Five UChicago faculty members elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Andrew Bauld
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesNews Office

Five members of the UChicago faculty are among the 228 members elected to the 2017 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: Profs. Lenore Grenoble, Young-Kee Kim, Jonathan Lear, W. J. T. Mitchell and Tara Zahra.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy is one of the oldest and most prestigious honorary societies in country. It brings together leaders from academia, business and government to respond to some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world.

Lenore Grenoble is the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the Department of Linguistics. Grenoble specializes in Slavic and Arctic Indigenous languages, and conducts fieldwork in Siberia and Greenland. Her research focuses on contact linguistics, language shift and vitality, and on the study of language in its social and cultural contexts. An area of special focus is the status of minority and indigenous languages. She joined the UChicago faculty in 2007.

Grenoble is currently engaged in the documentation and description of the intersection of spatial orientation systems, landscape linguistics and place names in the Arctic. She is also one of four editors of a new digital series, Minority Languages in Europe, that is forthcoming.

Young-Kee Kim is the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor in Physics and the College. She is also chair of the Department of Physics. An experimental physicist who focuses on particle physics to understand how the universe works, Kim has studied two of the most massive particles—the W boson and the top quark—at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where she was deputy director. Her current research includes studying the Higgs boson and developing new approaches to future accelerators.

Kim is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physical Society and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and a recipient of the Ho-Am Prize. She is currently a member of the DESY Science Council in Germany, chair of the Circular Electron Positron Collider's International Advisory Committee in China, chair of the Rare Isotope Science Project’s International Advisory Committee in Korea, and a member of the American Physical Science’s board of directors and council. She joined the UChicago faculty in 2003.

Jonathan Lear is the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Philosophy. He works primarily on philosophical conceptions of the human psyche, specifically the ethical significance of human imagination. He has written extensively on a broad range of philosophical topics, ranging from Aristotle (Aristotle: The Desire to Understand) to Native American culture (Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation). A trained psychoanalyst, Lear has written extensively on the philosophical significance of talking cures. Lear’s most recent book is Wisdom Won From Illness (Harvard University Press, 2017). Lear received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award in 2009.   

Lear currently serves as the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, a research institute that brings together researchers from the University of Chicago and around the world to explore problems of serious human concern.  

W. J. T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History. Mitchell’s research focuses on the history and theories of media, visual art and literature from antiquity to the present, with a particular focus on the relations of visual and verbal representations in the culture and iconology. A UChicago faculty member since 1978, he served as chair of the Department of English from 1988 to 1991. He has also been the editor for the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, since 1978.

Mitchell has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Philosophical Society. With Mitchell as its editor, Critical Inquiry was recognized three times for outstanding achievement by the Conference of Editors of Learned Journals. His book, Picture Theory (1997) received the Gordon E. Laing Prize from the University of Chicago Press. His book What Do Pictures Want? (2004) won the James Russell Lowell Prize in 2005. 

Tara Zahra is a professor in the Department of History and the College. Her field of interest is in transnational and comparative approaches to the history of modern Europe, particularly Central and Eastern Europe. Zahra is also co-chair for the executive committee of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. Her first book, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle of Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Cornell, 2008), won several awards for European history. Her most recent book is The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World (Norton, 2016).

Zahra received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2014 for “painting a more integrative picture of 20th-century European history.” Zahra joined the UChicago faculty in 2007. 


Members of the 2017 class of the American Academy include Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, Fields Medalists, Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients, and winners of the Academy Awards, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards.

“It is an honor to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, chair of the American Academy’s board of directors. “Their talents and expertise will enrich the life of the Academy and strengthen our capacity to spread knowledge and understanding in service to the nation.”

The new class will be inducted at an Oct. 7 ceremony in Cambridge, Mass.