English professor Jessica Wolfe receives fellowship to work in Folger Shakespeare Library in DC

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UNC professor Jessica Wolfe has been selected as one of seven long-term fellows at the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2017.

Folger Institute Assistant Director for Fellowships Amanda Herbert said the application process Wolfe participated in was very rigorous.

“Jessica Wolfe’s award was made from a very competitive pool of international candidates — the largest that the Folger has seen in several years,” she said. “We asked a committee of interdisciplinary, highly-respected scholars external to the Folger to make recommendations to us on the basis of each project’s scope, promise and high quality.”

Herbert said Wolfe will contribute a valuable perspective to the Folger Shakespeare Library.

“Jessica Wolfe is known for her work on the literature and history of early modern science, the influence of classical literature on the early modern period and the history of the book,” she said. “I am really excited about the discussions that we’ll all have over the course of the year as we explore the ways that early modern people approached thinking, reasoning, discovery and learning.”

Wolfe said she is especially looking forward to the opportunities the Folger provides.

“I’m quite excited to immerse myself in a brand-new project and get to spend an entire year working on it and nothing else because that hardly ever happens in academia, given that most of our research as professors gets done in scraps of time in between teaching, administrative work and other responsibilities,” she said.

“I’m also pretty excited to get to spend a year at the Folger in particular, both because it’s simply a fabulous library for working on Renaissance literature and culture and also because, over the course of a year, so many scholars in my field and related fields will be passing through for their own research.”

She said a major component of her application to Folger was a written proposal.

“In the case of my Folger proposal, I had to sell the fellowship committee on the idea that a biography of George Chapman — a poet and playwright who doesn’t get a lot of airtime compared to say, Shakespeare — was not just worth doing but could also be quite a thrilling read, both because Chapman’s works are fascinating, but also because he was connected, through his life and his writings, to so many other major writers and thinkers of the period, including Ben Jonson and Francis Bacon,” she said.

“I also sold him as a bit of a ‘bad boy’ — a rather irreverent, daring and disgruntled writer who found himself on the wrong side of the law at several moments during his career.”

She said she has been interested in the fellowship ever since she started graduate school and was pleasantly surprised when she got the job.

“I missed the call and she didn’t leave a message, but I pretty much knew the news was good, since applicants who aren’t successful don’t get phone calls,” she said.

Professor Reid Barbour, Wolfe’s husband and a fellow English professor at UNC, said he is impressed by the opportunity presented by the fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

“The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is one of the world’s most significant libraries for the study of the Age of Shakespeare and their manuscript and print holdings for Chapman are extraordinarily full,” he said. “And as Professor Wolfe is embarking on a new and highly complex project, Folger will give her both time and rich resources to inaugurate this.”

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