Photo of Elizabeth Rivlin, English associate professor who recently received an NEH Summer Stipend.

Elizabeth Rivlin, an associate professor of English, recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Elizabeth Rivlin, an associate professor in the English department at Clemson University, has been awarded a Summer Stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Rivlin received the $6,000 research grant to support her book project “Shakespeare and the American Middlebrow: Reading Publics, 1878-Present.”

Her project was one of 224 recently selected by the NEH out of a field of more than 2,000 applicants.

“It’s an honor to receive this NEH stipend,” Rivlin said. “The stipends are extremely competitive.”

Rivlin’s book explores how American institutions in the 19th and 20th centuries helped to promote Shakespeare’s plays and poems to a middle-class readership.

“In the 19th century, Shakespeare was increasingly an elite or highbrow property,” Rivlin said. In the 20th century, however, American institutions – such as the Chautauqua Institution, the Great Books movement and the Book-of-the-Month Club – sought to make Shakespeare accessible to a broader audience.

“They offered the promise of a Shakespeare who was entertaining, enlightening and uplifting for middle-class readers,” she said. “The idea was that Shakespeare was supposed to improve you.”

Rivlin has been at work on several chapters of the monograph while on sabbatical for the past academic year.

The NEH distributes Summer Stipends to support a scholar’s continuous full-time work on a humanities project for a period of two consecutive months. The advanced research projects selected are deemed valuable to both humanities scholars and general audiences.

The NEH funded only 11 percent of the Summer Stipend proposals it received following a rigorous review process.

During this round of NEH grants, only two other Summer Stipends were awarded in South Carolina, and only four grants total were distributed in the state.

Rivlin’s two-month stipend began May 1. This award marks the first time Rivlin has received the prestigious NEH grant.

Rivlin received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been a faculty member of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson University since 2004.

Her research focuses on early modern literature and Shakespeare, including the history of Shakespeare in American literature and culture.