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The Role of the Humanities Center in Fostering Creative Research

Two Perspectives from Former Fellows

While humanists don't run labs or require expensive equipment, we do need time to read widely, think critically, and write to fulfill our mission as research professors. It's hard to express my gratitude and appreciation for this [past] year as a fellow at the UT Humanities Center, which gave me that precious time.  I have been able to throw myself into two massive projects, God on Stage, my current book project examining the way that British theatre from 1660-1800 represented religious belief and religious conflict, and the forthcoming Routledge Anthology and Sourcebook for Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama, of which I am one of three editors. I spent the year teaching myself about 300 year old special effects, how harlequin harrowed hell, how eighteenth-century geology was already changing conceptions of planetary time, and reading more plays and afterpieces than I thought possible. This research supported the three new chapters I was able to write during my fellowship. In March, I had the honor of being the plenary speaker at Notre Dame's annual religion and literature conference, where I workshopped a new chapter on late eighteenth-century geology and set design, and also delivered a talk "Hoping for a Protestant Burial," based on chapter 2 of God on Stage. In January, I came on board as one of the editors of Routledge's forthcoming drama anthology, which will feature some of the documents and illustrations I discovered during the course of my research. It is exciting and rewarding to have a hand in creating a much-needed classroom resource in my field. I find it fitting that, as I prepare to return to the classroom, I will be able to share the work I have done with my students and involve them in the final stages of the anthology by inviting them to join me in the UT archives (Special Collections, McClung Museum, our digital archives, and our printmaking program) through innovative assignments that will bring the material to life for them.

--Misty G. Anderson, Professor of English and Adjunct Professor of Theatre

I have had the pleasure of spending two years at the UT Humanities Center. During the 2013-14 academic year, I was an affiliated fellow, having received the UT Marco Institute's Haslam Dissertation Prize; in 2014-15, I was a Graduate Fellow. The Humanities Center provided me with a stipend and health care, a private office, and time to devote myself to my research and writing. While there, I completed four out of five chapters of my dissertation, as well as the introduction and conclusion. This allowed me to finish my PhD within six years. I also wrote an article, "Helena, Constantine, and the Angevin Desire for Jerusalem," which I received the Haskins Society's 2014 Denis Bethell Prize for outstanding paper given by a junior scholar at the society's international conference, and is forthcoming in Volume 27 of the Haskins Society Journal.  As a young scholar entering the highly competitive academic job market, such prizes and publications are very important. I am grateful to have had the time to work on both my dissertation and my article. Indeed, the Humanities Center's devotion to assisting graduate students is significant. The opportunities it provides include workshops on topics such as turning one's dissertation into a book, getting fellowships at research libraries, and exploring job opportunities both in and out of academia. Additionally, the Fellows meet scholars from other institutions when they visit campus.

Importantly, the Humanities Center creates a supportive and exciting interdisciplinary community of scholars at UT. My work was shaped by the insightful feedback that I received from the HC's Fellows, both at our weekly luncheons and while chatting around the coffee maker or in the hallway. Over the year the Graduate Fellows built up a sense of camaraderie, supporting one another through (and at times blowing off steam about) the lengthy and frequently stressful dissertation writing process. We also worked alongside the faculty Fellows. Getting to know these professors, all at different stages of their careers, and hearing about their research and experiences, was invaluable. They provided us junior scholars with models of academic success, and welcomed us as colleagues and friends. These bonds will continue long after we leave the Humanities Center.

After two years, the Humanities Center has begun to feel like my home on campus. I will miss being there next year, but I look forward to continuing to attend Humanities Center-sponsored reading groups and public lectures throughout the year.

--Katie Hodges-Kluck, PhD, Lecturer in History

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