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Vollendorf Recognized for 2010 Best Collaborative Project Award

Published: October 1, 2010

Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures Chair Lisa Vollendorf was recognized by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women with the Best Collaborative Project Award of 2010 for her book, co-edited with French historian Daniella Koustroun, titled Women, Religion and the Atlantic World (1600-1800) from the University of Toronto Press.

Drawing on historical, literary, and anthropological methodologies, Women, Religion, and the Atlantic World explores in 352 pages the meaning of an “Atlantic community” and challenges the conventional boundaries of nation-bound inquiry in the humanities. The volume’s contributors focus on European, indigenous, Creole, African and mestiza women’s interactions with shifting paradigms of Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism and syncretic beliefs throughout the Atlantic basin.

The book highlights the unique cultural dynamics of the Atlantic, said Vollendorf, who joined the university in 2005. Mapping these themes with a diverse range of individual, imperial and institutional cases, the collected essays include studies of a Peruvian nun’s battle against a demon, an African slave whose knowledge of the Bible stunned white men and Native American healers accused of witchcraft.

“Readers will meet indigenous women, Catholics and Protestants, and Jewish women who say they’re Catholic and Catholic women accused of being Jewish,” she said. “Readers also will meet a woman who wanted to become a saint but did not have the correct racial makeup to make it as a saint in colonial Peru. One essay deals with English covert Catholics who engaged in numerous economic activities as single women. Our goal was to discover how different national histories play out in ways that either value or de-value women’s contributions and how those nation-bound histories change when we look at the entire Atlantic context.”

The Atlantic Studies model has been exploited to great effect in terms of economic and trade history, Vollendorf believes, but it also has much to offer scholars of women and gender. Vollendorf wanted those engaged with Atlantic Studies to see the benefits of integrating gender analysis into broader considerations of the Atlantic world. What does slave history look like when gender issues are considered? How does religious history change when women and gender are integrated?

“I am really pleased about the award as it is in recognition of collaborative scholarly work,” said Vollendorf. “This is the kind of work that is common in the sciences and rarely rewarded in the humanities, particularly in my own fields of literary and cultural studies. Working with French historian Daniella Koustroun (Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis) afforded me the opportunity to engage in collaborative writing. Since our edited volume includes essays by scholars trained in history, literature and anthropology, we also faced the challenge of putting together a cohesive book that would highlight the methodological challenges and rewards of historical gender studies for the entire early modern Atlantic region. It was exciting to be part of a project that brought so many different and potentially disparate ideas together and made them into what is recognized by this award to be a coherent scholarly volume.”

Literatures Chair Lisa Vollendorf

Vollendorf praised the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. “It’s quite an honor to receive this award,” she said. The society is a network of scholars who meet annually, sponsor sessions at conferences, maintain a website, give awards for outstanding scholarship and support one another’s work.

Vollendorf is the author of five books including The Lives of Women: A New History of Inquisitional Spain and The Lives of Women: A New History of Inquisitional Spain. She earned her B.A. in 1990 from Colorado State University and her M.A. in 1992 and Ph.D. in 1995 from the University of Pennsylvania. Before arriving at CSULB, she taught at Wayne State University and Miami University of Ohio.

In addition to editing the volume, Vollendorf contributed to the book her first foray into Atlantic World Studies with an essay on the topic of women’s writing as part of the Iberian-American diaspora.

“Atlantic Studies arose after World War II as a field focused on geopolitical shifts, trade history and the rise of slavery,” she said. “One reason I am so honored to win this award is that this is the first collaborative project I have ever done. We desperately need more collaboration across disciplinary boundaries if we are to successfully make early modern women’s studies a more prominent field. This volume makes inroads toward that broader goal.”

Vollendorf has continued her collaboration with UC Riverside’s James A. Parr, on Approaches to Teaching ‘Don Quixote’ as well as Theorizing the Iberian Atlantic with the University of Liverpool’s Harald Braun. Both volumes are in progress and under contract.

Vollendorf admires CSULB faculty’s commitment to research, scholarship, and creative activities.

“Research funds have been scaled back in the wake of the economic downturn,” she said. “But there is also a top-to-bottom belief on this campus in the value of scholarship. Good teaching is made possible by good scholarship. That ethos is the right one for this university. The challenge that remains for the entire university is to find a way in the near future (and not the distant future) to more effectively support faculty development in the arena of research at the same time we enhance faculty development for pedagogy and teaching. They are both crucial components of our campus. Teaching and research are our bread and butter.”

–Richard Manly