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Two professors named Guggenheim fellows

Joe Piarulli | Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Two Notre Dame faculty members are among the 187 professionals receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship Award this year, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced April 6.

Julia Douthwaite, assistant provost for international studies and French professor, and Paul Cobb, fellow of the Medieval Institute and associate history professor, were chosen out of a pool of 300,000 applicants. The monetary awards for the 187 artists, scholars and scientists total $7,500,000.

Paul Cobb is the author of “Usama ibn Munqidh: Warrior Poet of the Age of Crusade,” an historical biography of a Syrian hero. Cobb specializes in Islamic history. He was not available for an interview with The Observer Tuesday.

Julia Douthwaite is the author of three volumes of essays and two books – “The Wild Girl, Natural Man, and the Monster” and “Exotic Women: Literary Heroines and Cultural Strategies in Ancien Régime France.”

Douthwaite is currently working on “A Literary History of the French Revolution.” She holds a Ph. D. from Princeton University and focuses her work on 18th- and early 19th- century French literature and the French Revolution.

“It’s a very great honor. I applied for grants last fall and never thought I would actually get this one because it’s the most prestigious,” she said.

Last Sunday, the New York Times featured a full-page ad paid for by the Foundation honoring the winners. In addition, all the fellows have been invited to attend a cocktail party at the Guggenheim Foundation in early May where they will be publicly honored.

Though Douth-waite said she couldn’t attend the party, she has still been getting quite a bit of attention.

“I’ve been getting letters from around the world actually,” she said. “Colleagues have been hearing about this from as far away as Brussels. [I heard from] a former student in Switzerland.”

Douthwaite was the only person to be given a fellowship to work in the field of French literature. She said the fellowship will support a year of leave beginning in January 2007 during which she will work on her new book.

While she isn’t completely sure why she was chosen, she said her project is worthwhile.

“I think that my project is interesting and original because it has never been done,” Douthwaite said. “I’m planning to unearth and analyze, in a historical context, fiction published during the French Revolution, between 1789 and 1799.”

The selection process for the fellowships calls for a proposal, bibliography and a career narrative. Those who make it through the first round will then need four recommendations, and the Committee of Selection makes the final decisions.

Douthwaite said she had applied for similar grants before, and has become somewhat accustomed to the procedure.

“It’s a process that you learn when you’re a young scholar. It’s a hard process, it’s a good process,” she said.

The process asks applicants to think about their futures and explain why their work is worth supporting, Douthwaite said.

“It has to be a very particular, very specific proposal,” she said. “It makes you focus and make concrete the project that maybe you just had in your head.”

According to Douthwaite, one of the best things about the Guggenheim Fellowship will be that it will afford her a great deal of independence.

“Freedom to think and to write and to research what you’re interested in, and to be part of an ongoing dialogue about the topic that you find of interest. I think that’s the main interest … to be part of an international dialogue of scholars and to help move knowledge forward,” she said.