Department of English

Associate Professor Matt Cohen wins National Endowment for the Humanities grant

Mon, May 2, 2011

Associate Professor Matt Cohen has received a grant from the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, for a project that will digitally preserve Walt Whitman’s annotations. 

Whitman’s annotations include marginal notes the poet made in other authors’ publications; annotations he took while reading or after conversations; and notes Whitman made on photographs. This hitherto uncollected, diverse set of documents—most of which have never been published—shows America’s most famous poet in-the-making. From classical writings to Tennyson, from Persian poets to phrenological journals, the influences on Whitman’s work were manifold. 

“For the first time, students, scholars, and casual readers will all be able to explore how Whitman’s educated himself, through his reactions to the literature, history, science, theology, and art of his time,” Cohen says. “Whitman’s reactions range from the caustic to the puzzled to the awestruck; they take the form of everything from simply underlining significant passages to full-length expositions.”

NEH funds will support gathering documents from eight collaborating libraries, digitally preserving the documents, and offering free web access to them through the Walt Whitman Archive. The total project funding for the three-year grant is $366,830; much of the work will be performed by graduate students in the Department of English.

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