James Schissel has become the first PhD candidate in Landscape Architecture (UIUC) to be awarded a Dumbarton Oaks (DO) Junior Fellowship in Garden and Landscape Studies. The fellowship spans the academic year (September 2010 to May 2011), and provides scholars with uninterrupted time to conduct research and to write. Owned by Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks (D.O.) is located In Georgetown, an exclusive area of Washington D.C. As such it provides access not only to the renowned D.O. library, but also to other national archives and collections.
Schissel’s research focuses on “the mid-nineteenth-century American plant trade and gardening advice manuals as methods for advocating regional identity.” Principally, he is focused on Thomas Affleck, a Scottish immigrant who settled in the American South. Affleck set up one of the nation’s first plant nurseries before turning his attention to publishing. His work, exemplified in publications such as Affleck’s Southern Rural Plantation and Garden Calendar and Almanac, advocated the use of native plants and acclimated ornamentals. In his dissertation, Schissel argues that Affleck used his “body of work as a medium for representing and advocating an ideal for landscapes of production and pleasure.”
Being awarded the Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellowship has given Schissel a boost of confidence in the importance of his work and its contribution to our understanding of landscape history in the American South. He credits much of his success to the “incredibly strong history faculty” in the department, and especially to his advisor Dianne Harris and architectural historian Heather Hyde-Minor.
Schissel grew up in Greenwood, Mississippi. Prior to studying at UIUC he completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in English as well as earning an MLA from Louisiana State University. Studying at Dumbarton Oaks has always been a particular goal of Schissel’s and the location holds special, personal significance to him as well. In 2002 he proposed to his wife Amy in the historic, Beatrix Farrand-designed gardens. This year, on February 21, 2011, while at D.O., he and Amy welcomed their second son, Boyd, into the world.