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Faculty win record number of humanities fellowships

Project topics range from early Confucianism to sexuality in Shakespeare’s time

Four Northwestern University faculty members have been honored with National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowships - a record setting number for Northwestern in recent history and the most awards to a single institution by the NEH this year.

The NEH recently announced $16.3 million in funding for 290 projects in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Northwestern’s four scholars are among 86 college and university teachers or independent scholars pursuing advanced research who will receive fellowships to support their work beginning in 2017.

Their research topics include the role of sexuality and religion in public life during Shakespeare’s time, the foundations of Confucian political thought, the influence of a great scholar on 20th century Vietnam and the aesthetic theory of a little known canonical figure in the German literary and philosophical traditions.

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.”

All four of Northwestern’s winners are faculty members in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Jeffrey Masten

Masten, who teaches English and gender and sexuality studies, received a fellowship to continue his research on Christopher Marlowe -- a contemporary of Shakespeare -- for a scholarly edition of Marlowe’s “Edward II.”  

“Marlowe’s play focuses on issues central to contemporary Anglo-American politics and culture, including the role of sexuality and religion in public life,” Masten said. “For a play written and first performed in the 1590s, the issues have remained surprisingly durable.”

Masten is the author of “Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama”and “Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time” released in July.   

Loubna El Amine

El Amine, an assistant professor in the department of political science, will continue research for a new book, tentatively titled “The Foundations of Confucian Political Thought: History, Law, and the Political Community,” which will endeavor to delineate the early Confucian Conception of the political community. 

“The project aims to contribute to the expansion of the study of political thought beyond the Western tradition,” El Amine said. “The larger hope is to encourage a more encompassing view of what counts as worthy of inclusion in our global intellectual heritage, and thus a more culturally sensitive and globally mindful citizenry.”

El Amine is the author of “Classical Confucian Political Thought: A New Interpretation,” published by Princeton University Press in 2015. 

Haydon Cherry

Cherry, an assistant professor in the department of history, is working on an intellectual biography of Dao Duy Anh (1904-1988), arguably the most important Vietnamese scholar and intellectual of the 20th century. A pioneering journalist, lexicographer, historian, and literary scholar, Dao Duy Anh had a fraught relationship with the state. Cherry’s project traces the development of Dao Duy Anh’s extraordinary scholarly career and the challenges of intellectual production in 20th century Vietnam.

Cherry’s first book, “Down and Out in Saigon,” a social history of the poor in colonial Saigon, will be published by Yale University Press.

Rachel Zuckert

Zuckert, who teaches philosophy of art and German philosophy, will write a book on the aesthetic theory of Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), a canonical figure in the German literary and philosophical traditions about whom little is known in the U.S. 

Zuckert's book will be the first comprehensive philosophical interpretation of Herder's aesthetics in English, introducing this theory into Anglo-American discussion. 

Conceptually, Herder's aesthetic theory attempts to incorporate and bridge two important elements in understanding the arts and aesthetic experience: their roots in human biological nature, and their embeddedness in their historical, cultural context.