Studying Elizabeth Bishop at Vassar

Marist College

Dr. Virginia Konchan selected as NEH Summer Scholar

Dr. Virginia Konchan, adjunct professor of English, has been selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities as an NEH Summer Scholar for 2017. In July, Dr. Konchan will participate in "Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive," a month-long seminar at Vassar College, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet's alma mater. 

The seminar, based in the Vassar Archives & Special Collections, will bring together sixteen university professors interested in – and influenced by – the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979) and her circle. Its goals are to extend and deepen our knowledge and understanding about Bishop, her circle, and literary history; understand key theoretical and critical debates surrounding the archives and literary history; work collaboratively to introduce and develop new methods of interdisciplinary teaching and research in the humanities; strengthen the academic discourse surrounding the ethics of archival research; and develop a deeper understanding of how social issues affect artistic expression.

"I first started studying Elizabeth Bishop as an undergrad and was fascinated both by the conversational intimacy of her poems, and her epistolary conversations with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell," says Dr. Konchan. "Her writing style, along with that of Wallace Stevens – a poet she herself imitated while living in Key West – has greatly influenced my own." 

NEH summer scholars will have ample time to work in the archives on independent projects for publication and to revise or develop new syllabi for teaching. Summer scholars will also have the opportunity to collaborate on a proposed volume of essays that focuses on the poet and her archives.

 Read a selection of Elizabeth Bishop's poems here

Explaining how her work in next month's seminar will influence her teaching of the poet and her work, Dr. Konchan said, "I have taught Bishop's work at the University of Illinois-Chicago and here at Marist, and I intend to assign my Art of Poetry students her Collected Poems for the Fall 2017 semester. I also plan to develop lectures on her contributions to modernism and confessional poetry, as well as her exploration of gender, identity, and strict poetic forms."

Dr. Konchan is the author of the short story collection Anotomical Gift (Noctuary Press) and three poetry collections, most recently The End of Spectacle(Carnegie Mellon University Press). She teaches creative writing classes at Marist.

This summer, the 537 NEH Summer Scholars who participate in all the 24 different seminars will teach more than 93,975 students the following year. NEH Scholars receive a stipend to cover travel, study, and living expenses.

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