University of Minnesota

U of M English professor receives Guggenheim Fellowship

John Watkins awarded for work on early marriage contracts.

April 14, 2014

A University of Minnesota English professor has been named a 2014 fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. John Watkins is among 178 U.S. and Canadian scholars, artists and scientists selected from almost 3,000 applicants.  

Watkins is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor of English. His expertise is in sovereignty, diplomacy and political culture of the medieval and early modern eras, the world of Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, and the apocalypse. Although his interests are rooted in centuries past, Watkins is a frequent media commentator on our enduring fascination with royals today.

During his fellowship, Watkins will complete a book he is writing about marriage diplomacy in the late middle ages to the end of the 17th century. He has been examining the role of inter-dynastic marriage in European peacemaking, and answering questions such as: How did marriage come to be seen as a way to avoid violence and end wars? How did these marriages contribute to shared values, beliefs, aesthetics, and cultural practices across Europe? And what were the roles created for women as brides, negotiators, and bearers of their families’ aggression?

Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $315 million in fellowships to almost 17,700 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates and poets laureate, as well as winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Fields Medals, and other important, internationally recognized honors.

Watkins is the seventh College of Liberal Arts professor to receive a Guggenheim fellowship in the past 10 years. Historian Elaine Tyler May won in 2013, choreographer Ananya Chatterjea in 2011,  political scientist Kathryn Sikkink in 2008 and filmmaker Hisham Bizri in 2007.
The Guggenheim fellowship is the third and largest award Watkins has received in support of this project. He is also receiving support from Keble College at Oxford University and the American Council of Learned Societies.


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