SIUE Receives $50K NEH Grant to Lead Recovery of Female Literature

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is leading a national effort to recover forgotten and little-known literature by women authors in digital environments. With the support of a $50,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, SIUE’s Jessica DeSpain, PhD, is leading a team of 20 collaborators from across the country in the project: Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW) Recovery Hub.

SIUE’s Jessica DeSpain, PhD, in the IRIS Center.

“This collaboration involves a series of planning activities that will create a network of scholars to surface works by women writers through digital methods, and also provide support, mentorship and peer-review services for women in the digital humanities.”

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is leading a national effort to recover forgotten and little-known literature by women authors in digital environments. With the support of a $50,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, SIUE’s Jessica DeSpain, PhD, is leading a team of 20 collaborators from across the country in the project: Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW) Recovery Hub.

“We are through the moon to receive support from the NEH for this important work,” said DeSpain, professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, and co-director of the SIUE Interdisciplinary Research and Informatics Scholarship (IRIS) Center. “This collaboration involves a series of planning activities that will create a network of scholars to surface works by women writers through digital methods, and also provide support, mentorship and peer-review services for women in the digital humanities.”

“Feminist scholars have been doing this recovery work in scholarly publications and classrooms for decades, with authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Jacobs and María de Burton reappearing in print and digital publications,” DeSpain added.

The Hub will operate as a mechanism for pooled funding bids and offer hands-on consultation to navigate project management, quality control, sustainability and peer review in order to increase the quantity and quality of recovery projects on American women authors.

The long list of expert project contributors includes two institutional collaborators. The Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, led by Emily Rau, will design an online editorial environment for scholars to work on editing and publishing texts together. Additionally, Kristen Lillvis of Marshall University will design a collaboration space for students and teachers to talk about projects in the hub as a part of their course work.

“All of the projects will be linked to and showcased on a site hosted at SIUE’s IRIS Center that includes a back-end collaboration area for peer review, and a front-facing cross-institutional pedagogical forum for classrooms across the country to discuss linked projects,” DeSpain explained.

According to DeSpain, services offered through the SIUE IRIS Center will include:

  • Human consultation: The project team will build a network of paid consultants with content expertise and digital humanities experience to help scholars plan for project management, hosting, digitization, acquisition and fair use.
  • Audience: The Hub will automatically reach broader audiences, because it will be linked to SSAWW and Legacy, the society’s official journal.
  • Project cultivation: Many digital humanities practitioners do not have access to service space or technicians on their campuses. Each year, the Hub will accept up to five projects that will receive extensive consultation, hosting and the promise of long-term management.
  • Peer review: The project team will work with Legacy and SSAWW to envision a process grounded in feminist theory, including open peer review that emphasizes one-on-one guidance at all stages, and encourages scholars to build upon and cite the work of feminist scholars.

The NEH-funded project began in February and will run for two years. To learn more about this project and the SIUE IRIS Center, call 618-650-2667 or visit iris.siue.edu.

Central to SIUE’s exceptional and comprehensive education, the College of Arts and Sciences offers degree programs in the natural sciences, humanities, arts, social sciences, and communications. The College touches the lives of all SIUE students helping them explore diverse ideas and experiences, while learning to think and live as fulfilled, productive members of the global community. Study abroad, service-learning, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities better prepare SIUE students not only to succeed in our region's workplaces, but also to become valuable leaders who make important contributions to our communities.

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