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By Hannah Montgomery, Graduate Writer

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities named two ECL professors, Dr. Rebecka Rutledge Fisher and Dr. Courtney Rivard, 2020-2021 Faculty Fellows. The Faculty Fellowship program provides on-campus semester-long leaves for faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences to pursue research and creative work in which the arts and humanities play a central role and leads to publication, exhibition, composition, and performance. Faculty Fellows often demonstrate a track record of engaging in groundbreaking scholarship, communicating the results of their research to a broader audience, and working to bring that knowledge back into the UNC classroom.

Dr. Rutledge Fisher has been named a Fall 2020 Johnson Fellow. Her project, “The Thinker as Poet: The Poetries  and Poetics of W.E.B. Du Bois,” examines the poetries of W.E.B. Du Bois from a new lens. She describes her project as guided by “A critical, innovative, and fresh perspective on western philosophies of poetry.” In this book project, Rutledge Fisher looks at a radical re-situation of Du Bois’s poetics, “which sees his versification as emerging from multiple, trans*human, and decolonial conceptions of ‘poetries,’” and examines how that “serves to clarify the intellectual trajectory of his life-long dedication to poetries as a set of intentional projects of re-making and revision that move across categories of expression and across genres, breaking through colonizing borders of knowledge.” She explains, “rather than attending only to the more conventional and universal concept of ‘poetry,’ this project conceives a multiplicity of poetics — simply put, Du Bois’s sublime poetries — that aim to breach the normative epistemological boundaries we usually employ in analyses of poetic knowledge and power. Using the plural “poetries” as an incipient sublime and hermeneutic lever, we can see how Du Bois disseminates discourses of the poetic as he challenges the boundaries of western white hetero-patriarchy, epistemology, and power reflected in historical conventions of the genre.”

Dr. Courtney Rivard was named a Spring 2021 Tyson/Belk Fellow. Her project, Voice of a Nation: Mapping Documentary Expression in New Deal America, is an open access digital public humanities publication that “recovers the history of the Southern Life History Project (SLHP),” a Federal Writers’ Project initiative designed to capture the stories of everyday people living through the Great Depression in their own words. Bringing together traditional archival methods with computational analysis, Rivard, together with co-authors Dr. Lauren Tilton and Dr. Taylor Arnold (both of University of Richmond), will produce a distant reading of the SLHP archive. As Dr. Rivard says, “The results demonstrate an entangled story about how the life histories produced public memory; the role that race and gender played in negotiating the new methods used to produce life histories; and the ways this new genre of social documentary helped to reshape notions of Southern identity during a time of political, social and economic unrest.”

Thanks to these fellowships, Dr. Rutledge Fisher and Dr. Rivard will be able to continue their groundbreaking research.

photo collage of Dr. Rebecka Rutledge Fisher and Dr. Courtney Rivard
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