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2008 Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients Named

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has named four 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. 

Four scholars were selected this year:

Judith Butler, the Maxine Elliot Professor in the departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley.  Butler is a philosopher and gender theorist whose work transcends the boundaries of disciplines and the academy.  In addition to recasting gender theory, she has also contributed to continental philosophy, political theory, social policy, psychoanalysis, and studies of the moral issues of war and of academic freedom

Tom Gunning, the Edwin L. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago.  A historian and theorist of early cinema, Gunning has redefined the historiography of film and is an influential analyst of modern media in their relation to cultural history and theory.

Barbara Newman, Professor of English, Religion, and Classics; John Evans Professor of Latin Language and Literature; and Director of Graduate Studies at Northwestern University.  Newman is a leader in the field of medieval religious culture and has made pioneering contributions to the study of women in medieval Christianity.

Sheldon Pollock, the William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Columbia University.  Pollock is a Sanskrit scholar who engages multiple audiences in bringing Sanskrit and non-Western cultural and intellectual histories into the English-speaking mainstream.  His writings range widely and include studies of Indian philosophy, knowledge systems, philology, and literary history.

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.   

2007:  Peter Brooks, Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University; William V. Harris, William R. Shepherd Professor of History at Columbia University; and Thomas W. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley.

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; and 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. 

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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