Tonya Howe Co-Directs Anthology Project that Earns NEH Grant

Dr. Tonya Howe, associate professor of Literature and Languages at Marymount University, co-directs a digital anthology project that has earned a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Level 2 Digital Humanities Advancement Grant.

The grant, which is a joint effort of the University of Virginia and Marymount University, provides $72,542 in funding from January 2018 to July 2019. It will support the development of Literature in Context, an open-access, curated, and classroom-sourced digital anthology of British and American literature in English (1650-1800), spanning the formative period of the modern transatlantic world. 

The grant is jointly led by Howe; Dr. John O’Brien, professor of English at The University of Virginia; and Christine Ruotolo of The University of Virginia Library. It merges two existing experimental classroom projects developed by Howe and O’Brien – Novels in Context ( and the Open Anthology of Literature ( Both projects were developed from student-faculty collaboration, an important component of the grant project plan.

“While the widespread free availability of numerous literary and historical texts online makes possible new modes of inquiry barely imagined a generation ago, the accuracy, quality, and authority of digitized texts are far from uniform,” Howe said. “The sheer abundance of material that appears in a simple Google search — often the first means of access for students — can overwhelm the inexperienced, who are not in a position to judge the quality or authenticity of what they find.”

Literature in Context will create a platform for establishing authoritative, contextualized works that teachers and readers can use with confidence.

“The future of publishing, the work of learning, and the demands of public discourse are changing,” Howe said. “As teachers and scholars, part of our charge is to ensure that these changes benefit our students’ intellectual, ethical, and civic growth. Literature in Context is therefore also intended to offer a sustainable intervention in — and interrogation of — academic publishing.”

The grant process was very competitive; only 13 percent of submissions were funded. The funds received by Marymount will support Howe’s work on the project.

Marymount University is an independent, coeducational Catholic university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines.

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Dr. Tonya Howe