LSU Professor Awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship

LSU Professor of English Katherine HenningerBATON ROUGE – LSU Department of English Associate Professor Katherine Henninger has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. The National Endowment for the Humanities, or NEH, announced funding for 290 projects in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. A variety of humanities-based research and programs will be supported by $16.3 million in grants.

“The humanities help us study our past, understand our present and prepare for our future,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to support projects that will benefit all Americans and remind us of our shared human experience.”

The fellowship will support the research and writing of Henninger’s third book titled, “Made Strangely Beautiful: Southern Childhoods in U.S. Literature and Film.” She is one of 86 university faculty in the country to receive the recent round of NEH fellowships to support advanced research.

“I’m thrilled and honored for my work to receive the national recognition and support that the NEH Fellowship confers,” Henninger said.

“This prestigious fellowship adds to the large body of work on southern culture and further solidifies LSU as a leader in this area of research. I am pleased that Dr. Henninger’s innovative work will continue to advance humanities research even further,” said Dean Stacia Haynie, LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences.

While designing an undergraduate course about the South in literature and film at LSU several years ago, Henninger saw that representations of childhood were a recurring theme in such classics as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

“However, I was amazed to find that there exists almost no broader scholarship on the long, curious but utterly canonical tradition of narrativizing southern childhood in U.S literature and film. My book is an attempt to fill that gap, making connections between past and contemporary representations,” she said.

Her book, “Made Strangely Beautiful,” is an interdisciplinary rhetorical analysis of tropes of childhood in literature and film of or about the South, focusing particularly on contemporary representations. Southern children are depicted as figures of both natural innocence and social corruption as well as essential purity and fundamental ambiguity. These figurative children embody the fissures of race, sexuality, gender expression and class that threaten to undermine liberal rhetoric of U.S. national identity, and also represent the nation’s best hope of transcending those divisions.

“Through a series of textual case studies, I demonstrate that even, and perhaps especially, in a nation grasping toward a post-millennial, post-racial, post-southern future, the ever-vital, endangered, often ugly, strangely beautiful southern child is made to lead the way,” she said.



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