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Mellon Gives $2.5 Million for Medieval, Early Modern Studies

A $2.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York will make a significant contribution to medieval and early modern studies at Carolina.

The grant will enable UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences to extend the global reach of the program beyond the European borders of the medieval and early modern world to China, Southeast Asia and Japan, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Currently, more than 60 faculty members across 10 departments in the humanities and fine arts teach and conduct research about the period, which stretches in its European context from the fall of the Roman Empire through the 18th century.

“Medieval and early modern studies have traditionally been among the most attractive interdisciplinary graduate programs at Carolina,” said William Andrews, senior associate dean for the fine arts and humanities and E. Maynard Adams Professor of English. “Undergraduate classes in medieval history and 16th- and 17th-century literature, for instance, are often filled to overflowing each semester.”

UNC will use $1 million of the grant to endow the Mellon Distinguished Professorship of medieval and early modern studies, with help from the N.C. Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund.

With support from the provost’s office, additional faculty will be hired to teach and research new areas of medieval and early modern studies. Faculty and graduate students’ research and teaching, as well as graduate student recruitment, will benefit from $1.5 million from the foundation. The college will provide additional support for undergraduate studies.

E. Jane Burns, Druscilla French Distinguished Professor of women’s studies, called the gift the most exciting intellectual development in medieval studies at UNC since she joined the faculty in 1977.

“This generous grant will enable us to study and teach the medieval and early modern periods from the broadest perspective, taking into account the richness and diversity of people, places and cultures across the globe,” said Burns, who explores gender, sexuality and material culture in medieval texts.

International conferences will be planned, thanks to the Mellon grant. A new lecture series, open to the public, will focus on prominent locales in the medieval or early modern period that served as crossroads — sites of vibrant intellectual and cultural commerce.

“The idea of creating a program that highlights the interconnectivity of the pre-modern world within its various global contexts is a dream that has developed over several years,” said Melissa Meriam Bullard, a history professor specializing in the Italian Renaissance

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a private foundation that makes grants in the areas of higher education and scholarship, scholarly communications, research in information technology, museums and art conservation, performing arts, and conservation and the environment.


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