During the 1990s, the NEH funded 47 projects at the University of Illinois. Grants were received by faculty working in fields from folklore to conservation. Below we provide a selection of those awards. 


Selected Grants:

"Parallel Worlds" Book Cover The village of Kosangbé

"A Parallel World: A Memoir of Africa" (1991)

Principal Investigators: Alma Gottlieb (Professor of Anthropology) and Philip Graham (Professor of Creative Writing)

"Parallel Worlds and Braided Worlds, by anthropologist Alma Gottlieb and fiction and nonfiction writer Philip Graham, are memoirs of Africa that are written in alternating first-person narratives.  The two books recount the experiences of Gottlieb and Graham as they lived in two remote villages among the Beng people of Cote d’Ivoire, in 19791980, 1985, and 1993. Gottlieb and Graham take turns chronicling the vibrant daily lives of West African villagers, the parallel, invisible realm of spirits that surrounds them, and a host of unexpected dramas that prompt serious questions about the fraught nature and subjectivity of cultural contact and understanding. 

"Above all, Parallel Worlds and Braided Worlds are works of nonfiction narrative, literary constructions interweaving the authors’ own stories with the stories of the Beng villagers of Asagbé and Kosangbé.  Gottlieb and Graham’s fourteen years of cultural engagement with the Beng people enable them to implicitly examine, through narrative, the impact of colonialism, race, and global inequity on a living, breathing West African village community. Yet as the authors’ state, 'Years of engagement, however, reveal—like an unfolding Mandelbrot set—ever finer scales of complexity, multiple layers of truth that often humble a traveler’s early assumptions.'

"We remain ever grateful to the NEH for its support in 1991, which was essential to the writing and the impact of Parallel Worlds.  We completed a first draft of the manuscript that summer, and Crown/Random House published the book in 1993.  Parallel Worlds went on to win the 1993 Victor Turner Prize; it has remained in print ever since (as a University of Chicago Press paperback), and has been taught in over 300 university courses internationally.  The success of Parallel Worlds led to our writing a sequel, Braided Worlds, which the University of Chicago Press published in 2012. All the royalties from Parallel Worlds and Braided Worlds are dedicated to the Beng people, and since 1993 we have supported (and continue to support) projects to help improve the lives of Beng villagers.  One small grant has delivered a large impact.  Our many thanks!"

Alma Gottlieb and Philip Graham



Hoffman book cover

"Sufism, Mystics and Saints in Modern Egypt" (19911992)

Principal Investigator: Valerie Hoffman, Professor and Head of the Department of Religion

"This fellowship allowed me to devote the academic year to writing a book, titled Sufism, Mystics and Saints in Modern Egypt (University of South Carolina Press, 1995), based on fieldwork conducted in Egypt through a Fulbright grant in 19871989.

"The main outcome was my book, which has become an important reference on Sufism and has also been used as a textbook for courses. This research also resulted in other publications and the production of a film on Sufi dhikr in Egypt that is used in classrooms around the world. The award enabled me to complete the book that procured me tenure. In 1996 I was named a University Scholar, mainly for the unique contribution of my research on Sufism in Egypt. I used those funds to create the above-mentioned film.

"I am a big believer in the mission of the NEH and its critical importance for the humanities. I have also served as a fellowship proposal reviewer for the NEH."

Valerie Hoffman



Clay tablet from the ancient city of Ugarit in Syria

"The Care of the Dead and Thoughts on Afterlife in Ancient Canaan and Israel: The Archaeological and Literary Evidence" (1991/19921993)

Principal Investigator: Wayne Pitard, Director of the Spurlock Museum

"The NEH has played a significant role in my career as a scholar of ancient Near Eastern religions and cultures and their relationship to biblical Israel. Over the years, I received two NEH Summer Stipends and one NEH Fellowship.  The first Summer Stipend, in 1985, allowed me to complete work on my first book, Ancient Damascus, which was a key element in my gaining of tenure.  The second Summer Stipend came in 1991 and allowed me to focus on aspects of my research on concepts of death and afterlife in ancient Canaan and Israel.  I particularly tried to understand the archaeological remains of tombs in the ancient city of Ugarit, Syria, and how that evidence illuminated several literary texts also found at that site. This was followed in 199293 with an NEH Fellowship, during which I examined the evidence on death and afterlife from archaeological and textual discoveries in northern Syria and Mesopotamia.  The work done between 1991 and 1993 culminated in a series of seven published articles on key aspects of these cultures."

