Abington professor selected for National Endowment for the Humanities grant

ABINGTON, Pa. — An assistant professor of Renaissance literature at Penn State Abington has received a highly competitive National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant for her research and writing toward a book examining the intertextual links among domestic writing, food culture, and early modern English poetry. 

Nicosia National Endowment for the Humanities

This document from a Mrs. Knight's recipe book, housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library is among the source material Marissa Nicosia, an assistant professor at Penn State Abington, draws from for her research. 

Credit: Folger Shakespeare Library

Marissa Nicosia’s project, “Seasonal Tastes: English Literary and Recipe Culture, 1550–1750,” was one of 225 humanities projects across the country selected for a total of $24 million in grants. The NEH funded only 11% of the 855 applications.

“This project builds on my work on time, on my attention to book history that’s such a big part of the book "Making Milton,' and on my public-facing Cooking in the Archives project, which has led me to do substantial work with manuscript materials that are going to be important for this project,” she said.

Nicosia is excited that it brings together work on recipes and foodways, environmental studies and eco-criticism in the humanities, and the literary study of historical formalism.

“The big thing about this project is that it reads how-to works like recipes and herbals and husbandry manuals for how to garden and raise animals alongside works of literature, particularly poetry, to think about time and the environment,” she said.  

Student, Nicosia at Folger

Penn State Abington student Alexis Amicone and Marissa Nicosia, assistant professor of English, examine a manuscript at the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2019.

Credit: Christina Riehman-Murphy

The professor laid the groundwork for this research with her work on manuscripts for the Cooking in the Archives: Updating Early Modern Recipes in a Modern Kitchen project. But some of the theoretical and academic questions that she brings to the material comes from her previous work on time, book studies, and material text studies.

Some of Nicosia’s research interests have shaped her “Seasonal Tastes” project and intersect with her teaching at Abington.

“Some of the writers I am writing about, such as John Milton and Margaret Cavendish, I regularly teach in my classes and bring out some of these concerns with time and environment when I teach these texts. We use some of these manuscripts with my undergraduate research students,” she said. 

Nicosia has published articles on early modern English literature and book history in Modern Philology, Milton Studies, and The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. She edited the collection "Making Milton: Print, Authorship, Afterlives," published by Oxford University Press. Nicosia runs the public food history website Cooking in the Archives. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and both her master’s and doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

The NEH grant program supports a diverse range of humanities projects each year, enabling archival and archaeological field research, the recording and documenting of endangered languages, developing traveling exhibitions, and more.

“NEH is proud to support these 225 new projects, which embody excellence, intellectual rigor, and a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, even as our nation and the humanities community continue to face the challenges of the pandemic,” Adam Wolfson, NEH acting chairman, said. “We look forward to the contributions these projects will make to our understanding of ourselves and our society through exemplary humanities research, publications, documentary films, exhibitions and undergraduate programs.”

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 23 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.