The UW-Madison Center for the Humanities has announced the recipients of its annual First Book Award, which offers writing and editing support to junior faculty working on their first major academic book, a key step to tenure for most assistant professors in the humanities. This year's recipients are Assistant Professor of the History of Science Nicole Nelson, Assistant Professor of Classics Nandini Pandey, and Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies and Director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture Jonathan Senchyne.
The competitive First Book program allows junior faculty in the humanities and interpretive social sciences to assemble a "dream team" of readers for their first academic book-in-progress. Winners get to invite leading scholars in their field to join an interdisciplinary group of reviewers from among the faculty at UW-Madison. All read the scholar's manuscript and meet together in Madison for a hands-on workshop to collectively devise strategies for improving the manuscript and placing the book with a top academic publisher.
The goal is to turn solid and promising manuscripts from UW-Madison humanities researchers into first-rate, field-shaping books. This year's recipients will expand their scholarly networks and draw on the expertise of readers within and outside of their own fields to ensure their work reaches broader audiences across disciplinary boundaries.
Nelson's First Book award-winning manuscript, "Model Behavior: Animal Experiments and the Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders," uses ethnographic methods to explore how scientists develop and deploy animal models to produce molecular knowledge about human alcoholism and anxiety.
Pandey explores how Roman writers responded to Augustan iconography in ways that shaped its perception in subsequent culture. Her project, "The Poetics of Power in Augustan Rome," re-examines scholarly assumptions about the relationship between art, society, and power in the Augustan period.
Senchyne illuminates new dimensions of material culture, media studies, and the American literary public sphere by examining the literary, visual, and material cultures of rag paper in the late 18th and 19th centuries in his project "Intimate Paper and the Materiality of Early American Literature."
Past recipients of the award have not only seen their work through to press but garnered major prizes for their books. The inaugural First Book seminar centered on the manuscript of Merle Curti Associate Professor of History Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen. Her book, American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas, received the American Historical Association John H. Dunning Prize, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History Annual Book Award, and the Journal of the History of Ideas Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the Best First Book in Intellectual History.
Associate Professor of Law Mitra Sharafi took the 2015 Law and Society Association's J. Willard Hurst Prize for her book, Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772-1947.
The Center for the Humanities' First Book program was initially funded by a short-term humanities programming grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This year, in recognition of the successes of the program, support has been provided by the UW-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) and the International Division.
A full list of past recipients and their projects, as well as information on how to apply for the award, can be found on the Center for the Humanities website.