Professor wins grant for new course

James Martin, professor of music at Cornell College, has been awarded a $25,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a course designed to study an enduring question.

Music Professor James Martin.
Music Professor James Martin.

Martin’s course will examine the relationship between tradition and innovation. The course will be taught at least twice, starting in the 2014-15 academic year, and will be open to students regardless of major.

The NEH grant program supports faculty members in the teaching and development of a new interdisciplinary course that will foster intellectual community through the study of an enduring question. These question-driven courses are designed to encourage undergraduates and teachers to grapple with a fundamental concern of human life addressed by the humanities, and to join together in a deep and sustained program of reading in order to encounter influential thinkers over the centuries and into the present day.

Under the guidelines, the course must explore an explicitly stated question that lends itself to sustained and open inquiry; it must emphasize extensive reading, drawing on works from a range of historical periods; it may draw on artworks (for example, music, plays, films, paintings, sculptures); it must reflect intellectual pluralism and balance, anticipating more than one plausible answer to the question at hand; and it may draw solely from Western or non-Western traditions, or combine various traditions.

In its first four annual competitions, the Enduring Questions program received an average of 197 applications per year. The program made an average of 19 awards per year, for a funding ratio of 10 percent.

Martin has taught at Cornell College since 1981 and currently serves as the chair of the music department. He is the Richard and Norma Small Distinguished Professor at Cornell College for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years. He has been a faculty fellow at Columbia, Princeton, and Stanford, and has served as the Director of the Newberry Library ACM Program in the Humanities.