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Emeritus Faculty Receive Mellon Fellowships

Nov. 03, 2009

Emeritus Professor of Religion Grover Zinn and Emeritus Professor of English David Young

Two former Oberlin faculty members, Emeritus Longman Professor of English David Young and Emeritus William H. Danforth Professor of Religion Grover Zinn, have been awarded Emeritus Fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to continue their scholarly research beyond retirement.

The Mellon Emeritus Fellowship program provides up to $35,000 to support one year of research activities for outstanding scholars in the humanities and social sciences who are retired but still active in the academic community. Four-year liberal arts colleges invited to participate in the program may nominate only two candidates to the program a year; both of Oberlin’s 2009 applicants were selected to receive funding.

Young’s fellowship will support the translation into English of three of German poet Paul Celan’s books of poetry from the 1950s and 1960s. Though individual Celan poems from this period have been translated, Young’s undertaking will mark the first time that entire works from the poet’s middle period will be produced in English.

“Paul Celan is now widely viewed as the most important German poet since Rilke. His work is especially prized because it is recognized as one of the most significant literary responses to the Holocaust,” said Young. “The difficulty of Celan’s poetry is notorious, but a good deal of progress has been made in recent years, through scholarly research and commentary, as well as through translation, in bringing it to a wider audience.”

“The organization of each of Celan’s books,” Young added, “is crucial to a full understanding of his poetics and achievement. Individual poems that are remarkably opaque begin to clarify and realize their power when seen in the company and ‘conversation’ of other poems, in great part through the poet’s very deliberate placement.”

Zinn’s project will center on the writings of twelfth-century philosopher and mystic Hugh of Saint-Victor, and will involve three intertwined components. Zinn will write an essay on the historical and theological study of the ideas of Hugh of Saint-Victor on the contemplative life, will translate into English two of Hugh’s principal works—De archa Noe and Libellus de formatione arche—and will, with the aid of an Oberlin graduate, create a digital realization of a complex drawing that features prominently in the texts.

“I intend to engage readers in an exploration of the interaction of experience, the nature of religious symbols, and the process of worldview and spiritual construction,” said Zinn. “My intended audience is not limited to specialists in Victorine thought, or in medieval mysticism, but to a broader audience interested in the intersection of the history of ideas, theology, religious experience, mysticism, spiritual discipline and itineraries, and the history of art.”

Based in New York City, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation makes grants in six core program areas: higher education and scholarship; scholarly communications; research in information technology; museums and art conservation; performing arts; and conservation and the environment. For more information about the Mellon Foundation, visit the foundation’s website.

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