Council Announces 2023-24 Old Dominion Research Professors

May 9, 2023

The Humanities Council has named Bridget Alsdorf (Art & Archaeology), Sandra Bermann (Comparative Literature), Laura Edwards (History), and Sarah Rivett (English and American Studies) as 2023-24 Old Dominion Research Professors.

The professorship provides additional research time for senior faculty members and seeks to enhance the humanities at Princeton more broadly. During the yearlong program, Old Dominion Research Professors engage the campus community in discussion about their research through lectures or workshops and contribute to cross-disciplinary programs and events within the Council.

Old Dominion Research Professors also serve as Faculty Fellows in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts.

Bridget Alsdorf is professor of art and archaeology and a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow. A historian of European art from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, her work explores art’s intersections with literature, philosophy, and social theory. Her books, articles, and essays have focused primarily on nineteenth-century France. Alsdorf’s project as Old Dominion Research Professor is a book titled “Shadowed: Intimacy and Collaboration in Modern Scandinavian Art,” which explores Scandinavian painting, photography, and silent film of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, drawing on Søren Kierkegaard’s writings about marriage, interpersonal suffering, solitude, and love.

Sandra Bermann is Cotsen Professor in the Humanities and professor of comparative literature.  She is former Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and co-founder of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication.  Her current scholarship focuses on lyric poetry and translation, particularly as these arise in migration, resistance, and war. Bermann’s Old Dominion Research Professorship will support her book project on “Poetry and War: Reading René Char’s Fureur et mystère,” and a related collaborative project entitled, “Poetry and War: Translating the Untranslatable,” that studies the “afterlife” of Char’s supposedly “untranslatable” poetry through the many language versions in which it appears.

Laura F. Edwards is the Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty.  She focuses on the legal history of the nineteenth-century United States, with an emphasis on people’s interactions with law and the legal system. Her most recent book, “Only the Clothes on Her Back:  Clothing and the Hidden History of Power in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” received the Merle Curti award for the best book in social history from the Organization of American Historians. As an Old Dominion Research Professor, Edwards will focus on her book project, “No Account:  Credit, Property, and Women’s Lives in the United States,” which traces the material consequences of the shift from unwritten to written forms of law in the lives of women in the nineteenth century United States.

Sarah Rivett is professor of English and American studies. She is the author of “The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England” and “Unscripted America: Indigenous Languages and the Origins of a Literary Nation.” Her research traces continuities between religious phenomena and secular history. Through research and teaching, Rivett strives to recover voices, lands, and stories of the past that have been erased or obscured by settler colonialism. She seeks to understand how settler, African American, and Indigenous histories intersected as a reparative method to address the violence of the past and present. Rivett’s Old Dominion Professorship will support her work on a forthcoming book, “Raven’s Land: Placing the Indigenous Northwest Pacific in American Literature,”about the literary symbol of the raven in the Judeo-Christian tradition and Tlingit and Haida literatures of the Northwest Pacific.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome this new group of Old Dominion Professors and support their research,” said Tera Hunter, acting chair of the Humanities Council and Edwards Professor of American history and professor of African American studies. “We look forward to their coming year with the Humanities Council and the Society of Fellows and to having their thoughtful, vigorous participation in our interdisciplinary community.”

Old Dominion Research Professors are full professors in the humanities and humanistic social sciences appointed for a term of one year, one semester of which would otherwise have been devoted to a regular sabbatical leave. The Professorship extends that leave to one full year.

Learn more about the Old Dominion Research Professorship on the Council’s website.

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