SLA Faculty Awarded Grants for Summer Research
Liberal Arts faculty typically use the summer months to engage in research that leads to scholarly publication and, in many cases, to new strategies and resources for the classroom. Two faculty members received highly competitive grants to perform on-the-ground research on their latest projects.
Michael O’Sullivan’s research in Germany over the summer was supported by a Dr. Richard A.
Hunt Fellowship for the Study of German Politics, Society, and Culture. Dr. O’Sullivan used this
opportunity to study archival material related to Therese Neumann and her circle of followers.
As Dr. O’Sullivan points out, Neumann (1898-1962) is an enigmatic figure. “She became a
religious visionary from 1926 until her death, hearing heavenly voices and bleeding from her
eyes, feet, and hands before devoted followers for thirty-five years,” he recounts in an e-mail.
“Although accused by many of fraudulence, she developed a group of advocates known as the
Konnersreuth Circle and her beatification process began in 2005 after Church authorities
received 40,000 letters of support.”
Dr. O’Sullivan’s time in Germany involved two weeks of very intensive research. In addition to
delivering a lecture at the University of Vechta and copying over 1,000 pages of documents
during lengthy days in the archives, he met with two individuals who have been active in
pursuing Neumann’s beatification. All of these interactions were productive and rewarding, according
to Dr. O’Sullivan: “It is a very generous grant and I was grateful to receive it.”
Dr. Michelle Smith’s travels, while closer to home, were equally crucial to her research
agenda. She successfully applied for a place in the National Endowment for the Humanities’
two-week Summer Institute on “Transcendentalism and Social Action in the Age of Emerson,
Thoreau, and Fuller.” An interdisciplinary group of faculty representing a wide variety of
disciplines explored the interplay between abolitionism and the women’s rights movement in
19th-century New England. Participants not only attended lectures by prominent scholars in
the field, but were also given access to rare archival materials held by the Concord Free
Public Library and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
As she explained in an e-mail, “My research on women's work in intentional communities
investigates Brook Farm. We were able to visit the site, and the institute also gave me a good
overview of the extent to which women's equality was or was not of central concern to
Transcendentalists, in general.” In addition to gaining insights crucial for her book project, the institute pointed Dr. Smith in new pedagogical directions as well: “As for teaching, I will definitely be drawing from these materials when I teach my Honors Utopian Literature course in the spring. I'm also kicking around the idea of an antislavery rhetoric class somewhere down the line--either a First Year Seminar, Honors course, or something else.”