Mellon Fellows set to take research in ‘New Directions’

Two Arts & Sciences faculty members will pursue formal scholarly training outside their own disciplines as recipients of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s highly selective New Directions Fellowship.

Rebecca Messbarger, Ph.D., associate professor of Italian in Romance Languages and Literatures, and Mark G. Pegg, Ph.D., associate professor of history, are two of only 10 winners nationwide of this prestigious award.

Inaugurated in 2002, the New Directions Fellowships are for faculty members in the humanities or humanistic social sciences who earned doctorates 5-15 years ago and who wish to acquire systematic training in topics outside their own disciplines.

Fellows will receive the equivalent of one academic year’s salary, two summers of additional support, and tuition and other costs associated with the fellows’ training programs. The funds may be used over a three-year period.

“Rebecca Messbarger is involved in fascinating scholarship and research,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. “It is wonderful to see her work acknowledged by this Mellon award. I am certain that an excellent book will come from her time on this project.

“Mark Pegg is involved in work that draws a wide audience,” Macias added. “His book projects with Mellon funds will greatly enhance this scholarship.”

Messbarger’s scholarly training and expertise are broadly centered in the fields of literary analysis, culture and gender studies and more narrowly in 18th-century Italian studies.

For her fellowship, Messbarger will study the history of science. In the fall semester, she will take a course at the University of Wisconsin in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology Department. She will return to WUSTL for the fall semester to take an anatomy and dissection course at the School of Medicine.

Then, in summer 2006, she will travel to Florence, Italy, to work at the Natural History Museum of the Specola, where she will study a collection of 18th-century anatomical wax models.

Messbarger said she hopes the fellowship will allow her to attain a broad sense of history of medicine during the early modern period, especially the 17th and 18th centuries, and how that culture of European medical theory and practice influenced and interacted with Italian Enlightenment culture.

She also hopes to adapt and apply medical history methodologies to her expanding analysis of wax anatomical models in 18th- and early 19th-century Italy.

She is working on a book project titled Waxing Poetic: The Life-work of Anatomist and Anatomical Wax Modeler Anna Morandi Manzolini (1714-1774).

A medieval scholar, Pegg is working on two books. The first is a study of heresy, persecution, holy violence and crusading from Late Antiquity to the 15th century. The second is a history of holiness in Christianity, Islam and Judaism that redefines the meaning of Western culture from the ancient to the early modern worlds.

Pegg said two essential elements of research in both projects will be an ability to read Arabic and knowledge of Islamic culture. He has already done research in the other major languages necessary for these projects.

He will use the Mellon Fellowship to enroll in a yearlong series of intensive Arabic classes either in the United States or in the Middle East. He will also take classes on Islamic culture.

Pegg is the author of The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246 (2001). His book The Albigensian Crusade: A Holy War on Heresy will be released later this year.

A native of Australia, Pegg earned a bachelor of arts degree (1987) with honors from the University of Sydney and a master’s (1993) and doctorate (1997) from Princeton University.

He came to WUSTL in fall 1998 as a visiting assistant professor of history and was named an assistant professor in fall 1999 and an associate professor in fall 2004.