This is the single most important aspect of the proposal, and needs to be stated early.
In this case, it is especially important to include a subsequent paragraph that deals at greater length with the existing literature.
The comedian may well postpone the punchline until last, this is not a good idea in a fellowship proposal.
There is another common tendency for the writer to present a multitude of specific questions in neutral fashion, scattered throughout the proposal, without distinguishing between the main central question and those that are subsidiary.
When further elaboration is presented subsequently, stay as close as possible to your opening formulation and then elaborate.
Once you have accomplished the difficult task of making a concise and compelling statement about your topic, your opening should present a concise statement of how the project will contribute to the field, emphasizing how the project will fill a gap and make a difference in how we think about the subject.
If not, go to your university library and ask the librarians for help!
UNC libraries have this excellent guide to finding dissertations.
There is a common tendency of adding clause after clause, burying the main point of the statement and making it unmanageable for both reader and writer.
Once you have written a strong concise opening, you can elaborate, as noted, in subsequent passages of the proposal.