GGC English professor selected as Chawton House Library Visiting Fellow

Damián among 30 international visiting Fellows to attend month-long study in the UK

Photo gallery of Chawton House Library Fellow

Dr. Jessica Damián, associate professor of English, is the first Georgia Gwinnett College faculty member to be named a Chawton House Library (CHL) Visiting Fellow in partnership with the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom (UK).

Chawton House, a 400 year-old Elizabethan manor, formerly home to Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight, has undergone extensive restoration work and opened the Chawton House Library as a UK-registered charity in 2003.  The CHL main collection focuses on works written by women in English during the period 1600 to 1830 and is an internationally-renowned research institution, working in partnership with scholars and universities across the globe.

“I presented my research on Maria Edgeworth at the inaugural Chawton House Women’s Writing in Britain, 1600-1830 Conference in 2003 when the library opened its doors to scholars from around the world,” Damián said. “One of my British Romanticism colleagues shared her positive experiences as a Chawton House Fellow a few years ago and encouraged me to apply.”

According to Damián, being in community with other scholars is at the core of the Fellowship experience. All Fellows are offered accommodations at the historic Chawton House, Reading Room space in the main Library building and library rights at the University of Southampton, including access to both electronic and archival resources at the Hartley Library and special collections.

“As a Fellow in residence for the summer, it’s extraordinary to think that we live and work a brief five-minute walk from Jane Austen’s former home,” Damián said. “Having access to the collection of early women’s writing ensures that we can delve into our research, examining texts and archival materials more closely.  Being at Chawton House helps us place these works within their historical and literary contexts.”

Through her research at CHL, Damián plans to complete an article on women’s travel writing in the nineteenth century with a focus on Chawton’s Knight Collection, especially its books and letters on travel and expeditions, as these help reconstruct a literary history that considers the presence of the Americas in the nineteenth century.  She hopes to survey the broader fields of women’s poetry, prose, travel writing and memoirs as a way to unearth new information on British territorial expansion.

The Fellowship research will yield invaluable digital copies of archival materials for GGC literature students, including images of watercolors and pencil sketches from British women travelers.  English students will be able to compare the sketches against the published copies, tracing them over time through subsequent editions. 

Damián holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Miami at Coral Gables, where she was the recipient of the Bernard Benstock Doctoral Award and a Center for Latin American Studies Research Grant to the Princeton University Archives. She received a master’s degree in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Miami at Coral Gables, studying as a College of Arts and Sciences Merit Scholar in the Humanities.  She has served as a Wye Faculty Fellow with the Aspen Institute.

Damián will complete her CHL Fellowship this summer.

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