From 1981 to 1990, University of Illinois researchers were awarded 106 NEH grants. From conservation and preservation efforts to the publication of books with the University of Illinois Press, from the continuation of robust funding for projects like Philip Kolb's translation of Proust's correspondence to new funding for international conferences, the NEH funding received during the 1980s allowed the Illinois community to create new open up new areas of inquiry while continuing to develop areas of existing strength. What follows is a sample of work from this decade. 


Selected Grants:

“Carl Sandburg Collection Development Project” (19811983) and “Conserving and Rehousing the Carl Sandburg Collection” (2005)

Project Directors: John Hoffman, 1981 (Illinois History and Lincoln Collections Librarian and Manuscript Curator); Thomas Teper, 2005 (Associate University Librarian for Collections, Assistant Dean of Libraries, Head of Preservation)

Visit the project website.

To support processing of newly acquired materials, locating important additional materials, and conducting oral history interviews for the Carl Sandburg Collection at the University of Illinois Library, the principal depository for the library and personal papers of the American poet, historian, folklorist.



"Crafting the Third World" book cover

"Origins of the Doctrine of Unequal Exchange" (19811982)

Principal Investigator: Joseph Love, Professor Emeritus of History

"I compared attempts to define and theorize economic development in these 2 countries. Romanian theories of the interwar period influenced those in Brazil, which were developed in the postwar years. Both Marxist and neoclassically-derived theories were considered. It helped me develop a second major research interest after having written two books on Brazilian regionalism."

Joseph Love

Publications Resulting from This Grant:

Crafting the Third World: Theorizing Underdevelopment in Romania and Brazil (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1996). Also translated into Portuguese and Romanian.

"Economic Ideas and Ideologies in Latin America since 1930," in Leslie Bethell, ed., Cambridge History of Latin America (Cambridge U. Press, 1994), vol. 6, part I, pp. 393-460.



Cover of "Marxism & The Interpretation of Culture"

"Conference on Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture: Limits, Frontiers, Boundaries” (19831984) and “Institute on Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture” (1983)

Project Director: Cary Nelson, Professor Emeritus of English

An influential conference organized by the Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory. From conference organizer and former Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory Director Cary Nelson:

"Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture was a summer event with an unusual format. Six weeks of courses offered by an international faculty from Britain, US, and Yugoslavia were followed by an international conference that drew speakers from these countries and others, including China, France, and Venezuela. Nearly 200 students and faculty took the courses, and another 700 joined them for the conference. The French Ministry of Culture chartered a plane to bring people to the conference from Paris, and people came from Africa, Europe, and South America.

"The last time a comparable event was held around Marxist theory was in the 1930s. Certainly many of those attending from abroad had never even heard of the University of Illinois, but many regard the events as central to the foundation of their intellectual lives. NEH support made it possible for 26 young American faculty members from other schools to take the courses and participate in the conference.

"Long a revolutionary theory, Marxism at the time was beginning to abandon the notion that it could predict the course of history. The whole summer was designed in part to stage a debate between this new 'Marxism without guarantees' versus traditional Marxism. It was also a time when some had become critical of Marxism’s long insistence that economic forces in the end control most of human history and culture. Hence the title: 'Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture.' New social movements like feminism were gaining force, so it was time to rethink the nature of the factors that make for change.

"The resulting book included the lively discussions that followed each talk. Published by the University of Illinois Press here and by Macmillan in England, it has sold over 35,000 copies, a very large sale for an academic book. The Modern Language Association called it an 'epoch making book.' It remains hugely influential."

Current Unit for Criticism Director Susan Koshy:

"NEH funding has played a vital role in supporting conferences and publications that have established the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory as an internationally renowned center for ground-breaking theoretical inquiry and interdisciplinary scholarship. These conferences have fostered research collaboration and experimentation across the humanities and social sciences and transformed the research agendas of participants and audiences on and off campus."



"Hymn Tune Index" (19821985/19841987)

Project Director: Nicholas Temperly, Professor Emeritus of Musicology


To support the preparation of a comprehensive index of all metrical psalm and hymn tunes with English texts from the Reformation to 1820. The index will appear both in a computerized data base and in printed form.

Click here to visit the online database. The Hymn Tune Index: A Census of English-Language Hymn Tunes in Printed Sources from 1535 to 1820 was published as a four-volume set by Oxford University Press in 1998.



Juliet Walker Book Cover

"Black Entrepeneurship and Business Enterprise in Antebellum America" (19821983)

Principal Investigator: Juliet E.K. Walker, formerly of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and now Professor of History and Founding Director of the Center for Black Business History, Entrepreneurship and Technology (University of Texas at Austin)

One of the outcomes of this grant was the publication of The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepeneurship - Vol. 1, to 1865 (University of North Carolina Press, 1998). A second edition appeared in 2009.



Baron book cover

"A History of the Official Language Question in America" (1989)

Principal Investigator: Dennis Baron, Professor of English and Linguistics

"Americans express surprise when they learn that the United States has no official language. After all, eighty percent of the people in the U.S. over age five speak only English, and of the remaining twenty percent, the vast majority also speak English well or very well. In addition, thirty-one states now designate English as their official language (in Hawaii English shares official status with Hawaiian). And in practical terms, English functions everywhere in the U.S. as the language of government, schools, and business. Even so, English has never been the official language of the United States, and despite bills in Congress like the English Language Unity Act (H.R. 997), repeatedly introduced over the past two decades, it’s not likely to become our official language any time soon.

"My project, the English-only question, traced the history of attempts in the U.S. from the eighteenth century to the 1980s to make English official at the federal, state, and local levels. Laws frequently mandated English—for things as varied as business signs, fishing permits, and job qualifications (some states required anyone wanting to be a hairdresser to speak English; others kept anyone with a 'foreign accent' from becoming a schoolteacher). Some laws banned foreign languages: Nebraska forbade the teaching of languages other than English below ninth grade (the Supreme Court overturned that law in a landmark decision, Meyer v. Nebraska, in 1923); Iowa banned speaking foreign languages in public, even on the telephone (that emergency measure was allowed to expire at the end of World War I).

"Official language policies are often symbolic, a waving of the flag, but they also have the potential to limit the right of people to communicate in the language of their choice. Official English laws may reflect an anti-immigrant bias, but they may also confirm a strong belief that an official language fosters national cohesion.

"Official English remains a hot-button issue today. In the absence of federal legislation, more and more states, counties, cities, businesses, and schools are enacting their own laws and regulations making English official and requiring its use in specific circumstances. But opponents of official English continue to point out that requiring  English won’t make more people learn it, and such laws could even backfire, marking nonanglophones as unwelcome, actually discouraging them from acquiring the language."

Dennis Baron

You can read Chapter 5: "Americanization and the Schools" from The English-only question: An official language for Americans? (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1990) here.