Hendrix College’s Dr. Alex Vernon Receives NEH Fellowship

Dr. Alex Vernon
Dr. Alex Vernon

The Division of Research Programs for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a 12-month research fellowship to Dr. Alex Vernon, Julia Mobley Odyssey Professor of English at Hendrix College.

Vernon’s application was one of only 99 approved out of 1,220 received across all four NEH fellowship programs. He is the first Hendrix faculty member to receive an award of this scope from the NEH.

Citing prominent historical and art exhibits that reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and the 18-hour nonfiction film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, Vernon says the time is right for also revisiting the literary history of this decade-long war.

“A lot of readers know Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried—it is one of the most assigned contemporary works of fiction in U.S. high schools and colleges. But O’Brien’s career doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s a rich historical, literary, and personal context,” he said. “Also, and sadly, we are losing those voices. Michael Herr, the author of Dispatches, died in 2016. Larry Heinemann, whose postwar novel Paco’s Story shocked everyone when it won the National Book Award over Toni Morrison’s Beloved, died only last month. I was very fortunate to visit with Larry this past summer. So there is some urgency to this task.”

Vernon, a combat veteran himself, integrates his interest in war literature into his course offerings. Last semester he taught a course on American war literature, and this spring he will teach a literature course titled “Imagined Vietnam,” and also an Oxford-style tutorial on O’Brien for a small group of Murphy Scholars in Literature and Language. At the beginning of the fall semester, he will begin his fellowship research, which will include many personal interviews plus the study of correspondence, drafts, and other primary documents in archives as well as in private hands. Rather than aiming for an approach rooted in literary analysis, he plans to develop a generational literary biography, accessible and appealing to the general reading public as well as scholars and students.

“For me, scholarship of this kind is service work,” Vernon said. “It’s an honor, a responsibility, and a joy. And it makes me a better teacher for my Hendrix students… the research and the teaching each deepen the other.”

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.