Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Sunday, January 31, 2010


In this time of budgetary retrenchment, I was heartened to read news this last week of the 1.25 million dollar grant awarded by the Mellon Foundation to the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. The money will be used to fund 10 post-doctoral fellowship in the humanities over the next six years, in four broadly interdisciplinary areas: race and diaspora studies, the history of science and technology, empire and colonial studies, and memory studies.

It may be that none of these people wind up having anything to do with the Department of English per se, though English faculty certainly have expertise in each of the areas targeted by the grant. But even if that winds up being the case, faculty and students in English will inevitably benefit from this influx of younger scholars doing leading edge work, and this kind of grant, as Chancellor Easter is quoted as saying in the news story I've linked to above, "can only be interpreted as recognition by others of our strengths in areas across the humanities." Indeed.

Though each humanities department has its own special area(s) of expertise, all of us in the humanities find ourselves engaged with larger, shared historical and theoretical questions (including, but not limited to, those named in the grant) that ensure that our research concerns overlap with those of people in other departments on campus. Humanities scholarship is all interdisciplinary these days. And since English is a large department, and a crucial hub for strong humanities scholarship generally, we have faculty in our department who are also affiliated with the whole gamut of other humanities departments on campus. This means that we have a strong departmental investment in the strength of humanities as a whole. And IPRH--which hosts talks and ongoing seminars on a wide variety of shared topics, and which provides crucial support for interdisciplinary humanities scholarship on campus--is an on-campus institution whose contribution to our shared intellectual life cannot be overstated.

Congratulations to Dianne Harris, who directs IPRH and is the PI for this grant. I know I speak for the entire English Department when I say that we're really looking forward to seeing what comes of this, and that we all deeply appreciate the work that IPRH does in support of interdisciplinary humanities scholarship on campus.

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