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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 3, 2017—The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) has named Dorothy J. Wang, associate professor of American Studies, a 2017 Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellow. Wang is the first professor from Williams College to win the highly competitive fellowship, which provides “potential leaders in their fields with the resources to pursue long-term, unusually ambitious projects.”
The Burkhardt Fellowship carries a $95,000 stipend and a $7,500 research budget, allowing awardees to take up a yearlong residency at an institution whose resources and scholarly community are suited to facilitate his or her research project. This year, 22 fellows were chosen out of 160 applicants. The Burkhardt “tends to draw an especially accomplished crowd of recently tenured scholars,” says John Paul Christy, the ACLS’ director of public programs. Wang’s project, “‘Things Unintelligible, Yet Understood’: Race and the Genealogies of American Poetics,” will take her to the Department of English at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) during the academic year 2017-2018.
“Winning the Burkhardt is a real affirmation of the kind of work being done by a new generation of poetry scholars, especially scholars of color, who want to put an end, once and for all, to the opposition of the aesthetic and the racial—a false binary that has a long and unfortunate history in Western aesthetics, inseparable from the enterprises of colonialism and slavery, and one that has been promulgated by such esteemed thinkers as Immanuel Kant and Thomas Jefferson,” says Wang.
Wang’s project, whose title’s first half comes from Wallace Stevens’ poem “Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery,” re-thinks the literary historical narratives of American poetry since Modernism, along with fundamental concepts and practices that constitute contemporary poetry criticism.
“Often when discussing the lyric, ‘craft,’ formal experimentation or other such aspects of poetry, the core ideas and techniques are assumed to be neutral, objective, universal or impersonal,” Wang writes. “This project will re-contextualize American poetics by bringing side by side poetries that are usually not read in relation to one another: the work of experimental Asian American, African American, Latina/o, and Native American poets and that of both canonical and lesser-known white poets.”
Wang’s new project builds on the work begun in her award-winning first book, Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry (Stanford University Press, 2013), which inspired an annual conference and was included on The New Yorker’s “The Books We Loved in 2016” list. The third “Thinking Its Presence: Race, Creative Writing and Literary Study” conference will be held at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center in Tucson from Oct. 19-21, 2017.
Wang, who is also affiliated with the English Department, has taught at Williams for 10 years. She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of California, Berkeley; a master’s degree in poetry writing from Johns Hopkins University, a master’s degree in international affairs from Princeton University; and a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Duke University. She previously taught in the English departments at Northwestern University and Wesleyan University.
The Burkhardt Fellowship is open to recently tenured faculty at all U.S.-based colleges and universities and supports residencies at 13 national and international research centers that partner with ACLS for this program. Another set of awards, reserved for faculty from liberal arts colleges, enables fellows to carry out their residencies at any research university-based humanities center or academic department in the United States.
The program is made possible through the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.