NEH Fellowship Awarded for Book on the American Novel, Conflict, and Democracy

Author: Joan Fallon

Sandra M. Gustafson, professor of English and American Studies at the University of Notre Dame, has been awarded a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowship to write a book on conflict and democracy in classic American novels.

The new book will analyze major conflicts in American history, including the current "culture of conflict" in the U.S. It also will explore the quest to resolve conflicts democratically — as portrayed in the work of writers ranging from James Fenimore Cooper, who published his first frontier fiction in the 1820s, to contemporary novelist Leslie Marmon Silko.

The book will draw heavily on the fields of peace studies and conflict transformation, says Gustafson, who has been a faculty fellow at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies since 2010.

The NEH proposal originated in a course she taught in fall 2011, “Conflict and Democracy in Classic American Fiction,” offered by the Department of English and by peace studies. She credits Kroc faculty members David Cortright (author of Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas) and John Paul Lederach (author of The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace) as significant influences on her new project.

Gustafson is the author of several books on American literature and culture. This is her second NEH grant; the first (2002-3) was for Imagining Deliberative Democracy in the Early American Republic (Chicago, 2011).

Notre Dame has been awarded 49 NEH fellowships between 1999 and 2013—more than any other university in the country.