English Professor Gets Humanities Fellowship

Monday, February 4, 2008

It's always exciting for the SJU community when a new faculty member comes on board. When that person comes in with a prestigious $52,000 fellowship under his belt, the arrival is even more exciting. Jason Powell, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and the University's new resident expert on Shakespeare and 16th century English literature, recently won a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, which will allow him to finish a two-volume project on the prose and poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), English Renaissance poet.

"It's an honor, and I was very excited when I first found out. But it's a big responsibility as well. It's really more about the work than it is about me – the project is important for the field," said Powell.

For his doctoral dissertation, Powell examined Sir Thomas Wyatt's writings, and during his previous teaching position at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, Powell led a Wyatt seminar. Based on his doctoral work and the material from the seminar, Powell sent a proposal and examples from his two volumes to the editor of the Oxford University Press several years ago. Although hesitant at first to contract a younger scholar, the editor eventually agreed to sponsor and fund Powell's project after meeting Powell and conducting three external reviews of his work.

The first volume, which came from much of Powell's dissertation research, explores Wyatt's prose. The second volume will include 210 of Wyatt's poems and offer supplemental research and analysis.

"It's good timing because Wyatt is receiving a lot of critical attention, and there's a new biography coming out soon. The time is right," he explained. "I was worried that this project might take me years and years. With the Fellowship, I hope that both volumes will be done in two or three years, rather than six or eight."

Powell plans to take off the 2008-09 academic year off to wrap up the Wyatt project so that he can begin scholarship on other writers.

In addition to the Humanities Fellowship, Powell came to the University with a Huntington/British Library Fellowship that funded a month of archival research in the United Kingdom last summer and a Huntington Library Short-Term Fellowship, which will allow him to spend a month doing research at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., this year.

--Sarah Whelehon '07 (M.A.)

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