University of New Orleans English professor Anne Boyd Rioux has won a Public Scholar award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Rioux's $50,400 grant is the maximum amount that can be given under the Public Scholar program, which is a new initiative of the NEH, designed to promote the publication of scholarly nonfiction books for a general audience.
Rioux was selected for her book "Reading Little Women: The History of an American Classic." She is writing a biography of the novel that illuminates how Louisa May Alcott's classic was written and how it has been read ever since. In 2018, "Little Women" will turn 150 years old.
Thirty-six writers earned a grant, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Diane McWhorter and National Book Award-winners Kevin Boyle and Edward Ball.
"This NEH Public Scholar Award funds Dr. Rioux's work on a truly impressive scale," said Peter Schock, professor and chair of English. "The award acknowledges the potential impact and cultural value of an accessible study of the composition and reception of 'Little Women.'"
Rioux, who has taught at UNO since 1999, is a professor of English and member of the women's and gender studies faculty. She teaches courses in American literature with an emphasis on the 19th century, cultural studies and gender. She was named a NEH Fellow in 2012. Her book "Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist" will be published by W.W. Norton in February 2016. The first full-length biography of Woolson, it will examine the life of an extraordinarily accomplished, yet overlooked American writer of the 19th century.
“I felt very strongly when I was writing my biography of the little-known author Constance Fenimore Woolson that she is a fabulous writer who deserves wider recognition rather than continued neglect,” Rioux said. “I was determined to establish her importance outside of the small cadre of scholars who already know her. If I spent years researching and writing her story only to have it read by a handful of people, I would feel as if I had failed. I have also been writing reviews and essays for a wider audience on the Internet, and it has been gratifying to participate in larger conversations beyond the academy. Unfortunately, those two worlds communicate so seldom. I hope this new NEH grant will encourage more scholars to reach outside of the narrow confines of their own disciplines and fields.”
The new NEH Public Scholar awards support well-researched books in the humanities conceived and written to reach a broad readership. Books supported through this program might present a narrative history, tell the stories of important individuals, analyze significant texts, provide a synthesis of ideas, revive interest in a neglected subject or examine the latest thinking on a topic. Most importantly, they should open up important and appealing subjects for wider audiences by presenting significant humanities topics in a way that is accessible to general readers.
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.