Two Humanities Faculty Members Receive NEA Creative Writing Fellowships

Ben Hoffman and Ling Ma received NEA Creative Writing Fellowships.

Ling Ma (BA’05) and Ben Hoffman are already acclaimed fiction writers. Ma received the prestigious 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction for her novel Severance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), as well as the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Hoffman was honored by the Chicago Tribune’s 2014 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction work for his story “This Will All Be Over Soon,” as well as a Carol Houck Smith Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.

Despite these successes, Ma and Hoffman did not expect to receive the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. The competition is fierce for these NEA Fellowships of $25,000 each. Biannually, the NEA chooses only 36 Creative Writing Fellowships for prose from approximately 1,700 eligible applications. More significant after receiving NEA Fellowships, many recipients gain wider recognition, such as Anthony Doerr, Louise Erdrich, and Jennifer Egan.

From Cigarettes to Human Hair: Exhibition Uses Materials to Explore Chinese Art

A detailed photo of Xu Bing's "1st Class," which uses cigarettes to mimic a tiger skin rug

A farming scene, drawn intricately with incense ash found in Buddhist temples. A dark metal pillar, acting as a canvas above a pool of water. And at first glance, a 36-foot-long tiger skin rug—an illusion created by hundreds of thousands of carefully placed cigarettes.

These are just a few of the artworks displayed in The Allure of Matter, hosted by the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art and Wrightwood 659. Conceived by Prof. Wu Hung, the new exhibition marks a public introduction to “material art,” or caizhi yishu—a term he coined to distill a four-decade-long trend of artistic development in China.

Experimental Composer Channels The Doors During UChicago Residency

Seth Brodsky (left) and Peter Ablinger Viewing Ablinger's Music's Over at the Gray Center

Constructed by longtime collaborator Winfried Ritsch, Music’s Over was the centerpiece of Ablinger’s nine-day residency at UChicago’s Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. The residency featured a range of talks, discussions, composition seminars and performances—reflecting the Gray Center’s mission as a forum for experimental collaboration between artists and scholars.

The residency inaugurated Gray Sound, a new program conceived by Gray Center director Seth Brodsky, a leading scholar of 20th- and 21st-century musical modernism. Envisioned as a regular performance and discussion series, Gray Sound represents a chance for prominent artists and the UChicago community to tease the boundaries of sound—when it moves from voice to music, from a recognizable tune to noise.

UChicago Alum Tim Cassedy Receives the MLA First Book Award

Tim Cassedy

Tim Cassedy (AM’05) is fascinated with the role language played at the turn of the 19th century, and how language served to identify and differentiate people. For his cultural study of early America, Figures of Speech: Six Histories of Language and Identity in the Age of Revolution (University of Iowa Press, 2019), Cassedy recently received the Modern Language Association’s annual First Book Award, which recognizes his contribution to linguistics, the history of the book, and the cultural history of British imperialism.

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