IU Bloomington faculty members selected as National Humanities Center Fellows

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington faculty members Shannon Gayk and William Newman have been appointed fellows at the National Humanities Center for 2014-15.

They are among 41 fellows from 16 states, Canada, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Each fellow will work on an individual research project and will have the opportunity to share ideas in seminars, lectures and conferences at the center, an independent institute for advanced study in the humanities located in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.

Gayk, an associate professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, received a Walter Hines Page Fellowship for her project, "Instruments of Christ: The Arma Christi in Early England."

Newman is Distinguished Professor and Ruth N. Halls Professor of History and Philosophy of Science in the College of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded a Birkelund Fellowship for "The Alchemy of Isaac Newton -- A New Appraisal."

"This is a great honor and opportunity for Professors Gayk and Newman, each of whom has made very important contributions to the vital and enduring values of a liberal arts education on the IU Bloomington campus," said John Lucaites, associate dean for arts and humanities and undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

"The National Humanities Center is dedicated to promoting excellence in scholarship, strengthening teaching, and enhancing the public understanding of the role of the humanities in contemporary society," Lucaites said. "Professors Gayk and Newman are models of faculty who engage and promote the virtues of humanistic inquiry and understanding.  The College is duly proud of the work that each has accomplished in their careers, and we all look forward to seeing what work they will produce in their time as NHC Fellows."

Gayk is a scholar of late-medieval religious writing and culture. She teaches courses in poetry and poetics, eco-criticism and service-learning. Her first book, "Image, Text, and Religious Reform in Fifteenth-Century England," focused on visual art, vernacular literature and the rhetorics of reform.

At the National Humanities Center, she will work on a second academic book, which explores how medieval people understood the uses, powers and meanings of a cluster of passion relics. She is also in the final stages of writing a small book of essays on modern pilgrimages to medieval holy places, supported by the Virginia Project in Lived Theology.

She has co-edited a collection of essays, "Form and Reform: Reading Across the Fifteenth Century," and is completing a special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies on "The Sacred Object." She is a member of FORMER, a collaborative group of medievalists whose work is committed to the study of literary form and aesthetics.

Newman's recent research has focused on early modern "chymistry" as exemplified by Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Daniel Sennert and the American scientist George Starkey. His "Chymistry of Isaac Newton" project combines a digital edition of the scientist's alchemical works with tools derived from computational linguistics and laboratory replication of Newton's experiments.

He received the 2013 HIST Award, presented by the American Chemical Society for outstanding achievement in the field of the history of chemistry, and has been awarded fellowships, grants and prizes from a variety of foundations.

His books include "Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution," "Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature" and (with L.M. Principe) "Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry." Newman also wrote "Gehennical Fire," the first biography of George Starkey, otherwise known as Eirenaeus Philalethes.

The 2014-15 National Humanities Center Fellows were chosen from 362 applicants and are scholars in anthropology, art history, classics and archaeology, communications, history, law, literature, political science, philosophy and religion. The center will award a total of $1.6 million in fellowship grants to enable scholars to take leave from their normal academic duties and pursue research.

Since 1978 the center has awarded fellowships to more than 1,300 scholars whose work at the center has resulted in the publication of more than 1,500 books. It also sponsors programs to strengthen the teaching of the humanities in secondary and higher education.

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