The M. C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources


The M. C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources is a two-year program designed to animate humanities teaching and equip educators (both library/curatorial staff and tenured or tenure-track faculty) to enlarge their students’ historical sensibilities through bibliographically informed instruction with original historical sources. Open to faculty and librarians at liberal arts colleges and small universities in the United States, this fellowship program will teach teachers how to discern and convey the human presences in original textual artifacts, to inculcate wonder in their students through guided contact with original textual artifacts. Lang Fellows will learn how most effectively to help undergraduates understand every book as a coalescence of human intentions, a rich sign system whose culturally incarnated meanings are conveyed not only by linguistic codes, but also by the bibliographical and social codes present in every book as well. The ultimate goal of this program is to re-seed American colleges and small universities with humanities teachers who make maximal use of special collections resources in their undergraduate courses, so that the integration of bibliographical and book-historical sensibilities becomes woven into the fabric of such teaching. Lang Fellows will be encouraged to enlist others on and near their campuses who could help create a community of practice, so that book-historical humanities teaching with original primary sources is not merely a matter of individual style, but rather a central aspect of the local educational culture.

Overview of Fellowship Program

The M. C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources includes the following components:

  • two Rare Book School courses: Each Fellow will take a sequence of two intensive, hands-on Rare Book School courses, including an introductory course, “Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching” required of all participants during their first year (the first iteration of this course will be offered in June 2020). In the second year of their fellowship, Lang Fellows will choose an elective course from the extensive RBS course offerings, in consultation with the Executive Director, the Director of Programs & Education, and other RBS staff members. This second course might be aimed at helping the Fellow better understand and teach with a particular group of materials in their home institution’s collection (e.g., illustrated books, decorative bindings, incunabula, early-modern manuscripts, photographs, bibles, eighteenth-century books), or might help the Fellow make powerful connections between an academic specialty and book history. Fellows’ tuition for their two RBS courses will be waived. The fellowship includes an annual $1,500 stipend for travel, housing, and other costs related to the Fellow’s RBS course attendance.
  • available matching funds: Fellows will be eligible to apply for matching funds of up to $1,000 per year of the fellowship to help improve their own teaching, create student-learning experiences, build book-historical culture on campus, foster book-related public outreach programs, or organize an event to raise awareness about humanities teaching with original textual artifacts. Accordingly, matching funds might be used, for example, to lead undergraduates in mounting a student exhibition, to marshal the local resources necessary to inaugurate a book collecting prize, or to bring a collector (or antiquarian bookseller) to campus to give a talk and meet with students. In all instances, collaboration with other parties (departments, the library, deans, faculty, collectors, local artisans of the book, &c.) is warmly encouraged.

Qualifications & Eligibility

The Lang Fellowships are open to full-time tenured faculty; full-time tenure-track faculty who have passed the third-year review; or full-time library/curatorial staff members, at liberal arts colleges and small universities located in the United States.

The following classes of applicants are ineligible for this fellowship program:

  • individuals based at institutions located outside the United States
  • individuals employed by universities that award earned doctorates in any field
  • anyone who has previously taken more than two Rare Book School courses, or who has taken RBS course H-90, Teaching the History of the Book
  • past or present members of RBS’s full-time, year-round staff

Application Process

We are now accepting applications for the first cohort of Lang Fellows. To begin the application process, please log into your myRBS account (or create a new myRBS account). On the Home screen, click the “Apply for a Scholarship or Fellowship” button on the left side of the page. If you have trouble with myRBS, see the FAQ page or email rbs_scholarships@virginia.edu. Participation in the fellowship program implies acceptance of the scholarship/fellowship Terms and Conditions. If you have questions about the fellowship or the application process, please email rbs_scholarships@virginia.edu. Applications must be received by Monday, 2 December 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

The application will include:

  • brief forms requesting basic contact information and confirmation of eligibility
  • curriculum vitae
  • one confidential letter of recommendation from a colleague or supervisor familiar with your work
  • a few short essays to help the candidate establish their suitability and explain why and how the fellowship would be put to good use
    • Why do you want to be part of the M. C. Lang Fellowship? What intellectual, professional, and pedagogical aspirations could participation in the program help you fulfill?  Please discuss what you see as the potential impact of the fellowship on your teaching and other activities. (1 page max)
    • What interests you most about participating in Rare Book School courses? What course might you most hope to take in your second year? How might you share what you have learned with diverse audiences, through teaching, curation, or other public-facing activities? (1 page max)
    • Lang Fellows are meant to be outstanding undergraduate educators. Describe your experiences of and commitment to undergraduate education. How does working in a Liberal Arts environment contribute to your efficacy?  Do you have experience teaching with books or other textual artifacts? (1 page max)
    • Lang Fellowships are meant to engender collaborative leadership in local learning environments. How might you work with others to help create an educational culture of book-historical humanities teaching with original sources? What kinds of sources are currently available to you? (1 page max)

Fellows will be selected on the basis of: academic and pedagogical excellence; evidence of collegiality and a service-minded outlook; demonstrated commitment to undergraduate learning; and concrete plans to implement a program of teaching with original sources in the near term.

Because the purpose of the program is to foster a culture of teaching in which students learn to read primary sources in their original forms, candidates reaching the semi-finalist stage of selection will be asked to provide a letter of support from their home institutions. (For librarians, this letter would come from the candidate’s supervisor; for faculty, from the department chair or director of undergraduate studies.)

Lang Fellowship Selection Committee

  • Evan Davis (Elliott Professor of English, Hampden-Sydney College), Chair
  • Brenna Wynn Greer (Associate Professor of History, Wellesley College)
  • Alisha Knight (Associate Professor of English and American Studies, Washington College)
  • Laura Perrings (Director of Programs & Education, Rare Book School)
  • Christopher Phillips (Professor of English, Lafayette College)
  • Ed Vermue (Special Collections and Preservation Librarian, Oberlin College)