Claire J.C. Eager, visiting assistant professor of English at The College of Wooster, was named one of 14 awardees of the Project Development Grant by the American Council of Learned Societies. According to the ACLS website, the grant program “offers flexible support to faculty at teaching-intensive colleges and universities whose research will advance humanistic studies and interpretative social sciences.” The $5,000 award will allow Eager to give “full attention to writing and revising” her first book, Vertuall Paradise: Vaulting Ambitions Brought to Earth in Early Modern England. “The book studies where and how ‘paradise’ appears in English culture in the time of Shakespeare and generations after, and how the familiar images of paradise as a garden connect to ideas of imperialism and ecology,” Eager explained. She finds evidence of this in three places: literary works, gardens, and printed books, which have “ideas and labor contributed by people besides the author, such as patrons, publishers, printers, and illustrators.”
Eager’s teaching includes courses on older topics, like Shakespeare, and more contemporary topics, like inclusive children’s literature, Baldwin, and creative writing. Being able to draw connections from the past to the present is something she asks students to do in the classroom and is a major part of her research. “Studying the past is incredibly important because it can show us the beginning of paths that led to today’s racism, inequality, and climate change,” Eager said. “It allows us to think critically about our own choices today.”
Working at the College since 2019, Eager has found that the “students and culture of teaching and learning, including Independent Study, seem to be a great fit” for her own teaching and research interests. By the end of summer, Eager hopes to have a completed draft and to have sent the book proposal to publishers. “It’s so exciting to be close to completing the final phase of my biggest early career project and to share my work with colleagues, students, and other readers,” she said.