Sarah Stanbury Wins Guggenheim Fellowship

English professor is fourth Holy Cross faculty member to receive award since 1995

Sarah Stanbury had just turned on her phone while aboard a return flight from Berlin when she heard the good news. For the English professor, everything seemed surreal. It’s not every day that you receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, after all.

“I thought they had gotten the wrong person,” says Stanbury, who learned of her fellowship award in March. “I was really sure that the award wasn’t for me. I was blown away.”

Stanbury’s fellowship, which will begin in January 2011, was awarded for a proposed manuscript titled Creole Things in Chaucer’s World. She will be on leave for three semesters, having also won an additional fellowship through Holy Cross.

Stanbury is one of 180 recipients of the Guggenheim Fellowship award and was selected from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants. The Guggenheim Fellowship competition is in its 86th year and awards are given to a diverse group of recipients, from artists to scientists, based on a candidate’s accomplishments and the promise of their project.

The focus of Stanbury’s manuscript is the social significance of manmade objects in the writings of Chaucer and some of his 15th century successors. Stanbury plans to travel to Europe in order to complete her research for the project, citing London, Prague and Italy as places that are imperative to visit.

“In Chaucer’s days, central Europe was more sophisticated than England,” Stanbury says. “I’m interested in how English writers in the late Middle Ages thought of these objects from the rest of the world.”

According to Stanbury, the idea for her project came from previous work that she had done on English writers relating to religious objects.

“My work on Chaucer lately emerged from a book that I wrote in 2008, called The Visual Object of Desire in Late Medieval England,” she explains. “That book talked about the way people in England wrote about religious objects, like the crucifix or statues of the Virgin Mary. I became interested in how ordinary household objects could be viewed. So this current research I am doing grew right out of my earlier work.”

Stanbury joined the faculty at Holy Cross in 1992 and received tenure in 1996, serving as chair of the department from 1997 to 1999. The author of a number of articles and books, including Pearl and Seeing the Gawain-Poet: Description and the Act of Perception, Stanbury has also won the O’Leary Faculty Recognition Award for the period of 2005 through 2007. Stanbury earned her bachelor’s degree in literature at Bennington College and her Ph.D. in English at Duke University.

Since 1995, four Holy Cross faculty members have won Guggenheim fellowships, including Stanbury. Osvaldo Golijov, an associate professor in music, won a fellowship in 1995. Robert ParkeHarrison, an associate professor of visual arts, won in 1999. In 2007, Leila Phillip of the English department received a fellowship to work on a manuscript about Toshiko Takaezu, a Hawaiian-born potter.

By Andrew Clark