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Project will culminate in scholarly edition of Swift’s poems

By Courtney Morin ’10

James Woolley, the Frank Lee and Edna M. Smith Professor of English, has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for research toward a scholarly edition of eighteenth-century satirist Jonathan Swift’s poems.

The project, entitled “The Canon and Chronology of Swift’s Poems,” will attempt, for poems that have been doubtfully attributed to Swift, to link each one with its respective personal, social, and political circumstances. By dating these circumstances, Woolley hopes to date the poems themselves. After dating a poem, he can better assess the likelihood that Swift would have, or even could have, written it.

Devising a new chronologically-ordered canon of Swift’s poems is a part of editing the poems. Woolley’s editorial work is a collaboration with James McLaverty of the University of Keele (U.K.) and Stephen Karian of Marquette University. Their edition, which will be published in four volumes by Cambridge University Press, is expected to reshape the current understanding of Swift as a poet.

The edition is in turn being supported by the Swift Poems Project’s electronic archive of early printed and manuscript texts of Swift’s poems. The Swift Poems Project is edited by John Irwin Fischer of Louisiana State University, Karian, and Woolley. Woolley has engaged about two dozen students in the Swift Poems Project. Sean Gough ’09 (North Plainfield, N.J.), a history and music double major, is the latest to serve as a Swift Poems Project editorial assistant.

Woolley, who is currently on sabbatical, is doing research at the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif.; the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.; and the Beinecke Library at Yale University. The Folger and the Beinecke libraries have awarded Woolley short-term research fellowships.

Woolley previously received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for research on the textual history of Swift’s poems. Lafayette has honored him with four major awards, the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award for excellence in teaching and scholarship, the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Award for superior teaching and scholarly contributions to his discipline, the Student Government Superior Teaching Award, and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for excellence in teaching and outstanding contributions to campus life.

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