Six professors chosen for Guggenheim Fellowships
One oversees a vast collection of ancient coins. Another studies the end of the world according to the Old Testament. Another is documenting through photography and writing the violent strife among German immigrants in Brazil. The other three include an economist, a painter and a scholar of poetry.
These are the six University faculty members who were awarded Guggenheim Fellowships last week.
Only 190 recipients were chosen from a pool of 2,600 applicants. Princeton tied with the University of California at Berkeley for the second-highest number of fellowship recipients, after the University of Michigan, which had seven.
The awards are given to scholars, scientists and artists who demonstrate “stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment,” according to a statement from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The program seeks to create a diverse group of recipients, both in demographics and fields of study. One needs to look no further than the Princeton recipients to see this diversity.
Alan Stahl is University’s curator of numismatics, the study of currency and its history. Stahl plans to use the fellowship to work on a book titled “The Nexus of Wealth and Power in Medieval Venice.” Among other topics, Stahl’s research will explore the relationship between capitalism and republican government.
“What I’m looking at is the convergence of these two factors,” he said. “I am trying to see if there is something significant about the fact that Venice was one of the birth[places] of capitalism and the center of republican government.”
For him, this project has been a long time in the making. His research started about seven years ago, and his database includes information on 5,000 people based on 15,000 documents. Stahl will return to Venice for six months to continue his research.
“[I use] coinage to enlighten history,” Stahl said.
Joao Biehl, associate professor of anthropology and another recipient of the fellowship, plans to use his award to revisit his Ph.D. dissertation research on a civil war in the late 19th century among German immigrants in Brazil. His work will represent an intersection of religion, anthropology and photography.
“I want to take contemporary issues and put them in historical perspective,” Biehl said.
When he returns to Brazil this year to continue his archival research, Biehl will have a photographer with him to help him capture current life in Brazil. “I am intrigued with how you tell the past with visual representations,” he said.
“I like to think impressionistically,” Biehl said. In academia, “one loses sight of the visceral when thinking too analytically,” he noted.
Martha Himmelfarb, a religion professor, plans to use her fellowship funds to study the impact of Christianity on Jewish eschatology, the concept of the end of the world.
Though Himmelfarb has done related work before, she said that “there are parts that are entirely unchartered for me, and I’m not sure what will come out of my further research.”
Sean Keilen, a professor in the English department, said that a unique characteristic of the application was that it asked for a narrative instead of a formal curriculum vitae (CV).
“I enjoyed the task,” Keilen said. “Writing about one’s career in story form gives one the chance to make the kind of connections that the conventional CV leaves to the imagination of readers.”
Keilen plans on using his fellowship to write a book, “Circle of Affection: Imitation and Tradition in Renaissance Poetry,” which will examine “the relationship between poetic composition, interpretation and moral philosophy in 16th- and 17th-century England,” Keilen explained.
Yacine Ait-Sahalia, a finance professor, and Christian Tomaszewski, lecturer in visual arts, were also granted Guggenheim Fellowships.
Ait-Sahalia will use his fellowship to study “the nature of randomness” behind financial returns. He will mostly stay at Princeton to conduct his research.
“The objective is to learn more about the finer characteristics of the financial returns,” he said.
Many of the recipients are doing research theywould otherwise conduct. The major perk, Keilen noted, is that the award grants them the ability to conduct the research full-time and get paid to do so.
Tomaszewski, a Polish multimedia installation artist whose work has been reviewed in The New York Times, was not available for comment.
Aside from the recipients, Joyce Carol Oates, a creative writing professor, is on the foundation’s Board of Trustees and is a former recipient of the fellowship. Also on the board is Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Caro ’57.
The average amount of grants awarded by the foundation in 2007 was $40,211.
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