Florida State scholar rocks humanities world

Anne Coldiron, associate professor of English at The
Florida State University (photo: Christy Baldwin

Florida State University English Professor Anne E.B. Coldiron rocked the humanities world in 2010 by winning in a matter of months not one but two premier fellowships — first from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and, now, from the Folger Shakespeare Library, home to one of the world’s greatest archives of rare books.

“People from all over the world, in many disciplines, apply for the few long-term research fellowships that the Folger awards annually, and winning one of them is a great honor for any scholar and for any university, but winning one in the same year as a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, as Anne Coldiron has done, is something that most mortals can only dream of,” said FSU English Professor Gary Taylor, a world-renowned expert on Shakespeare.

“With these awards,” said Taylor, “two competitive and prestigious institutions are telling us that Coldiron is one of the world’s leading scholars.”

For Coldiron, an expert on late-medieval and Renaissance literature, the back-to-back fellowships were gifts of time and support for research on her forthcoming, third book. To be titled “Printers Without Borders: Translation, Transnationalism, and Early Modern English Literature,” the tome will analyze the impact that translation and the emergence of printing had on literary culture in the late 15th and 16th centuries.

“In that earlier age of information revolution, two kinds of textual technologies, printing and translation, worked synergistically to create astonishing changes in literature and culture,” she said.

Sound familiar? Coldiron thinks it should.

“In the current information revolution, we, too, are experiencing the transformative powers of translation and ‘info tech,’ and together, they connect cultures and shake up our basic assumptions and habits,” she said. “The old and new textual revolutions are analogous, but imperfectly so. My project will provide the historical context that makes clear why.”

Folger Shakespeare Library's Old Reading Room, Washington, D.C. (photo: Julie Ainsworth)
Folger Shakespeare Library’s Old Reading Room, Washington, D.C. (photo: Julie Ainsworth)

Completing an ambitious scholarly work such as “Printers Without Borders” requires access to relevant primary documents housed in Europe and around the United States. Since last spring, Coldiron’s 2010 NEH Fellowship has helped her reach and study many of them.

Now, armed with a 2010-2011 “Folger Institute Long-Term Senior Research Fellowship,” Coldiron will head to Washington, D.C.

Beginning Dec. 15, she’ll spend nine months researching and writing in residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library — and it’s quite a residence. Located on Capitol Hill, the library houses the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials and major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts and works of art.

Coldiron’s Folger Long-Term Fellowship represents an opportunity legions of scholars seek each year, but few win. In fact, she holds one of only five such fellowships bestowed this year.

“The reason my application for the Folger Fellowship was successful, I think, is that it described primary, archival research that draws directly on the rare books and manuscripts held in the Folger Library,” Coldiron said. “Another reason might be that my project, ‘Printers Without Borders,’ joins two disciplines that are very important in humanities scholarship right now, comparative literature and the history of text technologies.

“Whatever the reasons, I’m extremely happy and grateful to have won this particular Folger award, especially given that it came right on the heels of my 2010 NEH Fellowship,” she said. “While I’ve had access to the Folger since 1992 and have used their collections many times, my current book project requires concentrated time and access to those unparalleled resources.”

Funding for Folger Institute Long-Term Fellowships comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. An external committee selects each Long-Term Fellow based on talent and productivity; the importance of the applicant’s topic; the originality and sophistication of his/her approach; the feasibility of research objectives; and the applicant’s need for the Folger collections.

Coldiron joined the Florida State faculty in 2007 after the university actively recruited her not only for the scholarly ranks of its English department but also as a key member of its unique, interdisciplinary History of Text Technologies (HoTT) certificate program. Founded by her eminent colleague Taylor, HoTT is a part of Florida State’s ongoing Pathways of Excellence initiative, which seeks to recruit complementary “clusters” of world-class scholars to help develop and drive cutting-edge research and graduate programs.

“That in quick succession Anne Coldiron could garner fellowships from both the NEH and the Folger Library is ample evidence that Pathways of Excellence has delivered on its promise to draw extraordinary scholars to Florida State’s already distinguished faculty,” Taylor said.

Among Coldiron’s collection of previous honors are Folger Short-Term Fellowships and an ATLAS grant; a 2002-2003 Kluge Fellowship from the Library of Congress; and a 1998-1999 NEH Fellowship. Visit her faculty web page to learn more.