University of Missouri
College of Arts & Science

NEH Summer Seminar to be Held at MU

Derek Frankhouser

A National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers, “Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries,” will be held on the MU campus from June 18 to July 20, 2012. Devoney Looser, professor of English, will host 16 faculty participants who will discover new insights about Jane Austen by reading her books alongside others written by understudied, but once well-known, writers of her day.

“I am excited to get to know the participants coming here from across the country and to learn with and from each other,” says Looser.

The seminar will provide tools for pursuing the advanced study of Austen and other authors, including Anna Maria Porter, Jane West, and Mary Brunton, using emerging digital and traditional archival research methods.

“Whether we are seeking to understand Austen’s fictional techniques, political views, religious beliefs, reception in her lifetime, or posthumous reputation, we stand to learn a great deal by reading her in new contexts,” says Looser.

The participants will read four novels by Austen, four by other British female writers of the time, and critical essays. The seminar will consider contemporary reviews and other commentary in periodicals, as well as material in published and unpublished life writings from the period. Guest speakers will address the participants on editorial, publication-related, and archival matters, and the group will visit the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas to consult manuscripts and receive instruction in paleography.

“Each participant will engage in, and ultimately make public, the results of ongoing research or pedagogical projects, including work for publication and print or digital editions,” says Looser.

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers college teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in summer institutes and programs. Looser participated in a summer seminar early in her career—an experience that she says transformed her professional life. For that reason, she was ecstatic about hosting a seminar herself.

“Faculty members often find themselves longing for the opportunity for intensive study and intellectual community that graduate school offered,” says Looser. “This program gives faculty a chance to re-immerse themselves with that intensity of application and provides possibilities for deep professional engagement and renewal.”

The late John Miles Foley, former director of the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition, directed a long-running, highly-successful NEH summer seminar at MU on oral tradition in literature in the 1980s and 90s. MU has not hosted an NEH seminar since then.

Looser hopes the seminar attendees will leave intellectually and professionally invigorated and with a sense of how much scholarly work remains to be done in this area.

“I hope that the participants take away a strong sense of all that the University of Missouri has to offer, and that they will want to think of themselves as honorary Tigers.”

The participants are:

  • Toby R. Benis, professor of English at Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Andrea Coldwell Cabus, assistant professor of English at Coker College, Hartsville, S.C.
  • Hannah Doherty, doctoral candidate in English at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
  • Bridget Draxler, assistant professor of English at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Ill.
  • Jenni Frangos, assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri–Kansas City
  • Erin Goss, assistant professor of English at Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.
  • Olivera Jokic, assistant professor of English at CUNY – John Jay College, New York, N.Y.
  • Lisa Kasmer, associate professor of English at Clark University, Worcester, Mass.
  • Misty Krueger, visiting assistant professor of British literature at University of Maine, Farmington
  • John C. Leffel, doctoral candidate in English at University of Colorado – Boulder
  • Andrea Rehn, assistant professor of Victorian literature at Whittier College, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Daniel Schierenbeck, associate professor of English at University of Central Missouri, Warrenburg, Mo.
  • Danielle Spratt, assistant professor of English at California State University, Northridge
  • Laura Thomason, assistant professor of English at Macon State College, Macon, Ga.
  • Cheryl A. Wilson, associate professor of English at The University of Baltimore, Baltimore, Md.
  • Jodi L. Wyett, associate professor of English and director of gender and diversity studies at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio

By Laura Lindsey, College of Arts and Science
June 6, 2012