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English Professor Earns NEH Summer Stipend

SUNY Plattsburgh Assistant Professor of English Michael Devine is one of only two English professors in New York to win the 2016 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend.

The highly competitive NEH stipends are awarded to support scholars for a two-month period of time. Devine said he plans to use his $6,000 stipend to help him finish his project — a book-length study, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Poetry, Film and the Battle for a National Art, 1895-1930” — this summer. 

He said his book “is particularly timely in our age of new media. It tells the story of American poetry’s crisis in the early 20th century — an age of new technologies like our own — when many considered poetry doomed to disappear.

“But it didn’t; poetry re-emerged in a cinematic public square, where film adaptations of poems were not uncommon.

Devine, who coordinates the college’s minor in film studies through the English department, is co-programmer for the Lake Champlain International Film Festival. Last year, he and his wife, Julia, an adjunct lecturer in English, created a film-poem, “Burgh,” which was among the films that opened last fall’s festival, has been shown throughout the region, and will be shown prior to the fireworks on July 4 in downtown Plattsburgh. That film is about Plattsburgh and the role of civic art — monuments, parades, poetry, film — in telling the story of a place.

Devine said the NEH recognition shows that his brand of interdisciplinary research and teaching “is more relevant than ever.”

“Understanding how artists respond to media forms in 1896 helps make sense of how they respond to it in 2016,” he said. “One of my favorite poets recently tweeted, ‘A poem should not meme but bae.’ Students understand what that means, and that’s very good for the future of poetry. Artists don’t bow down before technology; they transfigure it, and art becomes more powerful in the process.”

Dr. Thomas Moran, director of the college’s Institute for Ethics in Public Life and distinguished service professor of history, said the NEH award “is a great honor for him, and for the college.”

“These are highly prestigious awards, and they only go to the most accomplished scholars whose work is particularly promising,” Moran said. “Michael’s project is unique. He is using the lens of film and art to re-conceptualize public spaces in American communities. I believe this project will have an impact in both intellectual and practical terms. It represents an exciting and what I hope is a new wave of scholarship in the humanities.”

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