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.


Application deadline for awards beginning in 2019: March 15, 2018


Award notification:  Not later than May 15, 2018


 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 2009-2013 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 2019 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 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 through the online application portal at  not later than 11:59 p.m. your local time on March 15, 2018.


The application portal will open on February 5, 2018, at which time applicants may create an account and begin preparing and submitting their proposals. At the application portal you may start your application and finish submitting it at a later date.


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 includes the following components:


  1. An online application form, which collects the following information:
    1. Full name
    2. Postal address
    3. Email address
    4. Telephone number
    5. Proposed period of the fellowship (a four month period beginning in 2019)
    6. Affiliation (if applicable)


  1. A c.v. not to exceed two single-spaced pages, uploaded in PDF, .docx, or RTF format. 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.


  1. A narrative proposal not to exceed three single-spaced pages, uploaded in PDF, .docx, or RTF format. 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.


  1. A summary not to exceed two pages, uploaded in PDF, .docx, or RTF format. This document should list primary source materials, archives to be consulted during the project, and selected secondary sources that bear directly on the project.


  1. The names and email addresses for two recommenders familiar with the proposed project. Once the applicant enters these into the application portal, each recommender will receive an email with a link to upload a recommendation letter directly into the application system. Recommendation letters are due by March 31, 2018. 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.


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.


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


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


  1. 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, 2018. The winner will have until June 15, 2018 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.”

You can download a copy of these guidelines here.

For questions not answered below, please contact:


Last year’s winner

Ian Haywood, Professor of English at the University of Roehampton, UK, for his project: “The Rise of Victorian Caricature: Satirical Periodicals 1830-1850”. The project abstract is as follows:

This project, which is designed to be a sequel to my last book Romanticism and Caricature (2013), will challenge the orthodox view that the Victorian period ‘tamed’ caricature by depriving it of its political and aesthetic freedoms and subjecting it to the editorial control of the illustrated magazine, the prime example being Punch. In Thackeray’s words, caricature was ‘washed and combed’ by Victorian propriety. The problem with this gentrification and domestication thesis, which assumes that visual satire became uniformly respectable in outlook and naturalistic in style, is that it is both inaccurate and misleading. I will argue that, on the contrary, a slew of now largely forgotten radical satirical periodicals of the 1830s and 1840s took political caricature in a more democratic direction than its Georgian heyday. Far from neutering its effectiveness, the ‘periodicalization’ of graphic satire brought text and image into closer contact than before and installed the large cut (the equivalent of the single-print caricature) as the dominant logo of a new political imagination in which topical events were instantly transformed into comic, bizarre, grotesque and often violent scenes. The accessibility of these images, which appeared in periodicals costing just one penny, is testimony to the existence of a flourishing viewership for political caricature at precisely the moment when it allegedly disappeared. My study begins with Thomas McLean’s remarkable lithographed periodical Looking Glass (1830-36), illustrated by Robert Seymour, which cost as much as six shillings and was clearly aimed at the middle-class market. Having established a new visual vocabulary for attacking the era of Whig hegemony, Seymour then made a crucial switch to Gilbert A’ Beckett’s penny weekly Figaro in London (1831-39), blazing a trail for a series of more radical periodicals, the Penny Satirist (1837-46), Cleave’s Gazette of Variety (1837-44) and Odd Fellow (1839-42), all explicitly pro-Chartist and anti-monarchical. These three periodicals dominated the visual representation of politics until the arrival of Punch in 1841, and the new magazine had little choice but to follow their format. The revolutionary events of 1848-9 inspired a new wave of short-lived rivals such as Puppet Show and Man in the Moon. In order to revive this neglected culture of caricature, The Rise of Caricature will also shed new light on the remarkable career of Charles Jameson Grant, the prolific illustrator of both the radical satirical periodicals and a range of serialized publications including Political Drama (1833-5) and Every Body’s Album (1833-4).


Previous winners of the prize:

2016: Tom Mole: “Periodicals and the Policing of Culture, 1802-1828”.