The Joys of Summer: Wallace Caps Stellar Season by Attending Selective NEH Institute

(August 24, 2009) — For many teachers and students around the country, summer is a quiet time, offering a chance to take a deep breath after a hectic year, catch up on some research and writing projects and do a little planning for the upcoming academic year. But such was not the case this past summer for New College of Florida Associate Professor of English Miriam Wallace.

Professor Miriam Wallace

In June and July, Wallace capped off what was a stellar summer by any academic standard by attending a highly selective summer institute sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) entitled “The Rule of Law: Legal Studies and the Liberal Arts.”  Wallace was one of only two dozen faculty members from around the country selected to participate in the institute, which was held at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. Attendees included college teachers from as far away as Georgia (the country) and Washington state, representing philosophy, political science, English, rhetoric and composition, and law school. More than a fifth held JDs as well as PhDs.
Earlier in the summer, Wallace celebrated the publication of two books, Enlightening Romanticism, Romancing the Enlightenment: British Fiction 1750-1830 and Revolutionary Subjects in the English ‘Jacobin’ Novel, 1790-1805, released respectively by Ashgate Publishing and Bucknell University Press.
The focus of the five-week NEH summer institute was to explore the origins, meanings and expressions associated with the rule of law in modern U.S. society and to discuss the place of law and legal thought within undergraduate liberal arts. As part of the dialogue, faculty members participating in the conference were asked to explore where and how the idea of the rule of law originated in the Western tradition. What its history was in the United States? What were the key texts, traditions, and institutions associated with the rule of law in our society? How did the rule of law emerge in the artistic and literary imagination of our society? And, is there actually more than one rule of law in the American experience, and, if so, how do potentially localized “rules of law” comport with an overall national identity?
For Wallace, who teaches the British novel and literary theory at New College, the fit with the institute’s themes was a natural one. She has written on topics ranging from aesthetics and politics in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves to figurative aspects of British law in the 1794 London Treason Trial of the novelist Thomas Holcroft. She is also currently researching particular examples of legal or criminal speech and writing in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth century, including riots, treason trials, oaths and test acts.
“This was a fascinating and challenging experience for me,” said Wallace about the institute, “with whirlwind visits from famous scholars in fields ranging from Jewish studies, classics, English and history to anthropology. I expect the practical knowledge I learned about what top law schools look for in their applicants as well as the more theoretical questions about social justice and the history of legal codes will filter into my teaching and advising at New College. The first day one of the group said she hoped this would be like graduate school, and it was, only more intense since we all had areas of real expertise and areas that were completely new to us.”
This NEH Summer Institute was led by University of New England faculty members Dr. Matthew Anderson and Dr. Catherine O. Frank, both of whom have taught numerous courses related to the law and literature and who are co-editors of the books Options for Teaching Literature and Law, forthcoming from the Modern Language Association (MLA), and Introduction to Law and the Humanities, under contract with Cambridge UP.
As part of her award for attending the institute, Wallace received a $3,800 stipend to cover travel expenses, books and research materials and living costs.
For more information, please contact the New College Office of Public Affairs at (941) 487-4150 or email jhartvigsen@ncf.edu.

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