“The Phi Beta Kappa Society has chosen Abigail Fields, PhD candidate at Yale University, as the winner of the 2022 Mary Isabel Sibley Fellowship. Established in 1934 by Isabelle Stone (ΦΒΚ, Wellesley College) in honor of her mother, this fellowship recognizes exceptional young scholars in the field of French or Greek language, literature, and culture. Fields earned her Master of Arts degree in French and Master of Philosophy in French at Yale, and her Bachelors degree in French and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas (ΦΒΚ). With the Sibley Fellowship, Fields will be awarded a stipend of $20,000 that she plans to use to complete the research necessary to write her dissertation in fulfillment of the requirements of a Ph.D. in French. Her project, “The Literary Field: Agriculture and the Rural Imaginary in the Nineteenth-Century Novel,” focuses on France’s relationship to the natural environment through the works of Honoré de Balzac, George Sand, Gustave Flaubert, and Émile Zola.
According to Fields, “ecocriticism and agrarian studies remain under-examined”, and with the Sibley Fellowship, she plans to conduct archival research in France, studying agricultural heritage items, production, and documents. She intends for her dissertation to “call for a whole-scale reconsideration not only of nineteenth-century France, but of our modes of engaging with literature and our ways of understanding our place in socio-natural systems that are still very present in modern society.”