Three faculty members receive American Council of Learned Societies fellowships

Three University of Chicago faculty members have received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies. These prestigious fellowships allow scholars to spend six to 12 months on full-time research and writing.

The new fellows are Thomas Christensen, the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities; Nadine Moeller, assistant professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; and David Simon, assistant professor of English Language and Literature.

Christensen will use his fellowship to complete a book titled Fétis and the Tonal Imagination: French Discourses of Musical Tonality in the Nineteenth Century. The project explores the idea of tonality—the system of organizing sounds that underlies most Western music—by focusing on the work of the 19th-century Belgian musicologist François-Joseph Fétis, who was the first to articulate and theorize the idea of tonality.

“I’m essentially writing a kind of biography of musical tonality,” Christensen said of the project.

Nadine Moeller’s project examines urban society in ancient Egypt. Her project will investigate how political and social change had an impact on the development of the various towns and cities during the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1069 BCE). The new book is the second volume of a two-part project; the first volume is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

One area of particular interest to Moeller is Tell el-Amarna, which briefly served as the capital city founded by the pharaoh Akhenaton. Although it was abandoned only 20 years after its creation, the site is one of the best known urban settlements in Egypt of the 2nd millennium BCE.

Moeller said the fellowship will help to promote Egyptology within the wider field of urban studies in antiquity. “Getting a national fellowship makes a big difference,” she said. “I am extremely excited about the opportunity to really focus on this new research project.

David Carroll Simon is at work on a book about the relationship between literature and science in 17th-century England. In Light without Heat: Shades of Feeling in the Age of Scientific Revolution, Simon will examine the way poets, scientists, essayists, and devotional writers thought about the role of dispassion and indifference in the production of knowledge. Rather than seeing dispassion as an achievement of self-discipline, experimental scientists and likeminded intellectuals often described it as a state of effortless receptivity.

“The discovery that some of the key figures in the rise of modern science actually savor experiences of carelessness and inattention encourages a revision of our prevailing narratives of Enlightenment,” Simon explains.

Simon said he was “thrilled’ by the news of the fellowship, which will allow him to do additional research and finish writing the book in the year ahead.