Deborah Solomon Awarded 2015 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship

dsolomon2.jpgDeborah Solomon, who in May 2015 earned her doctorate degree from Florida State University in English literature, has been awarded a 2015 National Endowment for the Humanities year-long fellowship.

The December 8 announcement caught her a bit off guard, and she initially needed some time for the news to sink in.

"It was actually the first thing I encountered on that Tuesday morning," she says. "I checked my email upon waking up and there it was—an acceptance letter from the NEH. My initial reaction was doubt. I kept re-reading the email to be sure that it actually said what I thought it was saying."

The award is a Fellowship for University Teachers and is for Solomon's book project, The Poem and the Garden: Rival Media in Early Modern England. She first explored the topic of material textuality in a graduate seminar essay—which was eventually published in Modern Philology—"comparing the technologies of manuscript and print in Thomas Wyatt's lyric 'They flee from me,'" Solomon says. The essay prompted her dissertation focus, which "took the same general line of query into the space of the garden to explore how the major aesthetic conventions of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry take shape through garden imagery."

English Professor Anne Coldiron was Solomon's major professor for her PhD, and her other committee members were English Professors Bruce Boehrer and Gary Taylor, and art history Professor Stephanie Leitch.

"One of the brilliant, original things about this project is that it breaks brand new ground, so to speak, by treating two important cultural practices together as 'rival media,' and does so in a way that honors the formal and aesthetic commitments of the poets she treats (dozens of them) as well as theoretical commitments to writing thorough and sound cultural history," Coldiron says. "I suspect that the originality and scholarly depth of the project, as well as Solomon's absolutely beautiful writing, must have impressed the NEH panelists."

Solomon says that the ideas for her project grew from History of Text Technology courses she took with Coldiron and Taylor.

"I could not have accomplished this without the mentoring I received from the faculty in the English department at FSU," she says.

Solomon is currently an English instructor at Auburn University at Montgomery. She will use the funding to focus on her project and to travel for research.

"The funding essentially buys time—time to think, to explore, and to write without the interruption of other responsibilities," she says. "It also provides the means for travel. I hope to do further archival research not just at libraries, such as Dumbarton Oaks, the Huntington, the British Library, and the Royal Collection Trust at Buckingham Palace, but also at real garden reconstructions, such as Hampton Court, Kenilworth, and Elvetham."

Solomon's project was a co-winner, with Victoria Farmer, of the English department's 2015 Bertram and Ruth Davis Award for Outstanding Dissertation. Coldiron says, however, brand-new PhDs almost never win an NEH fellowship. "This is such a joy to me personally, that a brilliant, hard-working, and thoroughly good person such as Deborah won this most competitive award," Coldiron says. "How happy I am that Deborah did."