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Professors receive fellowships

Tori Roeck | Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two Notre Dame professors recently received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to pursue their scholarly work next year, increasing the University’s record number of NEH fellowships to 44 in the last 12 years.

Notre Dame has earned more NEH fellowships since 1999 than any other university in the country, according to a University press release. The University of Michigan earned 35 NEH fellowships and Harvard earned 26.

Notre Dame theology professor Eugene Ulrich received a fellowship this year in Ancient Languages to pursue his book, “The Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” a compilation of his previous work on the topic.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls … open up a period that we had lost sight of, a period that had just been lost to history,” Ulrich said. “Which is part of the period of the composition of the Scriptures.”

Ulrich’s career has been focused on exploring this era through the scrolls, and therefore gaining a greater appreciation for and understanding of the Biblical texts.

His work began as a graduate student at Harvard under Frank Cross, one of the two original American editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. His dissertation became an analysis of one of the major scrolls.

“It was being in the right place at the right time,” Ulrich said.

Ulrich’s first NEH fellowship in 1977 enabled him to publish one of the scrolls, leading to a lifetime of research pertaining to these documents. When the other editor, Monsignor Patrick Skehan of Catholic University of America, died, he left his life’s work to Ulrich because he was so impressed with his research.

“This coming year will be my 39th year of teaching here,” Ulrich said, “and 21 of those years, I have had NEH funding. They were very interested in the publication of the scrolls.”

Ulrich’s upcoming work expands on a book he published last year, “The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants,” which includes all of the text from the Biblical Scrolls, but makes it more accessible.

“After going through scroll after scroll after scroll and seeing different surprises here, different surprises there, what I’m doing now is synthesizing all that and putting it into one monograph so that you can get in one book a clear explanation and description of how the Bible came to be the way it is,” Ulrich said.

Thomas F. X. Noble, chair of Notre Dame’s History Department, received an NEH fellowship in Medieval Studies to produce his book “Rome in the Medieval Imagination,” a look at how Rome was perceived by different people and cultures during Medieval times.

“Everyone had an opinion about Rome,” Noble said. “Good, bad or indifferent.”

Noble’s previous work focused on Rome itself, especially Popes and the Roman Church. His new book, however, will explore Rome through the eyes of Medieval citizens.

“Rome was a constant presence for Medieval people,” Noble said “It haunted their imagination, and [in my book] I am poking around inside people’s imagination a thousand years ago.”

Noble said “Rome in the Medieval Imagination” will finally provide a source for Medieval scholars to learn about their subjects’ perceptions of Rome.

“Whoever studies Medieval art, literature or history runs into Rome all the time,” Noble said. “Some people might be thinking why this author in 12th century France thought this about Rome … and they’ve never had a book to take off the shelf to look that up and find out. So what I’m trying to do is explain why you bump into Rome all the time if you study the Middle Ages.”

This is Noble’s third NEH fellowship, but he said he still feels just as great about it as his first two.

“When you win one of these awards, it means that an anonymous panel of our peers thought well of what we’re doing,” Noble said. “When the NEH looks at all those worthy applications and picks yours, it feels pretty good. Notre Dame has a wonderful tradition in winning these so it’s nice to be part of that group.”