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English professor Blank named National Humanities Fellow

Paula C. Blank, the Margaret L. Hamilton professor of English at William & Mary, has been appointed a Fellow for the 2012-13 academic year by the National Humanities Center located in North Carolina.

Blank, a 2010 Plumeri Award winner for faculty excellence, was one of 33 candidates chosen from a worldwide field of 436 applicants. Recipients come from 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, France, Hungary, Japan and the United Kingdom. Blank will be in North Carolina from September 3 to the end of May 2012.

This is the second time Blank has won a National Humanities Center Fellowship. Her first occurred in 2001-2002, “so I know first-hand what a remarkable experience it is to work there,” she said. “I am absolutely delighted to receive this one.”

They represent humanistic scholarship in history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, art history, classics, linguistics, musicology, religion and Scandinavian studies. Each Fellow will work on an individual research project and will have the opportunity to share ideas in seminars, lectures and conferences at the Center.

Geoffrey Harpham, Director of the National Humanities Center, said, "I look forward to welcoming the Fellows of 2012-13 to the Center and to learning from them. They represent an exciting range of studies in the humanities."

The National Humanities Center will award more than $1.5 million in individual fellowship grants to enable scholars to take leave from their normal academic duties and pursue research at the Center. The funding is made possible by the Center's endowment, by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and by contributions from alumni of the Center.

Known as a premier scholar in Early Modern English, Blank specializes in Shakespeare and writings from the England Renaissance. Her books include Shakespeare and the Mismeasure of Man (2006) and Broken English: Dialects and Politics of Language in Renaissance Writings (1996).

She will continue that line of scholarship at the NHC by working on a book on Shakespeare’s language. The book, entitled “Shakespeare and Modern English,” concentrates on how modern English speakers experience Shakespeare’s language.

“For some of us,” she said, “Shakespeare is the language of the heart. For others, it might as well be a foreign language altogether.

“I’m hoping to shed light on all of our experiences – why we are in turns moved, bored, excited, put off, disturbed, confused or uplifted by Shakespeare’s language – as we hear it in relation to our own."