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CLASS awarded two National Endowment for the Humanities grants

Natalie Houston
Natalie M. Houston,
Associate Professor of English

Casey Due Hackney
Casey Dué Hackney, Professor
and Director of Classical Studies

Success of Natalie Houston and Casey Dué Hackney spotlight the College’s efforts to help in the pursuit of nationally competitive grants

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded 2012 grants to two faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences.

Natalie Houston, associate professor of English, was awarded on a Digital Humanities Start-Up grant of $49,955. She will direct “Visual Page,” a book history project that seeks to identify and analyze visual features of books, such as margins, spacing and typeface.

Casey Dué Hackney, professor and director of Classical Studies, received an Enduring Questions: Pilot Course grant of $20,881. She will develop an undergraduate course on the question, ‘who owns the past?’

“CLASS is fortunate to have scholars and teachers such as Dr. Houston and Dr. Dué Hackney,” said Kathleen Brosnan, the College’s associate dean of faculty and research. “Their work is innovative and important and I am not at all surprised that the NEH has chosen to honor their efforts with these grants.”

The two projects are among the 208 humanities projects that the NEH agreed to fund with grant dollars totaling $17 million. Institutions and independent scholars in 42 states and the District of Columbia will receive NEH support. In Texas, seven institutions received grants totaling $278,828. The University of Houston was awarded the most money of all the higher-education institutions with funded grant applications.

“Whether it is supporting the scholars who comb through archives in search of long overlooked facts and perspectives, bringing compelling humanities exhibits and programming into communities across the country, or applying new technologies to enduring human questions, these projects will open up new ways of understanding our world and our past,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach.

Dr. Houston will use the NEH funds to develop an open source computer program to do a digital analysis of the graphic elements specific to Victorian-era texts. She will start with a test case of approximately 60,000 page images from 300 books of poetry printed between 1860 and 1880.

“Graphical aspects of the printed page convey information about the book’s historical period, genre, form, cost, audience, function, organization, scope, and design,” Dr. Houston wrote in the grant application.

Dr. Dué Hackney’s grant will help her shape the curriculum of a course that explores the ethical debate surrounding antiquity holdings in museum collections.

The course will be open to all students and offered as a small lecture and discussion class. It will count for credit towards majors in Liberal Studies and Art History and minors in Classical Studies and the Honor College’s Phronesis: Politics and Ethics program.

The class will meet twice a week and will be structured around a series of case studies, which will combine the study of ancient objects with readings in primary sources, modern journalistic accounts, and background reading on current debates surrounding the ethics of cultural property.

The success of these two grant applications points to the larger effort in the College is making to assist faculty members as they pursue nationally competitive grants.

“The talent pool is indeed deep in CLASS,” said Dean Brosnan. “Faculty members – in every discipline in the College – are viable candidates for these grants. Maria Gasi, the college’s research administrator, and I are eager to assist faculty in identifying and preparing grant applications. In the end, however, the success belongs to these outstanding professors.”