The Catholic University of America

March 12, 2009

CUA Media Studies Professor Wins 'We the People' Grant
National Endowment for the Humanities Award Funds Research, Writing

Jennifer Horne

Jennifer Horne, assistant professor of media studies, has won a $6,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend that will enable her to work for two months on a book about film and civic participation in the United States from 1905 to 1929. Her project received an additional honor as a selection for the NEH's "We the People" initiative.

Of the 881 applications for the 2009 Summer Stipend grant program, Horne's project was among 63 that received funding, according to NEH. Twenty of those 63 projects were designated "We the People" projects.

Titled "Civic Cinema: Spectatorship, Citizenship, and American Silent Film," Horne's book is a study of American film culture in the early part of the 20th century, focusing on the use of educational film by social reformers, educators, cultural institutions, and clubs and civic associations.

L. R. Poos, dean of CUA's School of Arts and Sciences, noted that the "We the People" program is "highly competitive." He described Horne's book as "an extremely original, significant project that will be likely to establish her among the best of her generation of scholars."

The "We the People" initiative is designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles, according to NEH.

Horne says that she hopes the book will "expand the understanding we have had of moviegoing in the silent era beyond the nickelodeon. My research has shown that many more people saw film outside of theaters than we previously understood, encountering films in community centers, granges, church basements, and other spaces of social engagement."

The book will include case studies drawn from the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts of America, the United Way campaigns, women's clubs, the YMCA, and leading public libraries of the day.

"Presenting new archival evidence and the textual analysis of rare films, this book contributes both to film study and to the history of civic participation in the United States and will illustrate how deeply held ideas about everyday political life and cultural belonging influenced the shape of early cinema," Horne adds.

Founded on the belief that cultivating the best of the humanities has real and tangible benefits for civic life, NEH launched the "We the People" program on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 2002, according to its Web site.