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Department News & Events

Bruce Holsinger, international team of researchers investigate parchment's origins
Monday, December 7, 2015

Professor Bruce Holsinger has led an investigation into the origins and composition of parchment, specifically the variety called "uterine vellum." Holsinger, in collaboration with British scientists Sarah Fiddyment and Matthew Collins from the bioarchaeology department at the University of York in the United Kingdom, brought together international collaborators from several disciplines across the humanities and the natural sciences to look into what uterine vellum was actually made of. The composition has remained a mystery until recently, when the researchers figured out how to analyze the material without destroying it. They concluded that much of it could not have been made of premature or stillborn animals, nor of small mammal skins, such as rabbits or rats, as scholars have speculated; it was made of cow, goat, and sheep skin, in the medieval period anyway. Their research was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Holsinger, a medieval scholar, has been studying the history, theology, technology and science of parchment for several years, with a book on the horizon for 2016.

Read more about the story at UVa Today.

Anna Brickhouse awarded MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize
Monday, December 7, 2015

Professor Anna Brickhouse has been named the winner of the Modern Language Association's forty-sixth annual James Russell Lowell Prize for her book The Unsettlement of America: Translation, Interpretation, and the Story of Don Luis de Velasco, 1560-1945 (Oxford, 2014). The prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the profession, is awarded annually for an outstanding work—a literary or linguistic study, a critical edition of an important work, or a critical biography—written by a member of the association.

The prize committee’s citation for the winning book reads: "In The Unsettlement of America, Anna Brickhouse puts the close-reading skills of literary criticism to work in a skeptical analysis of stories about indigenous interpreters in the sixteenth-century Hispanophone world. The result is a forceful intervention in American studies. Brickhouse demonstrates that the motivated mistranslation practiced by native informants allowed them to pursue unsettlingly sophisticated political agendas, which were based on their shared knowledge of the devastating consequences of colonialism. Reading between the lines of historical documents, she challenges us to reconsider the power of language as used by the colonized to resist the very forces that have shaped the archive and the ways we understand it. Brickhouse tells a vivid story that speaks not only to advanced students of the hemispheric Americas but also to the common reader with an interest in history and how it gets made."

The James Russell Lowell Prize will be presented on 9 January 2016, during the MLA’s annual convention, to be held in Austin.

Read the full press release from the MLA here.

Peter Baker translates "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" into Old English
Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is turning 150 this year, and Professor Peter Baker, a scholar of medieval literature, has contributed to the celebration with a translation of the book into Old English. In honor of the sesquicentennial, Jon Lindseth, head of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, recruited translators including Baker to contribute to his three-volume Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece. The collection includes a bibliography of translations and essays about many of them. Baker's translation required a few alterations, though, as UVA Today explains:

Baker, who’s been on the U.Va. faculty since 1992, set his translation in medieval England, so Alice and the other characters in the illustrations are dressed in medieval clothing. The “Mad Tea-Party” becomes a “Mad Beer-Party,” because there was no tea in England at the time; everyone drank beer, even children. Likewise, there were no watches at the time, so the White Rabbit’s watch has become an astrolabe.

Even the name “Alice” didn’t exist in Old English, nor did the word “adventure.” Baker came up with the closest equivalent, Æthelgyth, for the heroine’s name, and for “adventure” he chose “brave deeds,” so the title would be translated as “The Brave Deeds of Æthelgyth in Wonderland.”

Read more about the translation and hear Baker read an excerpt from his work at UVA Today.

Rare Book School Director Michael Suarez Nominated to National Council on the Humanities
Thursday, August 6, 2015

President Obama last week nominated Michael F. Suarez, director of the Rare Book School and University Professor at the University of Virginia, to serve on the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The council comprises 26 distinguished private citizens appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, with each member serving staggered six-year terms. Suarez is one of four nominees.

Suarez, director of the Rare Book School since September 2009 and also a Jesuit priest, holds four master’s degrees (two each in English and theology) and a D.Phil. in English from the University of Oxford. Before coming to U.Va., he held a joint appointment at Fordham University and as a fellow and tutor in English at Campion Hall at Oxford.

He teaches in U.Va.’s Department of English and has written widely on 18th-century English literature, bibliography and book history. He delivered the annual Lyell Lectures in Bibliography at Oxford earlier this year. He was invited by U.Va. students to deliver a “Last Lecture” and participate in the student-organized Flash Seminars several years ago.

