Miller, Saunders receive Guggenheim fellowships
Miller, Saunders receive Guggenheim fellowshipsApril 12, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
Professors Patricia Cox Miller and George Saunders of Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences have been named 2006 Guggenheim Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The fellowships are awarded each year to further the development of artists and scholars who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.
“To have two Guggenheim Fellows from the University in the same year is an extraordinary honor,” says Cathryn R. Newton, dean of The College of Arts and Sciences. “Patricia Miller is a national expert in early Christianity, and George Saunders is one of this generation’s greatest writers. Both professors, through their outstanding teaching and creative contributions, reflect dazzling faculty excellence within The College and at SU.”
Miller is the W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion. During her fellowship year, September 2006 to August 2007, Miller will be finishing research for and writing a book provisionally titled “Signifying the Holy: The Corporeal Imagination in Late Antiquity.” The book will argue that from the early Roman empire to the late Roman and early Byzantine periods, there was a shift in the ways in which human beings were orientated in relation to the divine. In the latter period, the high gods had become more remote and humans suffered a loss of spiritual immediacy. A result of this loss was the need for objects such as relics and animated statues that could mediate divine presence. Her focus is on an ancient religious sensibility that reconfigured the relation between materiality and meaning in a positive direction.
Miller, who joined SU’s Department of Religion in 1977, focuses her teaching on religion in classical and Greco-Roman antiquity. In her research, she deals more particularly with the religious imagination in late antiquity in Gnostic, Neoplatonic and early Christian traditions. She is the author of “The Poetry of Thought in Late Antiquity: Essays in Imagination and Religion” (Ashgate Publishing, 2001); “Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture” (Princeton University Press, 1994); and “Biography in Late Antiquity: A Quest for the Holy Man” (University of California Press, 1983), and has edited two books. She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1983.
Saunders is associate professor of English in The College of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of the short story collections “Pastoralia,” (Riverhead Books, 2001) and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” (Riverhead, 1997), both New York Times Notable Books. His newest work, “In Persuasion Nation” (Riverhead, 2006) will be published this month. “CivilWarLand” was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Saunders is also the author of the novella-length illustrated fable, “The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil” and the New York Times-bestselling children’s book, “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip,” (Random House, 2000), which has won major children’s literature prizes in Italy and the Netherlands.
His stories have appeared in the O. Henry and Best American Short Story anthologies. In 2001, Saunders was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the top 100 most creative people in entertainment, and by The New Yorker in 2000 as one of the best writers 40 and under. His piece on Dubai was recently selected for “Best American Travel Writing 2005.” He has two scripts in development with Ben Stiller’s company, Red Hour Films. During the course of his fellowship, Saunders will continue writing projects and possibly write a novel.
Results of the foundation’s 82nd annual United States and Canadian competition were announced on April 6 by foundation president Edward Hirsch. The 2006 winners include 187 artists, scholars and scientists selected from almost 3,000 applicants for awards totaling $7,500,000. Decisions are based on recommendations from hundreds of expert advisors and are approved by the foundation’s board of trustees, which includes six members who are themselves past fellows of the foundation–Joel Conarroe, Joyce Carol Oates ’60, HD ’00, Richard A. Rifkind, Charles A. Ryskamp, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Edward Hirsch.