Columbia got word last week that a whopping eight professors scored the ultra-prestigous Guggenheim fellowships, which will allow them to take the year off and work on individual projects. Because the only thing Bwog loves more than to revel in Columbia’s collective whininess about workload is to revel in Columbia’s collective bragging rights, we followed up with some of the winners to find out more.
Benjamin Taylor, Adjunct Faculty Member, Graduate Writing Division
“I am surprised, tickled, amused. Also abashed,” says Taylor. “As Saul Bellow said, on an immeasurably grander occasion, ‘The child in me is delighted. The adult in me is skeptical.’ Hope not to let down the Guggenheim Foundation.” Taylor, whose newest book “Naples Declare” comes out next month, has taught a class in the School of the Arts for the past three years titled “Craft and Art of the Story.”
He plans to teach a seminar for English and Comparative Lit students next spring on Marcel Proust, about whom he’s also working on a book for the Yale Jewish Lives series. “Proust was not a Jew, this should be said straight off,” says Taylor. “But his mother was. And the great political event of his time, the Dreyfus Affair, made a Jew of Marcel Proust. This, in broadest outline, is the story I mean to tell.”
Timothy Donnelly, Associate Professor of Creative Writing: Poetry
The Creative Writing department keeps Timothy Donnelly pretty busy—”so busy that I almost never have time to work on my own writing,” he says. “But when I can’t work on my own poetry, I’m able to engage with and bask in the glow from the achievements of my students, who amaze me week after week. Their painstaking artistic labor and the boundlessness of their creative energy are inspirational.”
Thanks to his Guggenheim winnings, he’ll be able to use the time off to work on his third book of poems, (working)titled “The Problem of the Many.” Donnelly says he hopes to rent a studio nearby to his Brooklyn apartment where he can write during the day. “My wife and I and our two young daughters live in a relatively small apartment in Brooklyn and I usually end up writing on the living room floor late at night into early morning when everyone else is asleep,” he says. “I’m getting a little too old for that!”
Jennifer Hirsch, Professor and Deputy Chair, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health
“I can’t even begin to express how super honored I am,” says Hirsch, a medical anthropologist. “It feels like such a meaningful recognition of the thortetical importance of my scholarship—it goes way beyond the money.”
Using the Guggenheim as funding, she’ll be working on a book tentatively titled “Desire Across Borders” about married women and HIV risk. According to Hirsch, “the book is going to start at the micro level and look at relationships between husbands and wives and the negotiations of marital intimacy.”
Alex Mincek, Professor of Music Humanities
Teachers do play favorites—Mincek confesses that his is Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. “I really like teaching Music Humanities, because it’s such an open syllabus. There’s a lot of freedom for the instructor,” he says.
Mincek won the Guggenheim to work on two pieces; one intended for an orchestra, and one for himself that he describes as “a piece of very small chamber music, of long duration.” He plays saxophone, bass, and drums, and is part of the Wet Ink ensemble, along with fellow Guggenheim recipient Kate Soper.
Kate Soper, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music: Music Composition
“It’s always interesting to re-discover composers and topics of the past as I try to find a way to make them accessible to students,” says Soper, who got her doctorate from Columbia last May. “At the beginning of every (chronologically-oreinted) semester I find myself getting really excited about 11th century chant composer Hildegard of Bingen or Monteverdi’s early operas or the development of tonality, and sometimes thinking about these things for Music Hum lectures will intersect with my work in a surprising way.”
Along with two members of the Columbia-grown Morningside Opera Company, Soper will use the grant to work on an opera about mythological sirens—”I’m hoping to make it happen in fall 2013 or thereabouts and I’ll be working on it as a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study next year.”
Stephen Hall, Journalism
“At the risk of voicing a oft-repeated cliche, the best part of the job is interacting with Columbia students,” says Hall, who teaches as an adjunct at the J School.
The Guggenheim fellowship will allow him to explore what he describes as, “a fascinating moment in 20th century geophysics: the discovery of so-called rift valleys in the middle of the ocean floor, one of earliest physical clues to the process known as plate tectonics.”
Check back later in the week to hear from more of the Guggenheim winners.