The Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography

The Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography (SoFCB) is a community of scholars working to advance the study of texts, images, and artifacts as material objects. Fellows work across many disciplines, study a wide range of time periods and geographies, and occupy diverse roles and career stages within the academy. Scholars join the SoFCB through the Junior Fellows Program; after completing the program in good standing, they have the option of becoming Senior Fellows in the Society.

The SoFCB is a program of Rare Book School; fellows work in collaboration with RBS staff to forward our shared goal of promoting inclusivity and diversity in the field of bibliography. RBS courses are central to our Fellows’ intellectual growth. The SoFCB also sponsors symposia, lectures, classes, and field schools at our Fellows’ home institutions, and at libraries and museums around the world.

What is critical bibliography?

Critical bibliography is an emerging field, in recent years largely shaped by the scholarship and teaching of the SoFCB’s members and the scholarly communities from which we are drawn and to which we contribute. Critical bibliography seeks to bring the most salient elements of the bibliographical tradition—a close attention to the book as a material-cultural artifact; hands-on engagement with technologies and processes of textual production; and an awareness of circuits of textual transmission—into much-needed dialogue with the critical and theoretical insights of twenty-first century humanities scholarship.

Critical bibliography is broadly interdisciplinary, drawing on scholarship from art history, anthropology, archaeology, classics, digital humanities, literary studies, library science, history of the book, history of science, and museum studies to find points of intellectual intersection among diverse investigations into material culture. Critical bibliography seeks to intervene in two directions: challenging scholars in humanities fields toward a more serious, sustained consideration of media and materiality, while challenging scholars of bibliography to engage with the critical concerns most vital to the humanities in the twenty-first century. Critical bibliography seeks to expand and transform the purview of bibliography to promote public-minded, civically-engaged scholarship.

What does the Society do?

We endeavor to foster capacious, interdisciplinary scholarship; integrate methods of critical bibliography into our teaching and research; foster collegial conversations about historical and emerging media across disciplines and institutions; and share our knowledge with broader publics. We are committed to creating a more accessible, inclusive, and diverse environment for the study of the material text.

In practice, this means we organize symposia and conference sessions; meet annually as a Society to induct new fellows and plan new initiatives; collaborate on a wide range of scholarly activities in and across our home disciplines, including exhibitions, conferences, and publication projects; and support one another in our research and teaching. We bring together scholars who study material texts in cultural contexts around the globe, crossing geographical and disciplinary boundaries.

The SoFCB also sponsors an annual Essay Prize to recognize and reward published work that advances the mission of the Society.

Who are the members of the Society?

Fellows are librarians, curators, teachers, and students from a range of disciplines. [Full directory coming]

Current officers of the Society are:

  • President: Rhae Lynn Barnes (Assistant Professor in History, Princeton University)
  • Vice President: Damian Fleming (Associate Professor of English & Linguistics, Purdue University Fort Wayne)
  • Immediate Past President: Dahlia Porter (Lecturer in English Literature and Material Culture, Glasgow University)
  • Secretary: Marissa Nicosia (Assistant Professor of English, Pennsylvania State University, Abington College)
  • Diversity & Outreach Committee Chair: Hwisang Cho (Assistant Professor in Korean Studies, Emory University)
  • Program Committee Chair: Megan Cook (Assistant Professor of English, Colby College)
  • Selection Committee Chair: Sonia Hazard (Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Franklin & Marshall College)

The members of the Society’s Advisory Board are:

  • Ann Blair (Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor of History and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University)
  • James Green (Librarian of the Library Company of Philadelphia)
  • Alexia Hudson-Ward (Director of Libraries, Oberlin College & Observatory)
  • Jerome McGann (John Stewart Bryan University Professor, University of Virginia)
  • Patricia Meyer Spacks (Edgar Shannon Professor of English, Emerita, University of Virginia; past president of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Modern Language Association)

How do I become a Fellow?

Scholars join the SoFCB through the Junior Fellows Program; after completing the program in good standing, they have the option of becoming Senior Fellows in the Society. The Society’s Council may appoint a limited number of honorary Fellows whose work advances the intellectual, pedagogical, and service aims of our community but who are ineligible for the Junior Fellows Program.

How did the Society come to be?

Rare Book School received three major grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund an innovative fellowship program at RBS, the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography. The aim of the fellowship program was to reinvigorate bibliographical studies within the humanities by introducing doctoral candidates, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty to specialized skills, methods, and professional networks for conducting advanced research with material texts. The program admitted its final cohort of fellows in 2015. The Society of Fellows developed out of a desire to maintain and expand the community of scholars brought together by this fellowship, and it admitted its first cohort of Junior Fellows in 2018.

Who makes this possible?

The SoFCB is currently supported by a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, awarded to Rare Book School in July 2017. We are grateful for their continued trust, and are actively seeking funds to sustain the Society beyond 2025. The Fellows are also grateful for the support of RBS Executive Director Michael F. Suarez S.J., RBS Associate Director and Curator of Collections Barbara Heritage, and Administrative Director of the SoFCB Donna Sy, without whose vision, creativity, and hard work the SoFCB would not exist.