One of my colleagues, Dr. Craig R. Prentiss Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, was just awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 2008-2009. The NEH usually receives about 1500 applications every year and they grant about 12%. In other words, it’s a really big deal to receive an NEH Fellowship and be nationally recognized. This means Dr. Prentiss will have the whole academic year off so that he can focus solely on research and writing.
Here's what he has to say about his project in his own words. The manuscript is tentatively entitled Religion and African American Theatre, 1858-1945.
“My book will contend that plays have been a vital site for conveying and contesting various theological perspectives within African American communities. Plays can be understood as many things, but if we look at plays as arguments—arguments for what the world is or what the world should be—we find black playwrights before World War II actively struggling with the issue of religion’s role in forming black identity. The central questions my research addresses include: What happens when we take seriously the religious dialogue and imagery in plays written by black authors as imparting information about the playwrights’ own religious ideologies? How did these vernacular theologies expressed in plays reflect the tenets of larger theological (and anti-theological) camps within African American culture and reveal the common themes as well as fissures dividing them? In what ways did the social divisions among African Americans, especially along the lines of class and gender, manifest themselves in the way religion was portrayed on stage? What impact did these portrayals of religion have on those who watched and read the plays?”
So huge kudos (!) to my colleague whose expertise in is modern religious studies. And watch the bookstands . . . . .