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Northwestern Professor Receives Mellon Foundation Honor

February 12, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Barbara J. Newman, John Evans Professor of Latin Language and Literature, professor of English and religion and Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellow, is Northwestern University's first recipient of a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Mellon Foundation gives only a handful of such awards each year to scholars in the humanities who have made major contributions to their own disciplines and whose influence may have extended to other fields.

Newman will use part of the grant to complete a book titled "The Permeable Self: Medieval Meditations on the Personal." The remaining funds will be used to build Northwestern's program in medieval studies. Plans include establishing a six-week summer course in Latin paleography, postdoctoral positions in medieval Latin and art history and an intensive weeklong summer institute on medieval subjectivity.

Newman is known for her work on medieval religious culture and women's spirituality. In works such as her monograph "God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry and Belief in the Middle Ages," she makes a strong argument about the feminine divine and the ways that allegorical goddess figures deepened the Christian concept of God. Newman's most recent book is "Thomas of Cantimpré: The Collected Saints' Lives" (Brepols), a translation and study of four 13th-century biographies.

In "Frauenlob's Song of Songs: A Medieval German Poet and His Masterpiece," Newman introduced the poet-minstrel Frauenlob to English-speaking readers with a fresh translation of his masterpiece, a poem in praise of the Virgin Mary, and included a performance on CD by the early music ensemble Sequentia.

She is also the author of "From Virile Woman to WomanChrist: Studies in Medieval Religion and Literature" and three works on Hildegard of Bingen, including the prize-winning "Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine," a landmark in medieval women's studies and an important contribution to the broader study of religion.
Newman was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005. She has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Bellagio Center (Rockefeller Foundation) and Northwestern's Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. She is only the second recipient of a Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship, the University's first endowed award for excellence in research by a faculty member.
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