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Sarah Williams awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend

The award supports her second book project and will fund research at the Folger Shakespeare Library

Sarah WilliamsSarah Williams, associate professor of music history, was recently awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend to support research on her second book project, Music, Memory, and Alternative Performance Spaces in Seventeenth Century England.

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipends support individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences or both. After internal competitions, only two applicants from each institution are sent forward to the prestigious national fellowship program. Williams will use the NEH funds to conduct research at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

A scholar of English popular song culture from Shakespeare through the early 18th century, Dr. Williams’ new book examines the surviving music and descriptions of musical performance contained in forgotten entertainments and theatrical spaces including puppet theater, “motion shows,” communal ballad performance, and rare shows, or portable “curiosity cabinets.”

Just as Shakespeare’s contemporaries linked music to the arts of memory and the theatrical experience, Williams’ work approaches English music through disciplines like memory studies, musicology, performance studies and cultural studies, in order to expand our definition of “theatrical space” in 17th-century England. Her book will illustrate how we can view musical performance as a powerful tool that can uncover marginalized identities, street theater traditions, political intrigue and forgotten genres.

Williams’ first book, Damnable Practises: Music, Witches, and Dangerous Women in Seventeenth-Century English Broadside Balladry (Ashgate 2015) was also supported in part by an NEH Summer Stipend, the American Musicological Society’s Jan LaRue Award for Travel to Europe, the UofSC Women’s and Gender Studies Josephine Abney Research Fellowship, and the UofSC Office of the Provost Humanities Grant.

Williams is the coordinator of the Music History, Ethnomusicology and Experimental Music Area in the School of Music and teaches courses on English Tudor music, Baroque opera, music and magic, Renaissance music and Benjamin Britten.