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Five U. of I. faculty members awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Five faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been awarded Guggenheim Fellowships for 2006.

It is the sixth time in 40 years that Illinois has won five Guggenheims in a single year. In this year’s competition, the 82nd annual John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s U.S. and Canadian competition, only New York University with seven recipients surpasses Illinois in number of recipients from a single campus. The University of Michigan also had five award winners from its Ann Arbor campus.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed “on the basis of distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment,” the foundation said. The 2006 winners include 187 artists, scholars and scientists selected from nearly 3,000 applicants for awards totaling $7.5 million.

Illinois’ winners are Brigit Pegeen Kelly, professor of English; Diane Koenker, professor of history; Schuyler S. Korban, professor of molecular genetics and biotechnology, natural resources and environmental sciences; Harriet Murav, professor of comparative and world literature and professor and head of Slavic languages and literatures; Robert Yelle, postdoctoral fellow in the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities and professor in the Program for the Study of Religion.

“On behalf of the institution, I am enormously pleased at this recognition and proud of these scholars,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “For many years now, the awarding of a Guggenheim has been one of the true marks of excellence – a sign of a distinguished career and a promise of much more to come.”

The winners’ project titles and summaries:

Kelly, a book of poetry, no further information available.

Koenker, “Proletarian Tourism and Vacations in the U.S.S.R.”
In exploring the practice of tourism and vacations over time, beginning with the Stalin period and continuing to the eras of Khrushchev and Brezhnev, Koenker’s study also will investigate the existence and reinforcement of social distinctions expressed through individuals’ choices of leisure travel. Koenker will spend about two months in Russia in the fall, primarily in Moscow and Sochi, conducting research in archives and libraries.

• Korban, “Studies of Plant-based Vaccines.”

He will be expanding on his current work on plant-based vaccines, exploring and developing new systems for gene expression as well as delivery of plant-based vaccines, including branching out to other human diseases for the purpose of developing vaccines in plants, “essentially using plants as production and delivery vehicles for vaccines.” His work will be conducted at Illinois and in various other institutions, beginning with Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Harriet Murav, “Music on a Speeding Train: Soviet-Yiddish and Russian-Jewish Literature of the 20th Century.”

The story of Russian-Jewish and Soviet-Yiddish literature in the 20th century “remains largely untold,” Murav said, and “an entire literature remains unknown to the English-speaking reader.” Her research will focus on such key authors as Isaac Babel, David Bergelson, Ilya Ehrenburg, Asar Eppel, Fridrikh Gorenshteyn, Vasilii Grossman, Dina Kalinovskaia, Emmanuel Kazakevich, Leyb Kvitko, Der Nister, Perets Markish, Alexandr Melikhov and Dina Rubina. Other artistic work, written in Russian, will provide a basis for comparison, and she also will examine journalistic, critical and memoir literature.

Murav will conduct her research at the Slavic Library at Illinois. Also, working with Illinois’ Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center and its Program in Jewish Studies, she will be hosting a Title VIII-funded training workshop in Russian-Jewish Studies on the Illinois campus in June.

Yelle, “Disenchantment of Language: Protestant Literalism and the Discourse of Modernity From England to India.”

Yelle said he “will scrutinize the secularization or, as Max Weber termed it, ‘disenchantment,’ of modern society through a new lens: the history of language and linguistics. Drawing on an array of British and colonial Indian sources from the 16th to the 19th centuries, I plan to describe how modern theories and practices of language reflect the influence of the Protestant
Reformation. Ironically religion itself, or rather, a particular interpretation of Christianity, facilitated the evacuation of religion from many areas of culture and language. These historical developments had repercussions as far away as India, where colonial projects for the codification of law, religion and other cultural genres disrupted traditional understandings of language and redrew the boundary between religion and the secular.”

Yelle plans to make short trips to India and England to conduct archival research.