Thomas Jefferson Award 2015: William L. Andrews

William L. Andrews, the E. Maynard Adams Professor of English & Comparative Literature, nobly incarnates the values represented by the Thomas Jefferson Award.  In 1996 returning as a distinguished professor to the department where he had earned his PhD, he intended to devote himself to his scholarship after directing the Humanities Center at the University of Kansas.  Always a remarkably productive scholar, he has nevertheless repeatedly subordinated his own work to leadership roles on our campus.  He chaired the Department of English for four years, then served as Senior Associate Dean for the Fine Arts and Humanities for seven.  In 2009-11 he co-chaired the massive endeavor to develop and write UNC’s five-year academic plan. 

It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of his investment in the University and all its citizens—staff, students, and faculty—as a Senior Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, most especially during the worst of the budget crisis erupting seven years ago.  Not merely keeping the ship afloat, he raised funds for new initiatives, including large interdisciplinary grants from the Mellon Foundation that have supported graduate fellowships, faculty research, and visionary collaborative opportunities such as the Medieval and Early Modern Studies program (MEMS) and the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative.

Andrews’s abundant, seminal scholarship in African American literature and culture deserves special recognition.  He entered the developing field early, when it took notable courage and commitment to the field’s importance for a white scholar to establish himself as an undisputed leader.  He focused attention on slave narratives when few understood the cultural and literary importance of this unrecognized body of work.  His archival research made an invaluable trove of previously unavailable slave narratives accessible to the world through UNC’s Documenting the American South web archive.  A recent national conference of the premier interdisciplinary organization for 19th-century American studies devoted a panel to the slave narrative in order to honor Bill Andrews’s groundbreaking scholarship.  With his customary modesty, he deflected the praise of six distinguished panelists who credited his work for making their own possible.  Dismissing his many academic accolades, Bill described the one tribute he treasures as a testament that his work matters.  A member of a small Southern church, a woman who owned the only computer in a congregation of about 100, thanked Bill Andrews for making available to her and the 25 children in the congregation a rich segment of their history.

His reach beyond academia, the role of his work in restoring a heritage of triumphs and meaning to a race too often reminded of bitter defeat and marginalization, reveal that Bill Andrews has extended the vision of Jeffersonian democracy to include people whom Jefferson himself was unable to include fully in the grace of America. 

Bravo, Bill Andrews, inspirational leader and scholar!


"Shakespeare in Performance" with The UNC Honors Summer Program

The UNC Honors Summer Program in London and Oxford runs for six weeks from mid-June to late July, the first three centered on UNC's Winston House adjacent to the British Museum, then moving to St Edmund Hall, an Oxford College originating in the 13th century.

The "Shakespeare in Performance" course requires attending 9 or 10 plays, mostly by Shakespeare with one or two by playwrights such as Ben Jonson, O'Neill, Pinter, and four papers plus a final exam. Minimum GPA is 3.0 (Students who have previously passed English 225, "Shakespeare," earn credit for an Honors Course.) 













Classes take place four days a week, with free weekends Friday through Sunday which allow individual travel to Scotland, Paris, etc. At St Edmund Hall weekday meals are included in the Program cost. Professor Christopher Armitage has been involved in directing this Program or earlier versions since 1975. He is a graduate of Oxford and since 2013 an Honorary St Edmund Fellow.  For details on costs and enrolling, consult Ms Gina Difino at (919)962-9680 or

Fall Faculty Colloquium: November 4, 2015 (3:30-4:30)

Join us at 3:30 PM in Donovan Lounge on Wednesday, November 4, for informal talks and Q&A with Patrick O'Neill, Jordynn Jack, and Jane Thrailkill. Feel free to bring a brown bag lunch. Graduate students are warmly invited as well.

Patrick P. O’Neill (Pádraig P. Ó Néill), who has been at UNC since 1980, is currently James Gordon Hanes Distinguished Professor of the Humanities. His research interests lie in the literatures and languages of Britain and Ireland, especially in their interactions with each other during the medieval period.  Within those broad parameters he focuses on religious literature, glossing, Psalter studies, the editing of Latin and vernacular texts, and (more recently) Anglo-Irish literature of the 13/14th century.

