Michael Hatch and Michelle Navakas Begin Prestigious Yearlong Fellowships

by Nicolyn Woodcock
August 14, 2017
Hatch, left, and colleague Tani Sebro at the book proposal workshop

The Humanities Center extends congratulations to faculty from humanities departments and programs who have received special awards, recognition, and fellowships for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Assistant Professor of Art History Michael Hatch received an Andrew Mellon senior fellowship for curatorial work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the 2017-2018 academic year. He will spend the year in residence at the Met where he will be researching and writing his book manuscript, “The Senses of Painting in China, 1790-1840,” a sense history of literati painting that spans the height of the Ching empire in the 1790s and its lowest point in the 1840s.

Hatch notes that most collections of Chinese painting skip of the late 18th into the middle of the 19th century because that period lacks a strong historical narrative about what is happening artistically, a gap which his research seeks to fill. The Met has recently acquired Chinese paintings from just after 1800; Hatch will help assess these new acquisitions and use the resources at the Met to build a narrative to describe the pieces as well as the period they represent.  

The Astor Chinese Garden Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hatch credits some of his thinking about the book project and what he will do this upcoming year to his participation in the Humanities Center’s 2017 book proposal workshop. Designed for junior faculty, participants provide one another extensive written and oral feedback on a book proposal draft over a period of two days. They then receive feedback on their proposals in a one-on-one meeting with an editor from a major humanities press. In February, Hatch and the workshop’s other participants met with Nancy Toff, vice president and executive editor in the academic/trade division of Oxford University Press.

After finishing his Ph.D. and beginning his job at Miami in Fall 2015, Hatch took a break from his dissertation work, crucial time that allowed him to understand what it might look like as a book. He started to conceptualize Chinese painting beyond his research on a single painter to a wider, sense history of the late 18th through the middle of the 19th century. Hatch arrived at Miami just as the 2015-16 Altman series “The Senses” got underway. He remembers attending nearly all of the events, writing down citations, then pulling everything the speakers cited out of the Miami libraries. “It was a kind of bibliography in real time” that became very useful as Hatch thought about moving from dissertation to book.

The book proposal workshop really helped him commit to a proposal and gain insights into what publishers want. But, most valuable of all, the workshop was “an opportunity to work with ten other smart people who think about writing and who also want to make their ideas clear, helping me to realize how to reorganize my pitch to the broadest possible humanities audience,” Hatch said. He has since pitched his book to publishers and gained some interest. During his year at the Met, he plans to draft the first few chapters of the book.

Navakas at a Humanities Center symposium with fellow American Cultures Seminar leader Andrew Hebard

Assistant Professor of English Michele Navakas received a 12-month award from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her book project “Coral in Early American Literature, Science, and Culture.” She will spend the year as a fellow-in-residence at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California.

Early Americans were fascinated by coral, Navakas explained. From drawings to songs; from poems and short stories to novels, as well as natural histories, “coral is almost a main character” in much early American literature and culture. Resources at the Huntington will give her the chance to do significantly more research, but more importantly, the fellowship provides her with valuable time to write her book. In addition to working with resources at the Huntington, Navakas will visit the Library Company in Philadelphia, the Newberry Library in Chicago, and the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University on short-term fellowships. Those awards are closely linked to the materials in their collections that will benefit her project.

The Library Main Exhibition Hall at the Huntington Library

Navakas is co-leader of the American Cultures Seminar, a Humanities Center-sponsored interdisciplinary research cluster for faculty and graduate students working on facets of American history and culture. For her, one of the most valuable aspects of this research cluster is how much she is inspired by her colleagues, who are “doing research and publishing at an extremely high level that sets a standard for me to live up to.” Participating in the seminar fosters opportunities to discuss ideas and share work in formal as well as informal ways, helping her realize that Miami provides both a vibrant research community in addition to a strong teaching community.

The 2016-17 Altman series “Medicine and the Humanities” has also been directly useful to Navakas as she thinks about her project on coral. She is looking at many scientific and natural history texts because coral had medicinal purposes over the nineteenth century and several of the guest speakers for the “Medicine and the Humanities” series have turned her attention to new sources or generated new questions for her project. She notes that this is the kind of thing that happens at academic conferences all the time, but the Humanities Center enables her to gain such experiences without having to travel further than across the street for an afternoon lecture.” This is not something you necessarily expect when you work at a university in a tiny corner of southwestern Ohio,” she says, and that is what makes Miami really incredible: “It’s very connected to the broader work of academia. I can’t even put into words what that means to me as a scholar and a teacher.”

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