(Carson, CA) – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Patricia Kalayjian a three-year, $289,076 Scholarly Editions and Translations grant to co-create a digital edition of the complete letters of 19th Century American novelist Catharine Maria Sedgwick. Work on the digitization project will begin in January 2020.
Titled “Catharine Maria Sedgwick Online Letters,” the digitization project will be led by Kalayjian with the support of co-project directors Lucinda Damon-Bach, professor of English at Salem State University in Massachusetts, and Deborah Gussman, professor of American Literature at Richard Stockton University in New Jersey.
The award was part of $29 million in grants released by the NEH to support 215 humanities projects nationwide. Only seven of the Scholarly Edition and Translations awards went to the publication of the papers of historic individuals: Martin Luther King, Jr.; Eleanor Roosevelt; Abraham Lincoln; Thomas Jefferson; James Madison; George Washington; and Sedgwick.
“This NEH award is not only a great honor to us as editors, but also reinforces Sedgwick’s significance in American literature,” said Kalayjian. “The publication of her letters will inspire new research on this important author, and bring greater recognition of her influence on American literature and culture.”
Sedgwick was among the most notable and prolific female novelists of the 19th Century, and is credited for contributing to the establishment of American literature. She published six novels, two biographies, and more than 100 prose that were frequently featured in periodicals. Her work was referred to as “domestic fiction,” or literature written about women, and it often focused on patriotism and protest in American settings.
Sedgwick’s letters will be collected from archives across the United States and Europe. When complete, the Sedgwick project will have its own portal at the Massachusetts Historical Society’s digital publication hub, which is funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The searchable website will include images of the original letters, plus verified transcriptions with footnotes and contextual essays.
“Sedgwick’s letters offer rare insights into what it meant to be a girl in the early republic, as well as a woman of influence whose life spanned the nation’s formation to its threatened dissolution in the Civil War,” Kalayjian said.