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Spanish Professor Awarded Prestigious NEH Fellowship

Posted on 7 December 2012 | 8:54 am

Spanish Professor Sarah E. Owens has been awarded the coveted yearlong National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship. She is the first College of Charleston professor in more than a decade to receive this fellowship. Only seven-percent of applicants are awarded each year, about 90 grants.

Owens’ research is based on an unpublished manuscript tucked away in a convent archive in Toledo, Spain. After discovering its existence, Owens traveled to Spain where the Franciscan nuns let her take digital images of the whole manuscript.

“I find the whole story of the journey itself to be fascinating, and spending time in the original convent was an amazing experience,” Owens says. “The nuns had to sail from Spain to Mexico – and then make an overland crossing of Mexico to board another ship to the Philippines. This type of research will help rewrite the role of women in the history of the Spanish empire.”

The title of her project is “The Cultural Impact of Catholic Nuns in the Spanish Philippines during the 17th-Century Expansion of the Iberian Empire” and it will take her to the archives of both Spain and Mexico.

“When I return to the College from this experience, I would like to design at least one class around the texts written by Spanish women in the Atlantic and Pacific world – either a course within the Honors College, an advanced level Spanish literature course, or even a First Year Experience course with an emphasis on women’s voices in the New World.”

Dr. Owens is Associate Professor Spanish at the College of Charleston and is author of the award-winning Journey of Five Capuchin Nuns (2009) and co-editor of Women of the Iberian Atlantic (2012). She can be reached at or 843.953.7186.

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