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Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955

Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A four-week institute for twenty-five college and university teachers on modernism in Chicago in the first half of the twentieth century.

This project investigates Chicago's cultural role in the first half of the twentieth century, with a focus on literary modernism. In the words of the project director, "Four themes will be emphasized: the geographic centrality of Chicago both locally and internationally; modernism's distinctive reception history in Chicago; the women in Chicago who served as key cultural arbiters; and the connections between the Chicago Renaissance [1910 to mid-1920s] and the Chicago Black Renaissance [1930s to 1950]." The four weeks of the institute focus on 1) Chicago modernism from the Columbian Exposition of 1893 through the Chicago Renaissance, with attention to Chicago's writers, including Theodore Dreiser, and groundbreaking modernist art exhibits in Chicago; 2) Chicago's literary magazines, Midwest regionalism, and the work of Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, and Ernest Hemingway; 3) Chicago journalism and the role of individuals who bridged racial and class divides; and 4) the Chicago Black Renaissance in literature, music, and the visual arts. The final two weeks, which overlap somewhat in themes, consider such writers and cultural arbiters as Ben Hecht, Jack Conroy, Alice Roullier, Vivian Harsh, Richard Wright, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Morning lectures and discussions are followed by afternoons available for research in the Newberry Library and other Chicago repositories, including the Carter G. Woodson Library, and visits to the Arts Club of Chicago, the Poetry Foundation, and the Art Institute of Chicago. The project faculty includes director Liesel Olson, a scholar of twentieth-century American literature (Newberry Library); Neil Harris (history and art history, University of Chicago); Carl Smith (English and American studies, Northwestern University); Timothy Spears (American studies, Middlebury College); Bill Savage (English, Northwestern University); and Jacqueline Goldsby (English and African-American studies, Yale University). The participants read literary works by authors under consideration, including Dreiser's Sister Carrie; Cather's The Song of the Lark; Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio; Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises; and Wright's Native Son. In addition, they read criticism and scholarship by H.L. Mencken, Franco Moretti, and members of the institute faculty.

Faculty: Carl Smith, Neil Harris,Tim Spears, Bill Savage, Jacqueline Goldsby, Martha Briggs, Paul F. Gehl, Sarah Kelly Oehler, Paul Durica, Janine Mileaf

Dates: June 17—July 12 (4 weeks)
Director(s): Liesl Olson, Newberry Library
Grantee Institutions: Newberry Library
Location: Chicago, IL

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.