Two UChicago scholars awarded 2024 Guggenheim Fellowships

Two UChicago scholars awarded 2024 Guggenheim Fellowships

Two Humanities Scholars Receive 2024 Guggenheim Fellowships

The following was published in UChicago News on April 15, 2024. 

By Tori Lee

Two University of Chicago scholars have earned 2024 Guggenheim Fellowships, honored in recognition of their innovative work and exceptional promise as scholars.

Profs. Sianne Ngai and Robyn Schiff are among the 188 fellows selected in this year’s class from nearly 3,000 applicants to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Their respective fellowships will include a monetary stipend to support projects under “the freest possible conditions.”

“Humanity faces some profound existential challenges,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. “The Guggenheim Fellowship is a life-changing recognition. It’s a celebrated investment into the lives and careers of distinguished artists, scholars, scientists, writers and other cultural visionaries who are meeting these challenges head on.”

Sianne Ngai

A literary scholar and cultural theorist, Sianne Ngai work’s mainly centers on the analysis of aesthetics. The Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Ngai looks across cultural forms of all types—from novels, movies and photographs, to showtunes, internet culture and rubber duckies.

Her most recent book Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form (2020), explores the “gimmick” and its connection to labor within a capitalist society.

Her previous books include Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (2012) and Ugly Feelings (2005), which is considered a key work of affect theory, which focuses on ambiguous emotions like envy and irritation.

The Guggenheim Fellowship will support Ngai’s next book project, titled "Inhabiting Error."

“This book explores the stakes of recreating and lingering in wrong ways of thinking through readings of writers willing to undertake that significant risk: from G. W. F. Hegel and Karl Marx to Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Lauren Berlant,” she said.

Robyn Schiff

Robyn Schiff is a poet and professor in the Department of English Language and Literature. As director of the Program in Creative Writing, she works with students to develop their craft through close reading and detailed study of literary forms.

She encourages all students to cultivate a creative life and community beyond the classroom, embodied by her longtime position as editor at Canarium Books—a small press dedicated to publishing poetry.

Schiff is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which, Information Desk: An Epic (2023), weaves together history, art and her personal experiences staffing the information desk of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her previous collections include A Woman of Property (2016), Revolver (2008) and Worth (2002).

Schiff plans to spend her time as a Guggenheim fellow reading elegies and working on a book of poems about memory and mourning.

“It’s a simple plan really—a year of intensive focus, with some travel to Asbury Park, N.J.—my late father’s hometown,” she said, “and some travel to Rome, where I spent a grieving few months directly following his death among the monuments contemplating time, power and mortality.”

“Mostly however,” Schiff said, “I plan to spend the fellowship period in books, letting one poem lead to another.”

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April 16, 2024