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2007 Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients Named

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has named three scholars for this year's Distinguished Achievement Awards. Intended to underscore the decisive contributions the humanities make to the nation’s intellectual life, the awards, amounting to as much as $1.5 million each, honor scholars who have made significant contributions to humanistic inquiry.

This year’s recipients of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Awards have been chosen.  The awards are intended to underscore the decisive contributions the humanities make to the nation’s intellectual life.  Amounting to as much as $1.5 million each, the awards honor scholars who have made significant contributions to humanistic inquiry and enable them to teach and do research under especially favorable conditions while enlarging opportunities for scholarship and teaching at the academic institutions with which they are affiliated.

In contrast to other notable awards that benefit individual recipients exclusively, the Distinguished Achievement Awards are designed to recognize the interdependence of scholars and their institutions.  Accordingly, while these grants honor the achievements of individuals, the funds that accompany them support institutional activities that will enhance both research and teaching and permit the recipients to deepen and extend their own scholarship. 

Three scholars were selected this year:

Peter Brooks, Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University. One of the leading literary critics of his generation, Brooks specializes in comparative literature with a focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century French and English fiction.  He has made major contributions to these fields while connecting the work of literary studies to broader scholarly contexts including psychiatry, psychoanalysis and the law.  Brooks’ work reveals in new ways the importance of narrative in a variety of domains, not only in fiction, but also in legal and medical settings.  At Yale and elsewhere, he has succeeded in extending the reach and connectedness of the humanities through serving as the founding director of Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center and as head of the program in law and the humanities at the University of Virginia.  Beyond his own writings, Brooks is known for his intellectual generosity, especially his encouragement of younger scholars.  More broadly, Brooks has done much to communicate the interest and importance of the study of literature and the humanities to the professions and to readers beyond the academic community.

William V. Harris
, William R. Shepherd Professor of History at Columbia University.  A scholar of the highest distinction, Harris’ command of the technical aspects of studies of ancient Rome and Greece is impeccable.  He is known especially for his creativity, transformative impact, and appetite for taking on big questions.  His contributions cover a remarkably wide range of topics, including war and imperialism in the ancient world, economic history, Roman law, religion, literacy, and the emotions including rage and its control and most recently madness in the ancient world.  Highly influential in his own discipline, Harris has successfully communicated his findings to scholars in fields well beyond history.  In a succession of books and edited volumes, he has opened ancient history to questions and approaches that have characterized historical study of the more recent past.  As director of Columbia’s Center for the Ancient Mediterranean, Harris has brought together archaeologists, intellectual historians, and social historians to develop and explore significant new understandings of the ancient world.  The many students he has trained and mentored are highly regarded in the profession and produce their own significant contributions to the field.

Thomas W. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley.  Laqueur’s early work focused on the social history of modern Britain.  But it was evident early on that the breadth of Laqueur’s historical interests went well beyond these times and places.  He has become best known for his erudite studies of the cultural history of sexual behavior, death and dying, and the body and gender, challenging topics that had been all but ignored in the historical literature.  Laqueur’s contributions have stimulated important debates where none existed before and the reach and influence of his work is global, as indicated by the large number of languages into which his books have been translated.  The remarkable energy and liveliness Laqueur displays in his scholarship and writing has also been manifested in the galvanizing role he has played in the range of activities he has pursued at Berkeley and beyond, including serving on the editorial board of interdisciplinary journal, Representations, and his legendary term as director of Berkeley’s Townsend Center for the Humanities.  As a teacher, Laqueur is known for fostering innovation and daring among students.

The Mellon Foundation has conferred Distinguished Achievement Awards every year since 2001.  Previous recipients have been: 

2001:  Peter Brown, Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University; Stephen Greenblatt, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University; Sabine MacCormack, then at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, currently Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C, College of Arts and Letters Professor of History and Classics at the University of Notre Dame; Alexander Nehamas, Edmund N. Carpenter II Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at Princeton University; and Robert Pippin, Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor, Committee on Social Thought, Department of Philosophy, and the College at the University of Chicago. 

2002:  Michael Cook, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor in Modern Russian History at the University of Chicago; Michael McCormick, Francis Goelet Professor of Medieval History at Harvard University; Jerome McGann, John Stewart Bryan Professor of English at the University of Virginia; and Susan Wolf, Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

2003:  Roger S. Bagnall, Professor of Classics and History at Columbia University; Robert B. Brandom, Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh; Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University; and Christopher Ricks, Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University. 

2004:  John Dower, Ford International Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Michael Fried, James R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and Professor of the History of Art at the Johns Hopkins University; Philip Gossett, Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor of Music at the University of Chicago; and Christine Korsgaard, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.

2005:  Timothy J. Clark, George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair and Professor of Modern Art at the University of California at Berkeley; Thomas Nagel, University Professor at New York University; Stephen Owen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University; and Joseph Roach, Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Theater and Professor of English and African American Studies at Yale University.

2006:  Ellen Rosand, Professor of Music History at Yale University; Peter Schäfer, Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University; Eric Sundquist, UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature at the University of California at Los Angeles; and Richard White, Margaret Byrne Professor of American History, Stanford University.    

Each award is for a three year term, with funds being granted to, and overseen by, the recipients’ institutions.  Although the recipients’ uses of funds differ in each case and reflect a wide range of scholarly interests and institutional settings, in general, the awards underwrite a portion of their salaries and their research expenses, while also providing support for colleagues and students engaged in collaboration with the awardees who are expected to spend at least two of the three years on their home campuses.  Previous years’ awards are being used to bring co-workers and visiting scholars to the recipients’ institutions; to provide postdoctoral and graduate fellowships; to subsidize instruction in areas not offered by their institutions; and to support an array of scholarly projects including the preparation and editing of texts, the development of electronic scholarly tools, seminars and meetings to explore promising new directions in the relevant fields, and archeological excavations.

The awards recipients are chosen through an intensive process of nomination and review.  Final selections were made by a panel of distinguished scholars led by Heinrich von Staden, Professor, School of Historical Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.  The selection panel consisted also of Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University; Elizabeth Cropper, Dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art; Stephen Greenblatt, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University; J. Paul Hunter, Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor Emeritus, Department of English Language and Literature and the College at the University of Chicago; and Jerome B. Schneewind, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University. 

Recipients are chosen from such fields as classics, history, history of art, musicology, philosophy, religious studies, and all areas of literary studies, including the study of foreign literatures.  Recipients of the awards must hold tenured appointments at US institutions of higher education. 

Martha Sullivan
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
(212) 838-8400

For more information about The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, see http://www.mellon.org.

Further description of the Distinguished Achievement Awards, and the Foundation’s programs for research universities and humanistic scholarship, is available here.


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