Haskin and Koch Win Guggenheim Fellowships

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded fellowships to Prof. Dayton Haskin (English) and part-time faculty member John Koch (Slavic and Eastern Languages), which will enable them to perform research during the next academic year.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of unusually distinguished achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. Some 158 artists, scholars and scientists were selected from 3,000 applicants for the awards.

Prof. Dayton Haskin (English), standing, and part-time Slavic and Eastern Languages faculty member John Koch. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Haskin and Koch plan to write books during their fellowship periods. Haskin, who will begin the fellowship in September, will examine the Victorian Era's complex attitudes toward 17th-century poet John Donne. Koch will study manuscripts of Welsh poems composed in the sixth and seventh centuries.

According to Haskin, Donne's work was a source of tension for many Victorians, who recalled him as a great preacher for King James I but were fascinated, and sometimes troubled, when they discovered his erotic poems. By calling into question Victorian ideas about human sexuality, Haskin said, Donne's writings blurred the lines of respectability and refinement. Haskin will discuss how these views influenced more contemporary interpretations of Donne's work in the forthcoming book The Transformation of John Donne in the 19th Century .

The fellowship "will allow me the time to immerse myself in the subject and to evaluate the large body of material I have collected," said Haskin, who has studied Donne for over a dozen years and recently completed a term as president of the John Donne Society.

"This is an extraordinary achievement for Dayton and a wonderful sign that our department is moving strongly into the research field," said Prof. Judith Wilt, English Department chairwoman. "The Guggenheim Fellowship is a classic award and for Dayton it recognizes a project that is thoroughly grounded in classic scholarship, yet filled with originality."

Koch will begin his fellowship in 1997 and travel to Wales, where the ancient poems he is studying are housed. While the poems were originally oral compositions, Koch believes that the written versions began in the seventh century, earlier than most other scholars have believed. His research and subsequent book, The Earliest Welsh Poetry , will explore this possibility while using the poetry to recount the origins of England from a native Celtic perspective.

"There is very little material to go on when studying Britain in the Dark Ages," said Koch, "but these works relate directly to the political events of the time. They are not the literature equivalent of a still life, but are important historical documents, telling a political history of battles, military events and the death of kings."

"John has an international reputation in his field, so it pleases me to see him recognized for his scholarship with a Guggenheim," said Assoc. Prof. Michael Connolly, Slavic and Eastern Languages Department chairman. "He brings great credit to the department."

Haskin, who joined Boston College in 1978, is chairman of the English Department Honors Program and teaches in the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program. Koch is working under a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship on the book Irish Origins: From the Magalith Builders to Europe's First Vernacular Literature . He began teaching at the University in 1994.

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