New ideas in the humanities awarded Dean for Research funding

Written by
Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research
April 18, 2019

The translation into English of a major work of African literature and an exploration into the lives of writers and artists through their book-borrowing habits in 1920-30s Paris have been chosen to receive support from the Dean for Research Innovation Funds.

The winning proposals for the New Ideas in the Humanities fund were selected by a faculty panel for their quality, originality and potential impact. The process is administered by the Office of the Dean for Research, led by Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, professor in engineering and applied science, and professor of chemical and biological engineering.

The winning projects are:

Early African literature in translation

Wendy Laura Belcher
Wendy Laura Belcher. Photo by Sameer Khan/Fotobuddy
A globally important medieval work of Ethiopian literature will be translated into English at last. The text, Kəbrä Nägäśt (The Glory of the Kings), retells the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, an African queen who triumphs over Solomon. This text has shaped world events for at least five centuries and is the foundational text of the religious movement known as Rastafari. Wendy Laura Belcher, associate professor of comparative literature and African American Studies, and co-researcher Michael Kleiner, a renowned translator and scholar, are collaborating to translate the text from Gəˁəz (classical Ethiopic) into English. The Dean for Research Innovation funds will go toward the linguistic, Biblical, and historical research required to create an annotated translation that will be of interest to scholars and the public alike.


Finding the Lost Generation through the books they borrowed

Joshua Kotin
Joshua Kotin. Photo courtesy of the Department of English
An interactive website will provide scholars and the public with new insights into the Lost Generation, a group of writers and artists that came of age during World War I. The website is based on records, housed at Princeton's Firestone Library, from an English-language book shop and lending library in Paris during the 1920s and 30s. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and others borrowed and purchased books from the shop, known as Shakespeare and Company. Working with Princeton's Center for Digital Humanities, Joshua Kotin, associate professor of English, and his team of graduate and undergraduate students have digitized the shop's records and are building a web portal that integrates borrowing histories, financial transactions and maps. With Dean for Research Innovation funding, Kotin will lead the development of visualizations, lesson plans for undergraduate and high school courses, a conference and other methods to help researchers and the public draw deeper insights from these materials.