Since 2010, Suarez has served as editor-in-chief of Oxford Scholarly Editions Online. His recent books include “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume V, 1695-1830” (Cambridge University Press, 2009), co-edited with Michael Turner; and “The Oxford Companion to the Book” (Oxford University Press, 2010), a million-word reference work co-edited with H. R. Woudhuysen. “The Book: A Global History,” also co-edited with Woudhuysen, came out in 2013. In 2014, Oxford University Press published his edition of “The Dublin Notebook,” co-edited with Lesley Higgins, in the “Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins.” 

Suarez has held research fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

About Rare Book School

Rare Book School provides continuing-education opportunities for students from all disciplines and levels to study the history of written, printed and digital materials with leading scholars and professionals in the fields of bibliography, librarianship, book history, manuscript studies and the digital humanities. Founded in 1983, the Rare Book School, a not-for-profit educational organization, moved to U.Va. in 1992.

Read more at UVA Today.


Anna Brickhouse wins Early American Literature book prize
Saturday, July 18, 2015

Professor Anna Brickhouse has been awarded the inaugural book prize from the journal Early American Literature for her recent monograph The Unsettlement of America: Translation, Interpretation, and the Story of Don Luis de Velasco, 1560-1945 (Oxford University Press). Read the full release from EAL below:

Early American Literature Announces Winners of Inaugural Book Prize

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--The editors of the journal Early American Literature are pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural EAL book prize: Anna Brickhouse for The Unsettlement of America: Translation, Interpretation, and the Story of Don Luis de Velasco, 1560-1945 (Oxford University Press); and Wil Verhoeven for Americomania and the French Revolution Debate in Britain, 1789-1802 (Cambridge University Press).

This year, in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, EAL launched an annual book prize to call attention to inventive and substantial scholarship about American literature in the period spanning the colonial era through the early republic. The books by Brickhouse and Verhoeven rose to the top of an impressive field of work by established scholars, and in some important ways they complement one another.

Brickhouse's The Unsettlement of America explores the phenomenon of motivated mistranslation to construct a speculative history of indigenous resistance to European colonization. Brickhouse argues that an Algonquian Indian captured by the Spanish in 1561 and christened Don Luis de Velasco deliberately unsettled the attempted Spanish colonization of his native Ajacán (now known as the Chesapeake Bay region) through his role as a translator. Spanning Spanish colonial writings from the sixteenth century through their reception in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this book offers a fascinating account of indigenous networks of resistance, conceptualized as a form of authorship. Unsettlement is both a tale of one man and his legacy across four centuries and a challenge to the field of hemispheric American studies.

Verhoeven's Americomania looks at the flip side of the settler colonial scene--that is, he explores the construction of an ideology of available land and shows how it affected political writing and imaginative literature in the age of revolution. The fruit of research that is at once capacious and meticulous, each to a rare degree, this literary history of the revolutionary Atlantic world shows how Jacobin and anti-Jacobin fiction of the late eighteenth century responded to a utopian discourse about America. Encompassing political philosophy, political and legal history, literature, economic history, print history, visual culture, popular culture, migration, demography, and more, Verhoeven's book traces how the fact and figure of American land--both as a material commodity and as a utopian ideal--operated at the center of a British debate over political identity ignited by the French Revolution.

In announcing the joint award, EAL editor Sandra M. Gustafson observed that "both Brickhouse's and Verhoeven's books demonstrate stunning research, creative methods, and compelling narrative arcs. The Unsettlement of America and Americomania will appeal to literary scholars and historians specializing in such fields as early modern and eighteenth-century literature, transatlantic, hemispheric, and colonial and postcolonial studies, and beyond."

Next year's prize will be awarded to a first book, with monographs published in 2014 and 2015 being eligible. The prize will then alternate between books by established scholars in odd calendar years and first books in even years. The prize is accompanied by a $2,000 cash award. Watch the journal's website for announcements, and contact editor Sandra M. Gustafson (Gustafson.6@nd.edu) with questions.

Early American Literature is published by the University of North Carolina Press. Founded in 1922, UNC Press is the oldest university press in the South and one of the oldest in the United States.