NEH Summer Institute - Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955, June 12-July 7 2017, USA

Publish Date: Jan 10, 2017

Deadline: Mar 01, 2017

The Newberry Library is pleased to announce a 2017 NEH summer institute, Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955. The 4-week institute will explore Chicago’s contribution to the modernist movement, with particular attention given to literature and the visual arts. The program of lectures, discussion, and site visits will consider the dimensions of a Chicago “style,” from the turn of the century through the Second World War. Participants will also consider how Chicago’s cultural output during these decades is connected more broadly to transatlantic modernism. We will begin with the persistent cultural resonances of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago—better known as the World’s Fair—which gave rise to many of the city’s key cultural institutions, clubs, and smaller arts organizations. We will then explore what scholars have called the “Chicago literary renaissance” of the 1910s and 1920s, particularly the work of writers who challenged the subjects and styles of a genteel literary tradition. From the interracial collaborations supported by the Works Progress Administration in Chicago through the creative ferment of Bronzeville, the institute will also engage a rapidly growing body of scholarship on the Chicago Black Renaissance. Importantly, the institute aims for an inclusive and expansive history of modernist literature and art in Chicago across racial lines.

Each week of the institute will include site visits to Chicago museums, clubs, neighborhoods, landmarks, or archives, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Arts Club of Chicago, and the Poetry Foundation. There also will be an organized trip to the Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at the Carter G. Woodson Library, the oldest and largest African American Studies repository in the Midwest.


The institute will feature guest faculty members in the fields of literature, history, art history, print culture, and African American studies. These faculty include:

Liesl Olson, The Newberry Library
Jennifer Fleissner, Associate Professor, Department of English, Indiana University
Diane Dillon, Director of Exhibitions and Major Projects, The Newberry Library
Sarah Kelly Oehler, Henry and Gilda Buchbinder Associate Curator of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago
Martha Briggs, Lloyd Lewis Curator of Modern Manuscripts, The Newberry Library
Kenneth Warren, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor, Department of English, University of Chicago
Davarian Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Trinity College


Making Modernism is designed for college-level teachers. Twenty-five applications will be chosen, including at least five non-tenure-track/adjunct faculty members.  Scholars specializing in American literature, American studies, twentieth-century American art, African American studies, urban history, and women’s studies will find the institute especially attractive. The institute will not require that participants have extensive prior knowledge of twentieth-century culture in Chicago. However, successful applicants should have knowledge of the subject sufficient to allow them to articulate concrete ways in which four weeks of concentration on the topic will enhance their teaching and research. The ideal institute participant will bring to the group a fresh understanding of the relevance of the topic to their work, and will welcome the opportunity to conduct a program that would support pedagogic innovation and scholarly publications.

For more information on eligibility requirements, consult the NEH Summer Eligibility Criteria.

Stipend and Housing Information

All participants will receive a taxable stipend of $3,300, an amount determined by the NEH.  Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location, research expenses, and ordinary living expenses. Stipends will be paid in two installments, at the start of the institute, and at the beginning of week three.  Please be advised that the stipend is not likely to cover all of the expense of living in Chicago for four weeks.  

Institute participants are required to attend all meetings and to engage fully as professionals in the work of the project.  During the project’s tenure, they may not undertake teaching assignments or any other professional activities unrelated to their participation in the project. 

Summer scholars may rent rooms at Club Quarters at the library’s reduced monthly rates ($70 to $90/day for 30 days). Options include a range of single or double occupancy rooms, and many include cooking facilities. Many past NEH summer scholars have chosen furnished one-bedroom apartments at Canterbury Courts, just a few blocks from the library. The current negotiated Newberry rate at Canterbury Courts is $1,200 for four weeks. Participants are free as well to make their alternative housing arrangements.  The Newberry will provide a comprehensive list of nearby housing options to successful applicants.  For a complete list of the Newberry’s discounted housing arrangements, visit the Newberry’s Accommodations page on the official website. 

It is highly advisable that you find housing near the Newberry or within easy access to public transportation to the Newberry.  Please be aware that the Newberry does not have a visitor parking lot, though it does provide discounted rates at nearby garages.  

Participants will be given special privileges during the institute at the Newberry, including a research carrel, extended reading hours, and the ability to page items on reserve for the length of their stay. The participants’ research and study will be facilitated by access to a full range of computing services. They will have wireless Internet access from their carrels, as well as workstations and printers elsewhere in the Library.

How to Apply

Completed applications (hard copy) should be submitted to Liesl Olson at the Newberry Library, and should be postmarked no later than March 1, 2017.  Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on Friday, March 31, 2017, and they will have until Friday, April 7 to accept or decline the offer.

Before applying, please read the full Institute Description and the NEH Application Information and Instructions on the official website (click "Further official information" below this announcement.

Applicants are asked to complete an online Application Cover sheet located on the NEH’s website. Before you click the “submit” button, print out the cover sheet and add it to your application package.  Then click “submit.”  At this point you will be asked if you want to fill out a cover sheet for another project.  If you do, follow the prompts to select the other project and repeat the process. 

Do not use the same cover sheet for different projects.  You must submit a separate cover sheet online for each project to which you are applying in order to generate a unique tracking number for each application.  

Please mail hard copies of all other required materials to Liesl Olson at the Newberry Library (address below).  

The most important part of the application is the essay of no more than four double spaced pages.  It should address your interest, both academic and personal, in the subject to be studied; qualifications and experiences that equip you to do the work of the seminar or institute and to make a contribution to a learning community; a statement of what you want to accomplish by participating; and the relation of the project to your professional responsibilities. 

Application Checklist

A complete application consists of three copies of the following collated items:

  • the completed application cover sheet

  • application essay

  • a detailed résumé, curriculum vitae, or brief biography (not to exceed five pages) with contact information for two professional references (name, title, phone number, and e-mail address)

Completed applications should be submitted to the project director, not the NEH, and should be postmarked no later than March 1, 2017. Application materials sent to the NEH will not be reviewed.  Send your application to: LIESL OLSON, Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago IL , 60610.

Note: Once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (NEH Summer Seminar or Institute), you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.


Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age.  For further information, write to the Equal Opportunity Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024.  TDD:  202/6068282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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