1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Department News & Events

In Memoriam: Ralph Cohen
Sunday, February 28, 2016

The English Department remembers longtime professor Ralph Cohen (b. February 23, 1917, d. February 22, 2016), an eminent educator, editor, and literary critic. Cohen joined the UVA faculty in 1967 and retired 42 years later as the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of English; he founded New Literary History, the award-winning journal of theory and interpretation, in 1969 and edited it for 40 years. Cohen specialized in eighteenth-century British literature and philosophy, though his crtical work ranged far beyond these fields; he developed an original theory of genre that connected literary theory with analysis of historical change across the disciplines. Current New Literary History editor and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Rita Felski has said that Cohen "transformed the field of literary studies, thanks to New Literary History, whose extraordinary impact resonated around the globe." Read more about Ralph Cohen's life and work at UVA Today and the obituary at Hill & Wood.

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.