Nebraska: the land of corn, Huskers and one of the largest Romantic literature collections in the United States. One professor on campus is dusting off the books once again to host a five-week seminar that will likely draw in professors, not only from the United States, but from around the world.
Stephen Behrendt, a George Holmes Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, plans to continue expanding the Romanticism realm by hosting a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar. Titled “Reassessing British Romanticism,” the seminar will run from June 10 through July 12, 2013.
“This is a very big deal for UNL, for several reasons,” Behrendt said. “For one, it will bring 16 college and university teachers from around the United States for five weeks of intensive study, research and conversation about the dramatic changes that have been happening in literary studies over the past decade or so.”
Applications for the “best class you’ve ever been in” are due in early March. In addition to their learning experience, participants will receive a $3,900 stipend to help pay for travel and living expenses during the seminar.
Behrendt said this literature genre continues to grow, as authors from Scotland and Ireland are finally being included in the circle of British Romanticism. He said this is an important shift in literary and cultural history and he’s excited to work with energetic and productive scholars.
“We all teach one another, sort of light a fire under one another,” Behrendt said. “After people go back, they’re in touch with each other; we try out lesson plans and ideas for articles with one another.”
This will be the fourth time Behrendt’s hosted an NEH seminar at UNL, which puts the university in prestigious company. New York University, Berkeley and Princeton are hosting similar seminars this year.
One of the possible reasons for UNL’s involvement with NEH is Love Library’s unique collection of Romantic literature. The Corvey Collection contains over 10,000 items, many of which are rare and written in English, French and German.
“As far as I know, UNL is one of only two universities in the U.S. who has the collection,” Behrendt said. “This is something that people come from all over the country to use.”
Susan Belasco, chair of UNL’s English department, said NEH has helped put Nebraska on the map, both nationally and globally. Behrendt said he had over 60 applicants for the last seminar, which he had to whittle down to 16.
“Probably a number of these people couldn’t spot Nebraska on a map and, certainly, when they leave, they’ll know a little bit about Nebraska and Romanticism,” Belasco said. “I think that’s a really crucial thing. Nebraska is not on the major tourism map, so it’s good to find ways to bring people here.”
While it’s great to get people thinking about Nebraska, the information professors will learn about Romanticism may have huge implications in classes throughout the country, Behrendt said. Many professors who attend this seminar are early in their careers, working toward tenure. During his or her time at UNL, each professor will work on an individual project, whether it be an article or teaching method, to take with them.
“It becomes like the best class you’ve ever been in,” Behrendt said. “For five weeks they’re really working on their own thing, but looking out for stuff that might be useful to others. It becomes like this big, integrated study group.”
Behrendt advises applicants to find something they’re passionate about and propose a project that’s interesting and new.
“I really tell them I want to get a real diversity of projects and people,” Behrendt said. “I really don’t want to see the same old stuff that’s been done. I’ve begun to get proposals for electronic projects, which has been really interesting.”
Belasco said she thinks applicants should start early and work hard on their project proposals.
“Make the best case for yourself that you possibly can,” Belasco said. “It’s going to be a terrific opportunity to study here with professor Behrendt and the Corvey Collection.”