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Joslin named WMU Distinguished Faculty Scholar

by Mark Schwerin

Sept. 14, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr. Katherine Joslin.
KALAMAZOO--Dr. Katherine Joslin, professor of English, whose recent award-winning books have shed new light on such luminary figures as Jane Addams and Edith Wharton, has been named Western Michigan University's 2011 Distinguished Faculty Scholar.

The award is the highest accolade awarded to a WMU faculty member and will be presented to Joslin during the University's annual Academic Convocation, beginning at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

Joslin's most recent book, "Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion," earlier this year was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice magazine of the American Library Association. Of nearly 23,000 academic books published annually, 7,000 were reviewed by the editorial staff of Choice and fewer than 700 were chosen for the Outstanding Academic Title list.

The book, published by the University Press of New England in 2009, describes the origins of the modern fashion industry as seen through the works of Wharton. It places the iconic New York figure and her writing in the context of fashion history and shows how dress lies at the center of her thinking about art and culture.

Joslin's biography on social reformer and peace activist Jane Addams, published by the University of Illinois Press in 2004, has won similar praise. Titled "Jane Addams, a Writer's Life," it presents the famous pacifist and social activist as a literary figure and gives an expansive and revealing reexamination of the renowned reformer as an imaginative writer.

Joslin is no stranger to awards, both from inside and outside of the University. Among many WMU awards, she was recognized for her superior classroom skills with an Alumni Teaching Excellence Award in 1997 and given a Faculty Research and Creative Activities Award in 2010. She also has been regularly recognized through the Fulbright Program, winning a Fulbright Senior Specialists Grant to teach in Cairo Egypt in 2008 and significant grants as principal investigator in 2000 and 2001 through the Fulbright Summer Institute for Study of the United States.

Her work has drawn attention, both in the United States and abroad. One nominator noted her expertise on Addams and Wharton and presence on the conference circuit as organizer, presenter and keynote speaker.

"She has made a particularly significant contribution to Edith Wharton and Jane Addams studies, often through conference activity, which is then given substance in published form," wrote the nominator, a top administrator at one of the United Kingdom's leading modern universities. "Her publications are impressive and make her, in my view, an outstanding scholarly presence in the study of American women's writing."

The nominator continued her letter of support with high praise for Joslin's book on Addams, saying it "is one of the most important studies of this internationally significant figure. It is authoritative, wide-ranging and original."

A WMU colleague, who has worked closely with Joslin over two decades, extolled her book on Wharton for the rigor of its interdisciplinary investigation.

"As a specialist in her particular historical period of American literature, Katherine has the prodigious expertise to examine the literature and the history of the nascent rise of the textile and clothing industry near the turn of the century."

The colleague calls Joslin's book on Wharton an exceptional book and adds, "It is no wonder the press has shown such support, given the excellence of Katherine's work. . . Katherine Joslin is the kind of scholar who makes things happen."

A former longtime WMU academic administrator singled out Joslin's scholarly role at the University and ability to stimulate dialogue and encourage the sharing of ideas in a collegial atmosphere.

"In addition to her published scholarship and the esteem which that work has brought to her and thereby to all of us at WMU, she has served as an uncommonly effective leader in the ongoing intellectual discourse on our campus. . . The breadth of her interests is always most impressive, and the depth of her probing analysis (and its quickness) is often breathtaking.

"She is rare among us at WMU in the ease with which she is an infectious scholarly presence both in print and in the intellectual conversation which lies at the heart of any scholarly body."

Joslin earned her bachelor's degree at Oakland University and her master's and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

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