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Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries

Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 1, 2012

“Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries” is a five-week college and university faculty seminar for sixteen participants to study the works of Jane Austen alongside writers of her own time. The seminar, directed by Devoney Looser (English, University of Missouri), undertakes collective close reading and discussion of novels by Jane Austen in tandem with those of her once-celebrated contemporaries. It also provides tools for pursuing advanced study of Austen using both emerging digital and traditional archival research. “Whether we are seeking to understand Austen’s fictional techniques, political views, religious beliefs, reception in her lifetime, or posthumous reputation,” Looser argues, “we stand to learn a great deal by reading her and her contemporaries.”  Looser’s two-pronged approach is designed to support scholarship in an era in which the most relevant research information is available online, yet evidence not available in digital form is in danger of being newly ‘lost’ or forgotten, as fewer and fewer scholars know how to retrieve it. This seminar trains junior scholars to understand the limitations of the digital world, as well as the crucial necessity of consulting manuscript and print evidence. Participants meet to discuss readings and related topics such as literary techniques, narrative practices, issues of reception, textual and editorial problems, and emerging research methodologies. Among Austen’s novels read together are: Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Northanger Abbey.  These are discussed alongside Jane West’s A Gossip’s Story and A Legendary Tale, Hannah More’s Coelebs in Search of a Wife, Mary Brunton’s Discipline, and Anna Maria Porter’s The Lake of Killarney. The director is joined by guest lecturers Karen Cook (Library Science, University of Kansas), James Jenkins (Book Publishing, University of Kansas), George Justice (English, University of Missouri), and Laura Mandell (English, Miami University). 

Dates: June 18-July 20 (5 weeks)
Grantee Institutions: University of Missouri, Columbia
Location: Columbia, MO

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in Summer Seminars and Institutes. Each NEH Summer Seminar includes sixteen participants working in collaboration with one or two leading scholars. Participants have access to a major research collection, with time reserved to pursue individual projects.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes are designed primarily for teachers of American undergraduate students. Qualified independent scholars and those employed by museums, libraries, historical societies, and other organizations may be eligible to compete provided they can effectively advance the teaching and research goals of the project.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one.

Please note:

Adjunct faculty, community college faculty and first-time participants are encouraged to apply.

Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are reserved for current full-time graduate students in the humanities.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.