Jordynn Jack: I locate my scholarship at the intersection of two sub-fields within the interdisciplinary field of rhetorical scholarship: feminist rhetorics and the rhetoric of science. My research extends work by Charles Bazerman, Alan Gross, and others, who have examined the persuasive dimension in scientific genres such as the research article, and work by feminist scholars such as Andrea Lunsford and Nan Johnson, who have argued that any definition of rhetoric involves gendered notions of who is authorized to write or speak, using which rhetorical devices, and in which contexts.

Jane Thrailkill: My primary area of expertise is pre-1900 American literature and culture, with an emphasis on the ways authors responded to the political, social, and technological disruptions following the Civil War. From my days as a pre-med student at Amherst College, I have strong interest in the interdisciplinary field of medical humanities. At UNC, I've collaborated with the Honors Program and with colleagues across campus to create an undergraduate minor and a new graduate program in Literature, Medicine, and Culture.


Fall Faculty Colloquium: October 2, 2015 (12:00-1:00)

Join us at 12 PM in Donovan Lounge on Friday, October 2, for informal talks and Q&A with Christopher Armitage, Laura Halperin, and Heidi Kim. Feel free to bring a brown bag lunch. Graduate students are warmly invited as well. 


Christopher Mead Armitage, who joined the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty in 1967, specializes in seventeenth- and twentieth-century English and Canadian literature. His lively style and personal interest in his students have earned him several awards for excellent teaching. Since 1970 he has returned annually to England to conduct a six-week study program on "Shakespeare in Performance" for students and alumni. In addition, Armitage lectures frequently for the Carolina Speakers program. He appeared on horseback and in eighteenth-century costume to represent William R. Davie at UNC's Bicentennial and on later occasions. His recent publications include The Poetry of Piety: An Annotated Anthology of Christian Poetry which he compiled with UNC alumnus Rev. Dr. Ben Witherington; and "Blue China and Blue Moods: Oscar Fashioning Himself at Oxford," Oscar Wilde: The Man, His Writings and His World, ed. Robert N. Keane.


Laura Halperin: My research interests focus on contemporary Latina/o literatures and cultures. My current book project focuses on representations of harm in late twentieth century Latina novels and memoirs. It examines the gendered, racialized, and ethnicized pathologization of Latinas in works by Julia Alvarez, Ana Castillo, Cristina García, Loida Maritza Pérez, and Irene Vilar. The manuscript drawsconnections among psychological, physical, environmental, and geopolitical harm, and it posits links between Latina deviance and defiance. My budding research interests lie in the arena of Latinas/os and education. I am interested in what it means to grow up Latina/o. To this end, I am investigating connections among Latina/o coming of age narratives, curricular policies that affect Latinas/os, governmental policies that impair or facilitate Latinas/os’ access to an education, debates surrounding English-Only policies and bilingual or multilingual education, and censorship of Latina/o texts in school libraries and classrooms.


Heidi Kim: My work ranges through nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature and Asian American studies. In my book project, Invisible Subjects: Asian Americans in Postwar Literature (Oxford UP, 2016), I study texts by twentieth-century canonical American authors of different ethnicities through recent advances in Asian American studies and historiography. This critical lens allows me to interpret overlooked subtleties in the depiction of race in the American literary canon. Building on Ralph Ellison’s theories of invisibility in his famous novel Invisible Man, I show that Asian Americans demonstrate the fluidity and limitations of their available legal and social roles. I resituate several major authors (Ellison, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck) amid the Asian American presence in their works and the dialogue of liberal individualism. I have also recently published an edition of a memoir and correspondence of a Japanese American family from Hawai'i incarcerated during World War II (Taken from the Paradise Isle, UP Colorado, 2015) and have published essays on other aspects of the incarceration.