Three UChicago faculty members honored –with Guggenheim Foundation fellowships

Three UChicago faculty members are among the 180 artists, scientists and scholars to earn fellowships this year from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. They are Margaret M. Mitchell, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature in the Divinity School; Marta Ptaszynska, the Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Music; and Adam T. Smith, an archaeologist and Associate Professor in Anthropology and the College.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise and are chosen from a group of some 3,000 applicants. Ranging in age from 27 to 73, with Fellowship projects around the globe, this year's class spans 59 disciplines and 65 different academic institutions.

Margaret M. Mitchell, who studies the New Testament and early Christian writings, will use her fellowship to complete a translation of Greek sermons written by John Chrysostom in the late fourth century. Chrysostom's 25 homilies, 18 of which have never before been translated into English, examine the apostle Paul's writings.

"This work represents a convergence of several lines of my previous research into early Christian rhetoric and literary culture," Mitchell wrote in her proposal. "[It] will I hope be of value to scholars in the disciplines of New Testament, ancient Christianity, late antique studies, hermeneutics and the history of biblical interpretation."

Mitchell joined the Chicago faculty in 1998. She is the author of four books, including The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Act of Pauline Interpretation and the forthcoming Paul, the Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics. She is also co-editor of The Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 1.

Mitchell received her AM and her PhD from the University. In February, Mitchell was appointed the next dean of the Divinity School. Her term begins July 1.

Mitchell's translation, which is on contract with the Society of Biblical Literature's Writings from the Greco-Roman World series, will be the first volume of the series' project to translate all of Chrysostom's exegetical writings. "Because John Chrysostom is one of the most important and prolific of ancient interpreters, this is a major commitment by the Society that will be an essential resource for present and future scholarship," Mitchell said.

Marta Ptaszynska, the Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Music, will use her fellowship to undertake a new 30-minute world symphony entitled "Of Time & Space."

Ptaszynska, an internationally renowned composer, has received commissions from orchestras and opera houses worldwide, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, the Polish Chamber Orchestra and the National Opera in Poland. Her many works include the "Holocaust Memorial Cantata," "the Concerto for Marimba," "Oscar of Alva" and "Mister Marimba," an opera for children.

Ptaszynska plans to compose what she calls a "multi-layered" symphony, consisting of a symphony orchestra, a soloist and electronic tape. Each layer will be performed in a different location around the world.

In her proposal, Ptaszynska said her new work was inspired by the "feeling that we are all living in one big, global village. In our present world we are able to communicate with someone thousands of miles away in a split second," she wrote. She decided to write a symphonic work "just to prove that the distances between countries and even continents can be ignored, and in today's world they may become non-existent."

Adam T. Smith, an archaeologist and Associate Professor in Anthropology and the College, will study the role that material objects play in forming political communities.

Smith specializes in the formation of early states in the Caucasus region and has done extensive field work in the region as the co-founder of the joint American-Armenian Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies.

Under the auspices of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Smith plans to complete the manuscript for a book tentatively entitled The Political Machine: Affects, Objects and Publics in Early Complex Polities. The book poses the questions: What role do things play in forging political communities? How does the vast constellation of objects that orbits around us help shape the public sphere? Smith's investigation will draw on case studies from the Caucasus that range from the Bronze Age through the Soviet era.

Smith is author of The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities, as well as other monographs and papers on the archaeology of the Caucasus and Eurasia as well as archaeological and political theory.

Smith joined the UChicago faculty in 2000 as an assistant professor and became an associate professor in 2005. He previously served on the faculty of the University of Michigan.He was also a lecturer at the University of Arizona, where he received a PhD in anthropology in 1996.He received an MPhil from Cambridge in 1991 and a BA from Brown in 1990 in political science and anthropology.

According to foundation president Edward Hirsch, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $281 million in fellowships to more than 16,900 individuals since its establishment in 1925. Thousands of celebrated alumni and scores of Nobel, Pulitzer and other prizewinners grace the rolls of the foundation, whose mission is to "add to the educational, literary, artistic and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding."