Advertisement

Academic nonfiction for the masses? NEH awards $1.7 million in Public Scholar grants

Academic nonfiction for the masses? NEH awards $1.7 million in Public Scholar grants
Wendy Lesser, seen in2002, is the recipent of an NEH Public Scholar grant. (Randi Lynn Beach / For the Times)

Academic nonfiction isn't just for library-dwelling graduate students and college professors anymore. That's the message that the National Endowment for the Humanities hopes to get across.

The federal agency has awarded $1.7 million in grants to 36 authors working on scholarly nonfiction books in an effort to "bring humanities scholarship beyond academic departments and university campuses and into book clubs and best-seller lists."

Advertisement

The grants are the first round in the NEH's Public Scholar program, which seeks to bring academic nonfiction to a wider audience. In a news release, the agency says the program is focusing on books that "present a narrative history, tell the stories of important individuals, analyze significant texts, provide a synthesis of ideas, revive interest in a neglected subject, or examine the latest thinking on a topic."

The list of grant recipients, which is available at the Washington Post, includes one California writer: Wendy Lesser of Berkeley, an author and the founding editor of The Threepenny Review, who was awarded $42,000 for her work in progress, "American Architect Louis Kahn (1901-1974): A Portrait in Light and Shadow."

Other recipients include Mark Clague for a cultural history of "The Star-Spangled Banner"; Judith Dupre for a "biography" of the World Trade Center; Noah Isenberg for a book about the film "Casablanca"; Anne Rioux for a history of the book "Little Women"; and Edward Ball for "Constant LeCorgne (1832-1886): Biography of a Klansman."

William D. Adams, NEH chairman, said he hopes the program will make scholarly nonfiction accessible to the general public.  "At the Endowment we take very seriously the idea, expressed in our founding legislation, that the humanities belong to all the people of the United States. In announcing the new Public Scholar program we hope to challenge humanities scholars to think creatively about how specialized research can benefit a wider public."

Advertisement
Advertisement