First Book Program

First Book Program

The Center's First Book program provides helpful and timely feedback to junior faculty preparing their first academic book. The First Book program is open to all tenure-track, junior faculty in the humanities and interpretive social sciences with manuscripts that are near completion, but still in a position to benefit from review. The goal is to turn solid and promising manuscripts into first-rate, field-shaping books.

The program was initially funded by a short-term humanities programming grant from the A.W. Mellon Foundation. In recognition of the successes of the program, subsequent support has been provided by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the International Division, and the Offices of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff and Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate.

Applications for the 2017-18 First Book program will be accepted until Monday, September 25, 2017. Questions can be directed to Megan Massino (


Recipients of First Book Awards


  • Brigitte Fielder, Assistant Professor of the Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies. Fielder's manuscript, “Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America,” presents an alternative theory of how race is constructed. Contrary to notions of “downward” genealogies by which race is transmitted from parents to children, Fielder identifies and theorizes forms of racialization that follow other directions through adoption, sexual kinship, and reflection from children to parents. Fielder’s work on the “relative races” of historical and literary figures in the 19th century effectively reimagines the relationship between race and family.

  • Elizabeth Hennessey, Assistant Professor of History and Environmental Studies. Her manuscript, “On the Backs of Tortoises: The Past and Future of Evolution in the Galápagos Islands,” traces the history of the islands and their namesake species--the prehistoric-looking giant galápagos, or tortoises, that are paradoxically icons of the Darwinian theory of evolution and of the attempts of conservation to halt change. Hennessey’s project rethinks the Galápagos as a laboratory of co-evolution to find a way out of a conservation paradigm that depends on the unsustainable myth of pristine nature. 

  • Gloria McCahon Whiting, Assistant Professor of History. Her manuscript, “African Families, American Stories: Black Kin and Community in Early New England​,” explores the attempts of Africans, both enslaved and free, to create and maintain families in 17th- and 18th-century New England. Overcoming significant archival challenges and pulling together thousands of fragments of evidence, Whiting’s study of the living situations, gendered relationships, and kin communities of early Afro-New Englanders expands our understanding of diasporic life and adaptation by bringing into fuller context the beleaguered intimacies, and creative strategies, of black families in a region where Africans were only a small minority.


  • Nicole Nelson, Assistant Professor of the History of Science. Nelson's manuscript, “Model Behavior: Animal Experiments and the Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders,” uses ethnographic methods to explore how scientists develop and deploy animal models to produce molecular knowledge about human alcoholism and anxiety, and how this shapes scientific and cultural understandings of how we define the human. Model Behavior is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.

  • Nandini Pandey, Assistant Professor of Classics. Her manuscript, “The Poetics of Power in Augustan Rome,” explores how Roman writers responded to Augustan iconography in ways that shaped its perception in subsequent culture. Pandey’s project re-examines scholarly assumptions about the relationship between art, society, and power in the Augustan period, and is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

  • Jonathan Senchyne, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies and Director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. His manuscript, “Intimate Paper and the Materiality of Early American Literature,” illuminates new dimensions of material culture, media studies, and the American literary public sphere by examining the literary, visual, and material cultures of rag paper in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


  • Eunjung Kim, Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies (now of Syracuse University). Kim's manuscript, Curative Violence: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea,” focuses on a range of visual and culture analyses of a wide variety of texts from late 1930s Korea to present-day South Korea, and questions the assumption that curing disability represents a universal good. Curative Violence was published by Duke University Press in 2017.

  • Pablo Gomez, Assistant Professor of Medical History and Bioethics. His manuscript, “Wondrous Bodies: The Early Modern Caribbean and the Imagination of the World,” focuses on knowledge production and belief making about the human body and the natural world in the early modern Caribbean, especially Cartagena de Indias and Havana. The University of North Carolina Press published The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic in spring 2017.

  • Kathryn Ciancia, Assistant Professor of History. In her manuscript, “Poland's Wild East: Constructing Civilization on the Fringes of Interwar Europe,” Ciancia examines the possibility of European identity outside of the project of state building. Her work focuses on Poland’s eastern borderlands in order to place Poland within the mainstream of thinking about European debates about political sovereignty, empire, and civilization.

  • Stephanie Elsky, Assistant Professor of English. In “Time Out of Mind: The Politics of Custom and Common Law in Renaissance Literature,” Elsky expands our understanding of the relationship between literary and legal authority in sixteenth-century England and Ireland.
  • Andrea Harris, Assistant Professor, Department of Dance. Her manuscript, “Making Ballet American: Before and Beyond Balanchine” is an integrated examination of how ideas about American ballet in the 1930s to 1950s developed alongside, and sometimes in direct contact with, contemporaneous ideas about American art, literature, theatre, and cultural politics. Making Ballet American is forthcoming in the Studies in Dance Theory series from Oxford University Press.



  • Daniel Ussishkin, Assistant Professor of History. His manuscript, titled "Morale: A History," explores the subject of the intellectual, cultural, and institutional history of morale in modern imperial Britain. Morale: A History will be published by Oxford University Press in 2016.
  • Jordan Zweck, Assistant Professor of English. Her book project, "Letters that Matter: Anglo-Saxon Epistolarity and Early English Media," illuminates the vast array of forms in which letters appeared in Old English literature, and especially literature intended for audiences who would never have seen, read, or produced letters themselves. Epistolary Acts: Anglo-Saxon Letters and Early English Media is forthcoming from University of Toronto Press in 2017.


  • Karma Chávez, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts (now of the University of Texas at Austin). Her manuscript, “Queer/Migration Politics,” was chosen by the Center for its promise of field-shaping significance. In an age of rising activism, Chávez examines how LGBT activists and immigration activists are building connections. Published by University of Illinois Press in 2013, Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities, was named 2014 Book of the Year by the LGBTQ Communication Studies Division of the National Communication Association.