts to manage and make sense of information are found from the medieval period on, but especially in commonplace books and scrapbooks from the 18th through the 20th century. Commonplace books (books containing noteworthy text and images copied from other sources) and their descendants, the scrapbook, photo album, memory book, journal, anthology, and others, are holders of meaning, memory, identity, and place. Today many take the form of Pinterest or blogs. All are attempts made to manage and make personal sense of information.

We look forward to bringing together a diverse, collegial, interdisciplinary group of college and university teachers from across the United States to join us in the beautiful, historic region of Asheville, North Carolina. Together we will create an immersive experience with these exceptionally rich artifacts, which capture in words and/or images records of lived experience.

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NEH Summer Seminar: “Postsecular Studies and the Rise of the English Novel, 1719-1897”

Deadline: March 1, 2016

Dates: July 11-August 5, 2016

Location: University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

Program Link

What role do religion and secularization play in the rise of the novel? This seminar takes up the insights of postsecular studies to help scholars chart new accounts of the rise of the English novel and enrich their individual research in religion, secularism, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels.

The renewed focus on religion which scholars have termed the ‘religious turn’ began in the 1990s and has come of age in recent years. It has brought with the recognition that division between the religious and the secular is permeable and continually (re)constructed in modernity. Yet our histories of the English novel have hardly begun to internalize these changes. Kevin Seidel’s “Beyond the Religious and the Secular in the History of the Novel” makes a compelling call for new accounts of the novel’s rise that avoid repeating the religious/secular dialectic of the secularization thesis. Rather than stories that assume secularization’s inevitability and novelistic realism as its handmaiden, what is needed are accounts of the novel that no longer take secularization for granted but look in its pages for signs of the transformations of religion in modernity: that tell new stories about the ways modern selves narrate belief.

This seminar thus aims to chart new accounts of the rise of the English novel, drawing existing scholarship into dialogue with postsecular studies. The seminar will both operate at a meta-level—debating the theoretical questions at stake, prompting a new hermeneutic for reading religion, and thinking critically about the relationship between religion and the secular—and work out ideas of the postsecular from the ground up, through close reading. During the seminar we will focus on six novels that span the first two centuries of the novel’s rise: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), Richard Graves’s The Spiritual Quixote (1772), Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814), Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit (1855-7), George MacDonald’s Phantastes (1858), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Our explorations of these texts will be shaped by literary criticism on the rise of the novel (e.g. Ian Watt, Margaret Anne Doody, Michael McKeon, Vivasvan Soni, and Sharon Kim) and a broad array of theorists and theologians who prompt new accounts of the relationship between religion and the secular (e.g. Charles Taylor, Talal Asad, Jacques Derrida, Graham Ward, and Christian Smith).

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