The National Endowment for the Humanities announced its annual research fellowships on Dec. 14, 2015, and Professor Trysh Travis of the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research was on the list. She has received an NEH research fellowship for calendar year 2017 for a new book project, Reading Matters: Books, Bookmen, and the Creation of Mid-Century American Liberalism, 1930-1980.
At its most basic, Reading Matters is an institutional history examining the publishing industry’s efforts to modernize its rather Victorian business practices and align them with the new media and policy landscape taking shape at mid-century. Against this backdrop, the book explores the professional identity of the publishers who liked to call themselves “bookmen” and charts their struggles for cultural authority in an increasingly technocratic world. One way in which they bid for that authority was to cast themselves as stewards of democracy, using books and reading to safeguard the nation against the sinister illiberalisms of the period – fascism, communism, and “the mass mind.” The book also will explore the way publishers and publishing contributed to the distinctive liberal culture (and institutions) of the post-war United States.
Professor Travis is a literary and cultural historian of the 20th-century U.S., studying the gendered history of the book with a focus on reading communities and the publishing industry. Her first book, The Language of the Heart: A Cultural History of the Recovery Movement from Alcoholics Anonymous to Oprah Winfrey, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in fall 2009. Her writings on radical feminist publishing, contemporary spirituality, and popular culture have appeared in journals like Book History, American Quarterly, and Men and Masculinities, as well as in publications like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Bitch magazine.