Two UMBC faculty recently received one of the highest honors in the humanities and related social sciences. Professor of English Christoph Irmscher and Associate Professor of History Marjoleine Kars were awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships for University Teachers. This year, only 14 percent of applicants received this prestigious one-year fellowship, which recognizes faculty research that contributes to scholarship or to the general public's understanding of the humanities.
Irmscher will use his award to complete a cultural biography of biologist/geologist Louis Agassiz (under contract with the University Press of Virginia). Regarded as the most famous scientist in 19 th century America, Agassiz was a prolific writer known for his opposition to evolutionism and his theories on the Ice Age. “He was a cultural force whose work provides valuable insight into mid-19 th century American society and culture,” said Irmscher.
Irmscher’s previous books have received numerous awards, including the dissertation prize of the German Association of English Studies, the American Studies Network Prize, the Literature and Language Award of the Association of American Publishers and The Bloomsbury Review ’s “Editor’s Favorite.”
Kars, an historian of early North America, will use her award to complete research on a longtime interest in Latin American and African history that also allows her to use her Dutch language skills. She is writing a book on one of the largest 18 th century slave rebellions, which took place in Berbice, a Dutch colony in the Caribbean, now part of Guyana. “The only two books on the rebellion were written in Dutch in 1770 and 1888, so it is important to bring this rebellion to the attention of an English-speaking public,” said Kars.
In 2004, Kars received a Mellon Research Fellowship by the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, where she is currently studying the role American Indians played in the Berbice rebellion.
Thomas Field, Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics and Director of the Center for the Humanities, received a NEH Fellowship in 2003, but chose to delay his award until June 2005. Field will build a Web-based database on the earliest texts in Gascon, an endangered Romance language spoken in parts of France and Spain. His work will also be incorporated into a larger database on medieval texts at the University of Birmingham.
A former Maryland Teacher of the Year (Awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching) and Presidential Teaching Professor at UMBC, Field frequently gives lectures and workshops in linguistics, culture and the uses of computing in language teaching.
Read a Q&A with Irmscher, Kars and Field on how faculty research connects with the undergraduate experience at UMBC.