Two Faculty Members and an Alumna Win 2023 Guggenheim Fellowships
Professors Wayne Koestenbaum and Tanya Pollard and Alumna Deborah Lutz receive the prestigious fellowship.
Distinguished Professor Wayne Koestenbaum (English, Comparative Literature, French, Biography and Memoir), Professor Tanya Pollard (GC/Brooklyn, English), and alumna Deborah Lutz (Ph.D. ’04, English) were named 2023 Guggenheim Fellows. The prestigious fellowships are awarded to individuals who demonstrate exceptional abilities as scholars or artists or both and who show great promise.
“The new class of Fellows has followed their calling to enhance all of our lives, to provide greater human knowledge and deeper understanding,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation and 1985 Fellow in Poetry in announcing the award. “We’re lucky to look to them to bring us into the future.”
Koestenbaum, a Fellow in Poetry, is a wide-ranging and prolific writer as well as an artist and performer. His 22 books encompass poetry, essays, memoir, and one novel.
His first poetry collection, Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems, was one of The Village Voice Literary Supplement’s “Favorite Books of 1990.” His other collections include Blue Stranger with Mosaic Background and Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender. He recently completed his trance poem trilogy: The Pink Trance Notebooks, Camp Marmalade, and the final book, Ultramarine, published last year, which, he said, “reflects the procedures and philosophies of three seminars I’ve taught here at the GC.” A new book of poetry, Stubble Archipelago, will be published in 2024.
During the fellowship, he’ll continue to work on a new book of poems in a new mode he’s exploring.
“I want to house my mental process within a new shape of poem, and within a new tactic: an askew, aerated relation to the autobiographical act,” he said. “The poems I hope to write now are therefore not autobiographical, but they attest idiosyncratically (and, I hope, with a tactile faithfulness to the physical shape a word makes in the perceiving mind) to the fact that I am writing them.”
He listed some of the poem titles: “Why Are Parsnips Confusing,” “Dimpled Dialectic,” “A Scrapbook Demonstrating My Infamy,” “Cantankerous Knishes,” “Apology for Dadaism,” and “Posing Naked with Boxing Gloves.”
Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired Koestenbaum’s literary archive in 2019. He previously won a Whiting Writers Award and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and he was a co-winner of the Discovery/The Nation Poetry Prize.
He shared advice for fellow writers: “Don't wait for external validation or approval. Write exactly the way you want, write all the time, write against the rules and with the rules, invent your own rules, break the rules you've invented, send out your work for publication but don't feel crushed if it doesn't get published, keep writing, keep reading the idiosyncratic books that teach you how to cultivate and nourish your own idiosyncracies, don't let envy or jealousy tarnish your quest to keep writing and developing your ‘voice’ or your voices, don't let your own disdain or disgust for what you've produced prevent you from continuing to write and continuing to peer into the crevices of your own sentences to find the molten ore that warrants and rewards your own further excavations.”
Pollard, who was named a Guggenheim Fellow for Early Modern Studies, researches and writes about Shakespeare and early modern drama.
Her recent books include Reader in Tragedy: An Anthology of Classical Criticism to Contemporary Theory, co-edited with Marcus Nevitt; and Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages, which won the 2017 Roland H. Bainton Literature Book Prize. Her scholarly edition of Ben Jonson's The Alchemist will be published this year. She has written several other books and co-edited four collections on early modern drama.
She chairs Theatre for a New Audience’s Council of Scholars and was a Shakespeare consultant on the 2019 Roundabout Theatre production of Kiss Me Kate. She has appeared in live and televised conversations about Shakespeare with scholars, directors, writers, and actors including Phylicia Rashad, James Earl Jones, Ethan Hawke, Christopher Plummer, Sam Waterston, F. Murray Abraham, and Adam Gopnik.
“A lot of people see early modern plays as elite and inaccessible,” she said. “I think they belong firmly in the public domain (like a great public university!), and I want to do what I can to bring their pleasures to wider audiences.”
As a Guggenheim Fellow, Pollard said, she’ll be able to immerse herself in her current book project, which she calls a biography of a (creative) marriage between Shakespeare and his leading actor, Richard Burbage.
A former Rhodes Scholar, she has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Whiting and Mellon foundations.
She offered encouragement and advice to students and fellow scholars applying for fellowships: “I tell my students that the more they can identify the particular personal investments they bring to their research, the more original they can make their work, because no one else can see the plays through their eyes; also, falling in love with your research can be contagious. But there's of course always an enormous element of luck, so the most important thing is to keep trying!”
Lutz, the only 2023 Fellow in English Literature, is the Thruston B. Morton Professor of English at the University of Louisville. Her scholarship focuses on Victorian literature; material culture; the history of sexuality; gender and LGBTQ studies; and the history of the book.
Her book The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, published in 2015, was shortlisted for the PEN/Weld Award for Biography. The Independent described it as “faultlessly researched and evocatively written”; the Guardian noted, “She pulls off the hardest trick in literary biography: to make us feel that we know the subjects intimately, and, simultaneously, to make the familiar strange and remind us of the space that separates us from the dead.
Her most recent book, Victorian Paper Art and Craft: Writers and Their Materials, considers how authors used the materials of writing (and of reading and handcraft) for inspiration, experimentation, and creative composition.
Lutz’s other books include Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture; The Dangerous Lover: Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the 19th-Century Seduction Narrative; and Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism. She is also the editor of two Norton Critical Editions — Jane Eyre and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
With the Guggenheim Fellowship, she plans to devote more time to research and writing. “I'm hoping for some deep reverie,” she said.
She is currently writing a biography of Emily Brontë. “I continue to be fascinated by the Brontës,” she said. “Surprisingly, no major biography of Emily Brontë has been written in more than 20 years, even as new and vital scholarship — on race and slavery, the Anthropocene, women’s sexual desire for other women, “mannish” women, and more — has emerged that reshapes her life story.”
The raw passion and anger of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights hooked Lutz when she read the books as a teenager. At the Graduate Center, she said, “My beloved professor and dissertation director/chair Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick drew me into the world of the Victorians.”
She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, a Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Huntington Library, and others.
For those applying for fellowships, she urges persistence. “Keep applying over and over again!” she said. “I received a Guggenheim on my third try, but for other fellowships, I have applied five or six times before I received them! So, that's many rejections.”
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