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Professors Receive National Endowment for the Humanities Awards

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Cord Whitaker

Two professors have received National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awards to support their humanities projects this year.

Assistant professor of English Cord Whitaker received a $25,000 Enduring Questions Pilot Course Grant to support his development of an undergraduate course based on the question “What is racial difference?”

Martin McKinsey, associate professor of English, was awarded a $6,000 summer stipend to support his work on a new translation and edition of “C.P. Cavafy: The Major Prose.”

The projects are two of more than 200 across the nation supported by $17 million in grants from NEH. They are the only two awarded to scholars in New Hampshire. 

Whitaker intends his course to create new ways of understanding at UNH, “a predominantly white institution whose demographic is quickly changing,” he says.

“While a number of faculty at UNH have taught ground-breaking courses on race, it is now necessary that race be given an even more prominent place in the curriculum in order to support students of color and educate all students about racial ideology in the world at-large,” Whitaker said, adding that an NEH-funded course will increase the national prominence of work on race at the university.

Martin McKinsey

Courses that explore the question of difference between human groups often start their investigation at the Renaissance or in the 19th century, notes Whitaker. His new course will take the long view.

“We’ll explore questions of human group identity, conflict, and subjugation from the classical period through modern day,” Whitaker said. “Students will investigate how discourses of linguistic, physical, geographic, and religious difference have all contributed to the modern notion of race.”

Whitaker’s hope is that students who take the course will go on to present their research in the new ethnic studies sessions he has implemented at UNH’s undergraduate research conference.

McKinsey’s award will enable him to undertake a new translation of a large selection of prose work by the Greek-Egyptian C.P. Cavafy, a project invited by the newly established Harvard Early Modern and Modern Greek Library series from the Harvard department of classics. The poetry of Cavafy continues to attract new readers, but his prose writing is little known beyond the world of Cavafy specialists, even in Greece itself, says McKinsey.

“Part of my interest in the prose work is to add to the picture of Cavafy as a writer outside of England who was deeply infused with British culture, but also had mixed feelings about it due to being a colonial,” McKinsey said.

The volume will include commentary on the texts, locating them in the context of Cavafy’s life and work, and within the cultural and political world in which they were written.

“The grants highlight the breadth of exceptional research supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities,” said NEH chairman Jim Leach. “Whether it is supporting the scholars who comb through archives in search of long overlooked facts and perspectives, bringing compelling humanities exhibits and programming into communities across the country, or applying new technologies to enduring human questions, these projects will open up new ways of understanding our world and our past.”