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DuRocher receives prestigious humanities fellowship

By Tom Vogel
February 28, 2007

In October St. Olaf Professor of English Rich Durocher discussed the ideas of John Milton for this year's annual Mellby lecture series.
Professor of English Richard DuRocher has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship. The award will apply toward his sabbatical year beginning in June 2007, during which he will be working on a book on the 17th-century writer John Milton.

"I'm in a state of shock," DuRocher says of his honor. "I never assumed I'd receive this award. It's an amazing Christmas present."

NEH Fellowships and Faculty Research Awards cover periods lasting from six to 12 months and support individuals pursuing advanced research in the humanities that contributes to scholarly knowledge or to the general public's understanding of the humanities.

"Rich is quickly becoming recognized across the country as a leading scholar in Milton studies, and we're very proud of him," says Professor of Classics James May, provost and dean of the college. "This fellowship brings honor not only to Rich as an individual, but also to the college at large."

May, who was awarded the NEH Fellowship in 1983 and 1991 and has refereed fellowship selections several times, knows how strong the competition for the award is.

"The NEH Fellowship is an extremely distinguished award," says May. "To get through the process and receive one is very rare. The pool of competition is nation-wide among scholars from institutions across the country, and the judges on the panel are all highly respected scholars themselves; they know what to look for."

The project for which DuRocher received his $40,000 fellowship, currently called "Mapping the Emotions in Milton's Major Poems," will take a new look at the famous Puritan poet's works.

"Prior to Freud, most people weren't aware of ideas or theories about emotions," DuRocher says. "But they did exist. I'm applying 16th- and 17th- century English Renaissance ideas and accounts of the emotions -- accounts and ideas Milton had read and was aware of -- to his writings Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes."

One of DuRocher's chapters on Samson Agonistes currently is being published in the online journal, Literature Compass (Blackwell Press). In the chapter, DuRocher looks at Milton's language of rousing emotions and its effect on Samson. "It's an example of the way grace works," DuRocher says. "It has to enter the individual believer and interact with word of God."

Samson Agonistes also interests DuRocher as a work in which "Milton has three balls in the air." "He's a protestant poet telling a Hebrew story in the style of a Greek dramatist," DuRoche says.

In addition to his work on emotions in Milton, DuRocher is working as part of an international team producing the Milton Variorum, as well as on a translation team for 17th-century Latin letters from the Pope's ambassador to Ireland.

DuRocher has written two books on Milton: Milton Among the Romans (2001) and Milton and Ovid (1985). He has taught in St. Olaf's English Department since 1986, prior to which he taught English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Florida State University. He earned his bachelor's degree at Loyola University and completed his master's and doctoral degrees at Cornell University, and is married to St. Olaf Professor of English Karen Cherewatuk.

In October, DuRocher presented the fall Mellby Lecture at St. Olaf. With the subject of his talk, Milton, DuRocher sought to encourage others to read Milton and to consider the importance of his works.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or