Four faculty members receive Guggenheim fellowships

Andrew Bauld
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesNews Office

Four UChicago faculty members and a visiting faculty member have won John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowships: Alain Bresson, the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor in Classics; Lenore A. Grenoble, the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor in Linguistics; Srikanth Reddy, associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature; and David Schutter, associate professor in the Department of Visual Arts. Annie Dorsen, visiting assistant professor of practice in the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies, also was honored.

Chosen from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants, the four UChicago faculty are among 173 Guggenheim Fellowship winners who will receive financial support to pursue a variety of projects, from endangered languages to the invention of money.

A scholar of the ancient economy, Bresson is the author of “The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy,” which won the 2017 James Henry Breasted Prize from the American Historical Association.

Bresson will use his Guggenheim prize, which he said came to him “as a wonderful surprise,” to work on a new book about the specific form taken by money in the ancient Greek world, with a central focus on the question of why the ancient Greeks “invented” coinage.

“The Greeks and the Lydians are famous for having invented a new means of payment, an instrument that we still have in our pockets in our daily life: coinage,” Bresson said. “But a frequent confusion is the idea that the Greeks invented money. Of course they did not. Their contribution was to give to money a political form. I have explored these questions in almost twenty articles which, hopefully, will constitute the foundation for the book I plan to write.”

Grenoble has been studying language endangerment for the last 20 years, specializing in Slavic and Arctic Indigenous languages. In 2017, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Guggenheim award will go towards supporting Grenoble’s research project on the relationship between language and well-being among Arctic Indigenous peoples in the face of rapidly changing social and environmental conditions, including urbanization and climate change.

“Linguists estimate that 50-90 percent of the world’s languages will be lost over the course of the next century due to a process called language shift, whereby speakers cease to use their mother tongue in favor of another language,” Grenoble said. “Receiving the Guggenheim is both recognition and validation of the importance of the project that I am working on.”

Reddy is a poet and scholar and currently serves as the interim director for creative writing & poetics. The author of two books of poetry, Reddy’s writing on contemporary poetry has appeared in various publications including The New York Times and The New Republic.

The award meant a great deal to Reddy, who says he sees it as a sign of “encouragement to pursue my creative inclinations, no matter how eccentric or foolhardy.”

Reddy will use the award to complete a new book of poetry, titled “Underworld Lit.” The poem, built from fragments of lecture notes from an imaginary college humanities course, will weave together a disparate range of subjects including academic satire and a journey through versions of the underworld from various cultures.

“Needless to say, it’s a very UChicago poem,” Reddy said.

Schutter is a visual artist who specializes in painting and drawing and his work often draws on historical works in these disciplines.

A former recipient of the prestigious Rome Prize, Schutter has had exhibitions around the world, including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Gemaeldegalerie Berlin, the Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Palazzo Poli, and most recently in the Frans Hals Museum and documenta 14.

Schutter will be working on a new project on Thomas Eakins, the late 19th-century American realist painter, utilizing Eakins’ archives at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“The archives contain letters, studies, anatomical models and oil sketches—things of that sort that I’ll be using for an upcoming project,” Schutter said.

Dorsen is a director and writer whose work explores the intersection of mathematical algorithms and live performance. Her projects have appeared throughout the U.S. and Europe, and she is the co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical Passing Strange.

Dorsen, in the second year of an initial three-year appointment with TAPS, called the Guggenheim “an enormous honor” and will put the prize toward a new theater project.

“I’m working on a new theater project, as yet untitled, that has to do with forms of online social life, the kinds of virtual communities that we are constructing, and the ways of being together that the internet makes possible—for good or for ill,” Dorsen said. “The piece is part of my ongoing interest in how the technological tools we create end up re-creating us in all kinds of unforeseen ways.”