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Lynn Voskuil the only U.S. scholar awarded a NEH “double win” in 2015

National Endowment for the Humanities recognizes English professor’s research with two grant awards

The National Endowment for the Humanities was so impressed by English Professor Lynn Voskuil’s proposal to complete her book on the historical and literary relationship between British gardens and imperialism during the nineteenth century that the federal agency offered to give Dr. Voskuil two grants.

The NEH selected Dr. Voskuil’s proposal to receive a Fellowship as well as an Award for Faculty, making Dr. Voskuil the only U.S. scholar in 2015 to be honored with the coveted NEH “double win,” according to the NEH.

Dr. Voskuil’s “project is first rate and all the panelists saw that,” said Russell Wyland, deputy director of the NEH’s Division of Research Programs.

Because of the agency’s rules, scholars can only accept one grant at a time. Dr. Voskuil chose to accept the Fellowship, which begins on June 1 and ends May 31, 2017.

Her book, “Horticulture and Imperialism: The Garden Spaces of the British Empire, 1789-1914," explores the role of horticulture in shaping the imperial and ecological ambitions of nineteenth-century Britain.  Here’s the short description of it that she included in her proposal:

Significant for its attention to the collaborative concerns of empire and environmental studies, this project traces the effects of imperialist perspective on garden design and on the discovery and cultivation of non-native plants for British landscapes.

At the same time, it shows how plants themselves, especially exotic specimens with aggressive habits of growth, attenuated the cultural confidence in imperial power by challenging the human expectation of dominance and mastery over the environment.

By focusing on horticulture, this study addresses the ideas of both empire and environment as humanist paradigms, reconfiguring our knowledge not only of gardens but also of the concepts of nature and culture that gave rise to them.

In the manuscript Dr. Voskuil explains how the nineteenth century was an era of unprecedented growth and expansion for British horticulture. She also explores the horticultural technologies and developments that enabled this expansion. The manuscript includes analysis of nineteenth-century gardens that still exist — a Cornish garden, for example, that features plants from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South America, South Africa, California, and the Canary Islands in a uniquely designed landscape.

“The plant stock in British gardens today owes much of its diversity to Victorian nurserymen and plant-hunters who introduced thousands of new specimens into Britain from its colonies abroad and other international outposts,” she says.

- By Shannon Buggs

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