Of fellowships and stone

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen reports here on his good news of an ALCS fellowship, and the project that he will be working on.

A few things I found interesting in his post, which I am relating to my own experience of getting a Leverhulme fellowship:-

– the suggestion that even if you think funding is unlikely, it’s still worth applying as a means of articulating the project and thereby gaining clarity on what you’re trying to do. Abstracts for papers, at a smaller scale, and proposals for books, at a larger one, can work in the same way.

– the comment that getting it feels “like I’ve won the lottery and gone to heaven at the same time”. The lottery comment was one of those I made frequently about my fellowship. A few people commented that this removed the fact that I deserved it. That might be true, and there is certainly a standard you have to reach to be in the running – this might be self-selection before applying, or after application. But for any such award there are surely many more highly deserving applications than those funded. Which is where the lottery comes in. And where his sympathy for the unsuccesful ones is entirely appropriate.

– this got me thinking about the continual need, in academic life, to expose yourself to the risk of failure. Every grant submission, book proposed, article submitted has the possibility, at times even the likelihood, of rejection, and not only rejection, but sometimes brutal comments given by peers with the support of anonymity.

Onto the application itself. Several things here that I liked, but just three.

– the looking at a period of history in terms of its past and its relation to that past. I’m not articulating this well, but the idea that people in the Middle Ages had a sense of history, and how far they were from a previous age, is – while obvious – perhaps neglected. I had a similar feeling when I visited the pyramids on New Year’s Day this year. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were here – and the pyramids were already ancient then. It gave me a quite different sense of time than standard European history does. Here Cohen discusses it in terms of ‘deep time’, which I think is taken from Martin Rudwick’s work.

– the blend of contemporary theory with medieval work. I’ve remarked on this before, with regard to the Speculative Medievalisms workshop, but the use and development of social theory is for me one of the most interesting parts of contemporary medieval work. Here Cohen mentions Jane Bennett on vibrant matter, Sara Ahmed, Manuel de Landa, Elizabeth Grosz, and Tim Morton, among others. Susanne Conklin Akbari is doing some interesting work in this regard too – we met when I gave a talk in Toronto in 2010.

– the references to fossils: crucial to my current interest. I’ve gratefully plundered the bibliography for additions to my reading list.

Anyway, congratulations Jeffrey – great project and look forward to seeing it in book form!

This entry was posted in Fossils, Jane Bennett, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Medieval Studies, Publishing, Timothy Morton, Universities. Bookmark the permalink.

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