RSVP Linda H. Peterson Fellowship

The Linda H. Peterson Fellowship, named after the widely influential Yale professor and longtime RSVP Board member and Vice President, was created with funds from a generous bequest to RSVP by the late Eileen Curran, pioneering researcher and Emerita Professor of English at Colby College. The purpose of the Peterson Fellowship is to support one scholar for four full-time months to enable him or her to conduct a research project on the 19th-century British periodical and newspaper press. More details of the award can be found below

This year’s winner

RSVP is very pleased to announce that the first winner of the Linda H. Peterson Fellowship is Tom Mole, Reader in English Literature and Director of the Centre for the History of the Book at the University of Edinburgh, for his project: “Periodicals and the Policing of Culture, 1802-1828”. The project abstract is as follows:

This research project will explore the range of rhetorical strategies employed by nineteenth-century periodical writers to shape the culture they inhabited. I will argue that they evolved a style of writing with activist aspirations that aimed not simply to encourage or persuade people to do things, but actually to do things itself. Through archival research into British periodicals from the first Edinburgh Review in 1802 until the first modern Spectator in 1828, I will uncover the role of performative discourse in constructing what Arthur Henry Hallam called the periodicals’ ‘undoubted privileges and hereditary charter of oppression’. Performative utterances were the key rhetorical weapon for the periodical writers: drawing on theoretical accounts of performative discourse from J.L. Austin, John Searle, Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler, I will show how periodical writers aimed to cultivate and police middle-class tastes in nineteenth-century Britain. They modelled their style on legal, ecclesiastical, medical and monarchical formulae of authoritative speech; but while their models were well-established authorities, the periodical writers sought simultaneously to exercise power and to construct the conditions that legitimated the exercise of that power. In chapters on ‘Pronouncing’, ‘Reiterating’, ‘Libelling’, ‘Labelling’ and ‘Punishing’, I will show how they sought to create discursive conditions that would give them the status of cultural arbiters that they freely claimed for themselves.

Many congratulations to Dr. Mole on the award, and much good luck to him with this research.

About this year’s fellowship competition

I. General Information

The Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP) will grant one Linda H. Peterson Fellowship (henceforth, the Peterson Fellowship) to a single researcher for a period equivalent to four full-time months. The amount of the award will be $17,500.

The Peterson Fellowship supports the study of any aspects of the periodical press in any of its manifold forms, and may range from within Britain itself to the many countries, within and outside of the Empire, where British magazines and newspapers were bought, sold, and read during the “long nineteenth century” (ca. 1780-1914).

Funds could be used to supplement sabbatical or other grant income, provide course “buy outs,” and/or conduct travel related to the project. During the award period, a grantee could conduct secondary research, write, or pursue other scholarly activities related to a proposed project. However, eligible projects must include substantial research in nineteenth-century primary sources, whether those sources appear in print, manuscript, or digital facsimile.

The Peterson Fellowship is intended to provide a researcher with the most valuable scholarly resource—time. Thus, an awardee is expected to hold the fellowship for a continuous period for the equivalent of four, full-time months. In the event that a full-time tenure is not possible, a part-time (or combination part-time/full-time) tenure can be requested. (Those who are seeking less than four months should consider RSVP’s Curran Fellowships Program.)

The fellowship is named for the late Linda H. Peterson (1948-2015), Niel Gray, Jr. Professor of English at Yale University. Linda was a pioneering scholar and mentor in periodical studies who served as RSVP vice president from 2009 to 2013 and whose spirit of collegiality and scholarly rigor remains a hallmark of the Society. The fellowship is funded by a generous bequest from the estate of Eileen Curran (1927-2013).

II. Eligibility

The Peterson Fellowship is intended to support, first and foremost, primary research on the nineteenth-century newspaper and periodical press. Therefore, eligible projects must engage primary sources, whether those sources appear in print, manuscript, or digital facsimile.

Only one application may be submitted by an individual per deadline.

Only one applicant is permitted per application. Awards cannot be shared or split among collaborators. (Those seeking support for collaborative projects should consider the RSVP Field-Development Grants.)

The fellowship period must begin during the 2018 calendar year.

Those holding academic appointments as well as independent or retired scholars are equally welcome to apply. An academic degree is not required; however, those enrolled in a degree program at the deadline are not eligible. Applicants may be based anywhere in the world.

Applicants are strongly encouraged, but not required, to become RSVP members.

Applicants may hold grants or fellowships from other organizations concurrent with the Peterson Fellowship. However, the Peterson Fellowship winner may not hold other RSVP awards in the same calendar year.

III. The Application

All applications must be submitted as a single PDF attachment to not later than 11:59 p.m. your local time on February 1, 2017. Failure to follow the submission guidelines outlined below could result in an application being declared ineligible. The single PDF document should be named as follows: YOURLASTNAME_YOURFIRSTINITIAL_PetersonFellowship_2017 .pdf

As a courtesy to evaluators, RSVP strongly recommends that applicants prepare their proposals using a readable font, not smaller than 11 point, with margins of at least one inch. Documents may be single spaced.

An application should include the following (in this order). Additional components and appendices will make an application ineligible.

1. A one-page coversheet: This document should include the following items:
a. Full name
b. Postal address
c. Email address
d. Telephone number
e. Proposed period of the fellowship (a four month period beginning in 2018)
f. Affiliation (if applicable)
g. The names and email addresses of two recommenders familiar with the project being proposed.

2. A c.v. not to exceed two single-spaced pages: This document should include current and past employment; education; recent publications, awards, and honors; and other information relevant to the review of the proposed project.

3. A narrative proposal not to exceed three single-spaced pages: This document must describe the project as well as the work you hope to accomplish with the award. A competitive application will articulate in clear prose how the project will illuminate some aspect of the nineteenth-century periodical press and indicate the audience(s) for the proposed publication(s) and/or other grant outcomes. A competitive application will also include a brief yet detailed plan of work for the proposed, four-month award period as well as a timeline for completion of the entire project.

4. A summary not to exceed two pages of primary source materials, archives to be consulted during the project, and selected secondary sources that bear directly on the project.

5. Two letters of recommendation: Applicants are responsible for soliciting letters of recommendation. Letters should address the evaluation criteria below. While the absence of letters from an application will not make it ineligible, letters that arrive late (or not at all) may make an application less competitive.

Recommenders should submit their letters directly to the RSVP evaluation committee as email attachments not later than February 15, 2017 at

No itemized budget is required.

IV. How Applications will be Evaluated

A group of interdisciplinary evaluators with knowledge of periodicals in the long nineteenth century will use the following criteria to evaluate applications. Applications and letters of recommendation should be crafted with these criteria in mind.

1. The importance of the project, including its use of materials relevant to deeper understanding of the periodical press in nineteenth-century Britain and its empire.

2. The quality of the application, including its clarity of expression.

3. The applicant’s preparation to pursue the project.

4. The feasibility of the plan of work and the likelihood that the applicant will be bring the entire project to a successful completion in due course.

Please note that need is not a criterion.

V. Notification and Award Administration

RSVP will name one winner and up to two alternates at the end of the competition.

Notification will take place by email not later than May 15, 2017. The winner will have until June 15, 2017 to accept or decline the award.

All decisions are final. Unsuccessful applicants may choose to revise and resubmit their applications at later deadlines.

Awardees must submit a narrative report at the end of the grant period. All publications resulting from fellowship support must include the following acknowledgement: “This publication received support of a Linda H. Peterson Fellowship awarded by the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals and funded from the bequest of the Eileen Curran estate.”

PDF version of these guidelines.

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