English Professor Wins Prestigious Fellowship

By Staci Wilson, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
April 15, 2011

Associate Professor Heidi Brayman Hackel has recently been awarded a $50,000 Mellon Fellowship at the Huntington Library in order to continue research for her new book, Dumb Eloquenc: Deafness, Muteness, and Gesture in Early Modern England. Professor Brayman Hackel currently teaches within the UC Riverside English department, with a focus on the literature and culture of early modern England.

Inspired by an English court case from 1616 in which the legal precedent was set that a mute could not be fairly tried, Dumb Eloquence seeks to “consider a range of vocal silences” in order to discuss how silence and meaning function. Her research also unearths a history of deafness in the early modern period. While the two disabilities were often intertwined, Brayman Hackel notes that early moderns were beginning to realize that muteness is not an inevitable consequence of deafness, and she shows early moderns working toward dissociating both of these disabilities with their traditionally assumed relationship to “dumbness.” Upon completion, Brayman Hackel’s work hopes to provide readers with a religious, legal, and literary history of muteness. Dumb Eloquence calls attention to what Brayman Hackel describes as, “the eloquence of mute gesture,” and makes room for new scholarship regarding the intricacies of sign and its history.

Professor Brayman Hackel received a $4700 COR grant for the 2009-2010 school year, which allowed her to conduct critical research in both England and France (including visits to Institut des Jeuns Sourds and the archives of Syon Abbey), in addition to several US institutions. She is, however, very excited to spend a year in residence at the Huntington, whose 16th- and 17th- century English collections she became quite familiar with as a graduate student. The Huntington Library is an independent research center which houses works dating back to the 11th century and ranging from topics like history and art to science and medicine; it is certainly the ideal place for Brayman Hackel to meet with other scholars and complete her long-sought research efforts.

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