Wayne Pitard 

An Interview with NEH Grant-Recipient Wayne Pitard


"Shakespeare Across Cultures: Planning Grant for an Interpretive Exhibition" (1993)

Project Director: Michael Mullin, Professor of English (Retired)


To support planning for a traveling exhibition that features costume and set designs, promptbooks, video performance segments, and interviews with scholars and directors about international interpretations of Shakespeare's plays.



"Of Counselors and Kings" Book Cover

"Pierre Salmon's Responses a Charles VI: Illuminated Texts in Medieval France" (1993)

Principal Investigator: Anne D. Hedemanformerly of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and now Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor of Art History (Kansas University)

One outcome of this grant was the publication of Hedeman's monograph, Of Counselors and Kings: Three Versions of Pierre Salmon's Dialogues (University of Illinois Press, 2001).



"The African American Experience: A Framework for Integrating American History" (19941995)

Project Director: Dianne Pinderhughes, formerly of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and now Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science (University of Notre Dame)

To support a three-week residential summer institute for 20 high school social studies teachers from Illinois who will integrate the African-American expe- rience into American history.



"River Web: A Knowledge Network of Mississippi River Basin History and Culture" (19971998)

Project Director: Orville Vernon Burton, Professor Emeritus of History (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Professor of History (Clemson University)

"RiverWeb was/is a collaborative, historical, Web-based, multimedia education and research project about the Mississippi River and its interaction with people over time.  In one of the first web-based projects, our team developed the concept of "Landing Sites," discrete nodes focused on particular topics in a regional context.  One such landing site is the American Bottom region of the Mississippi River Valley, where the city of East St. Louis crowds the Illinois side of the river.  This site includes narratives on topics such as the Blues, steamboats, river navigation, and railroads.  It also includes the prehistoric city preserved at the Cahokia archeological site.  Cahokia is also an important site in the current duplication of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.  Primary source archives accompany RiverWeb narratives (http:// riverweb.cites.uiuc.edu).  The site was used for classes at the University of Illinois and at other schools.  In the second iteration that we released, RiverWeb became transportable; we provided free of charge the know-how and the RiverWeb structure to other communities, classes, or groups to encourage them to build their own “RiverWeb” landing site.  RiverWeb was featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Vol. L: 2 (September 5, 2003), cover page, A37-38.  Online at http://chronicle.com/prm/weekly/v50/i02/02a03701.htm."

Orville Vernon Burton



"Evening's Empire" Book Cover

"Pleasure and Power: Experiencing the Night in Early Modern Europe, 16001800" (2000)

Principal Investigator: Craig M. Koslofsky, Professor of History, Germanic Languages & Literatures, and Medieval Studies

One of the outcomes for this grant was Professor Koslofsky's 2001 monograph, Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge UP).

From the publisher's description of the book:

"In Evening’s Empire, historian Craig Koslofsky examines the history of the night during the early modern centuries (about 14501800): he surveys the shifting attitudes, innovations, and social and cultural practices that expanded the legitimate uses of the night. Using an exhaustive array of unique sources—such as diaries, letters, legal sources, as well as representations of the night in art, religion, and literature—Koslofsky reveals the origins, development, and impact of “nocturnalization” as it spread across Europe, from the glittering night life of Louis XIV's Versailles to London's first coffee-houses and Europe's first public street lighting.

"What triggered such a momentous shift in the way Europeans spent the hours from dusk 'til dawn? As Evening’s Empire reveals, the causes are many: the landmark scientific discoveries of Copernicus and Kepler; the rising popularity of nonalcoholic beverages like coffee, tea, and chocolate; the perceived need for public street lighting; the influence of royal courts—to name only a few. Expertly weaving together such disparate strands, Koslofsky provides a detailed and complex picture of how early modern Europeans used and perceived the night—one that was both devilish and divine; restful and restive; disciplined and ungovernable. Saintly mystics, accused witches, lantern-smashers, prostitutes, courtiers, ghosts and "ghost-busters" all find their place in this rich study of the night.

"'Rooted in early modern daily life, nocturnalization was a revolution,' Koslofsky says. 'The turn to the night changed how the people of early modern Europe ate, drank, slept, and worked, restructuring their daily lives and their mental worlds.… And the imprint of nocturnalization on the early Enlightenment helped reconfigure European views of human difference and the place of humankind in the universe.'”