History Doctoral Student Wins National Fellowship

Elizabeth Kiszonas
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Elizabeth Kiszonas

History doctoral candidate Elizabeth Kiszonas has been named a Fellow by the United States Capitol Historical Society.

Inaugurated in 1986, the Capitol Fellowship Program has provided financial support to more than fifty scholars researching important topics in the art and architectural history of the United States Capitol Complex. Fellows receive exclusive access to the vast documentary collections housed in the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. The two-month fellowship comes with a stipend of $5,000 and an invitation to publish in the Capitol Society's academic journal.

Kiszonas' dissertation, "Westward the Course of Empire: George Berkeley's Verses on the Prospect of Planting Arts in American Art and Cultural History," explores the long reach of a single line of poetry, "Westward the course of empire takes its way." Composed in 1726 by the philosopher George Berkeley, the words colonized an enormous swath of cultural landscape over nearly two centuries of American history, evolving from an old-world vision of prophetic empire into a nationalist slogan of manifest destiny. Her work at the U.S. Capitol will specifically focus on the Emanuel Leutze's mural in the Capitol Building's west staircase, Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (1861), which depicts themes of westward expansion, free soil ideology, and anti-slavery.  Following the poem as it threads through popular literary and visual culture, Kiszonas' project demonstrates how this simple sentence acclimated Americans to an expansive conception of United States Empire from the colonial period through Reconstruction.

"The history department is incredibly proud of Liz as she is one of the top up and coming early American historians," said Jim Gigantino, associate professor of history and Kiszonas' dissertation adviser. "Her excellent work at the University of Pennsylvania's McNeil Center over this past academic year has helped her craft a top-notch dissertation. The U.S. Capitol Fellowship will help her transition her project into a published monograph that will make an original and insightful contribution to how Americans understand expansionism in the early national and antebellum periods." 

Kiszonas was a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow and is the recipient of the J. Hillman Yowell Award for Excellence in Teaching from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the James J. Hudson Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities along with numerous other awards and prizes from the history department. She was the Barra Dissertation Fellow in Art and Material Culture at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania for the 2018-2019 Academic Year.


Jim Gigantino II, chair
Department of History
479-575-7332, jgiganti@uark.edu


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