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Guggenheim Fellowships Awarded to Two Baruch College Humanities Professors



Esther Allen and Alison Griffiths, Professors in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, Among Class of 2018 Guggenheim Fellows

Baruch College Professors Esther Allen and Alison Griffiths were awarded 2018 Guggenheim Fellowships

L to R: Esther Allen and Alison Griffiths are among 173 scholars, artists, and scientists chosen from almost 3,000 applicants awarded 2018 Guggenheim Fellowships.

New York, NY, April 10, 2018 – Esther Allen, PhD, and Alison Griffiths, PhD, faculty members in the George and Mildred Weissman School of Arts and Sciences at Baruch College, were each recently awarded renowned 2018 Guggenheim Fellowships.

Dr. Allen, a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, was named a fellow for translation, while Dr. Griffiths, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies, was named for Film, Video, and New Media Studies. Both are the only candidates selected in their respective categories.

The professors are among 173 scholars, artists, and scientists chosen from almost 3,000 applicants on the basis of prior scholarly achievement and exceptional creative ability in the arts.

One of most prestigious awards in the humanities

“We are extremely fortunate that two of our faculty members are among the ones awarded this year with the Guggenheim Fellowship,” said Aldemaro Romero Jr., PhD, dean of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. “This is one of the most prestigious awards in the humanities worldwide. The fact that two of them will receive this accolade in the same year speaks volumes about the caliber of the professors at the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. On the other hand, it is not surprising given the quality, sustained, and innovative scholarly work they have been producing for years.”

This year’s class of fellows represented 49 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 69 different academic institutions, 31 states, and three Canadian provinces. The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation started the renowned competition in 1925. 

Esther Allen

The Guggenheim Fellowship will allow Allen to complete the translation of two novels by the Argentinian writer Antonio Di Benedetto (1922-1986): The Silentiary and The Suicides. Allen has already translated Di Benedetto’s Zama, today considered a classic, which took her seven years to translate and publish.

“This recognition is a singular honor because so many former Guggenheim Fellows have made such distinguished contributions,” Allen said. “I'm delighted to find myself in the company of two in particular, Di Benedetto and Gregory Rabassa.”

According to Allen, Di Benedetto was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1973, and shortly after was imprisoned and tortured during Argentina's Dirty War. Eighteen months later, he emerged through the efforts of a group of writers and activists who used the Guggenheim Fellowship and other awards he had received as evidence of his international importance.

“Rabassa, awarded a Guggenheim in 1988, was the greatest 20th-century translator of Latin American literature,” said Allen. “Like me, he was professor at City University of New York, where he taught for four decades.”

Literary Translations: An Art Form

Allen believes translating books is a peculiar vocation that is similar to acting. Rather than using the body as a form of communication, a translator utilizes their mind and language as a form of self-expression.  

Dean Romero noted that Allen’s work cannot be done mechanically, but is a complete art. “To do this work very well requires a lot of study and being multi-cultural to see all the different background behind the author and the public at a time,” explained Romero.

Alison Griffiths

Griffiths will use her fellowship to write a book titled Nomadic Cinema: A Cultural Geography of the Expedition Film, which will examine expedition filmmaking from the mid-teens through the late-thirties during the 20th century. Focusing on films shot in Borneo, Central Asia, and the American Southwest, Nomadic Cinema will look at internationally recognized organizations and privately funded anthropological research trips, including four distinct 20th-century expeditions, some famous and others less known.

“Considered a golden age in the history of museum-sponsored expeditions, the interwar period is fascinating because attempts to penetrate the last few undiscovered places on the planet took on a sense of urgency, and cinema was enlisted as an essential method of data collection,” Griffiths explained. “And yet the expedition film is enigmatic, betraying what I call an ‘anxious optic,’ never quite sure what to record and uncertain about the audience it is seeking.”

An Expansive Project

“The biggest challenge I expect to face in completing Nomadic Cinema is the scale of the project,” said Griffiths. “The book also constructs a longer intellectual history of images of exploration dating back to the Middle Ages as well as ending with a brief analysis of the role of digital technologies in documenting contemporary expeditionary travel.”

Romero pointed to Griffiths’s success in the Department of Communication Studies, where she analyzes how the media portrays different aspects of society, noting that her scholarly work is “quite an intriguing and important contribution.”

Watch Video: See this video to hear Dean Romero and Professors Allen and Griffiths discuss the importance of receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship.

About Baruch College

Ranked #1 for social and economic mobility among its students, Baruch College provides graduates and undergraduates with the skills, knowledge, and perspectives to pursue their aspirations in today's global environment. Part of The City University of New York (CUNY), Baruch also ranks among the nation’s top public colleges for academic excellence, affordability, and value. Its three schools educate more than 18,000 students, representing one of the nation’s most diverse college campuses. Strong career and support services drive Baruch’s national recognition as an engine for social and economic mobility. Through executive education, continuing studies, international partnerships, public events and arts programming, Baruch stands out as an intellectual and cultural resource for New York City and the world. Visit baruch.cuny.edu

Media Contacts:

Suzanne Bronski, (646) 660-6093, Suzanne.Bronski@baruch.cuny.edu

Evan Nemeroff, (646) 660-6146, Evan.Nemeroff@baruch.cuny.edu 

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