Two Swarthmore faculty members have received coveted Guggenheim Fellowships, joining just 182 other artists, writers, scholars, and scientists from across the U.S. and Canada this year.
Steven P. Hopkins, the Mari S. Michener Professor of Religion, and Ron Tarver, associate professor of art, enter the decorated and diverse ranks of fellows. The Guggenheim Foundation chose the fellows from almost 3,000 applications through a rigorous peer-review process, identifying “exceptional individuals in pursuit of scholarship in any field of knowledge and creation in any art form, under the freest possible conditions.”
For Hopkins, the news of the fellowship was a thrilling conclusion to “an arduous process.” It will allow him to expand into a book a project he has been developing for 10 years. The focus is on lament as an ethical witness to particular love and loss, including female laments in the poetry and prophecies of the English poet William Blake and in early Greek, Greek Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist literature.
“I’m humbled and inspired by this great honor,” says Hopkins. “It’s a strong project, with a lot of personal passion and intellectual energy behind it, a timely subject of lament and the ethics of mourning.
“But I could not have done this alone,” he adds, “or without the help and support of colleagues.”
The fellowship represents the culmination of decades of intense creative work for Tarver. He heard the news from his wife, who called while he was driving from their Elkins Park, Pa., home to South Philadelphia to deliver a print and pick up others for an exhibition.
“I was a little stressed, because I was late for the appointments due to traffic,” Tarver says. “But the news made everything dreamlike. I don’t really remember the rest of the trip.”
“I'm most excited that funds from the fellowship will allow me to continue a project with work I’m making from my father's photo archive and produce a book and exhibit on Black Cowboys that I have been working off and on for the last 25 years or so,” he adds.
“I'm grateful that my work was recognized at this level.”
Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted nearly $400 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award, and other internationally recognized honors. In 2020 alone, four fellows received Nobel Prizes and five won Pulitzer Prizes.
“A Guggenheim Fellowship has always been meaningful, but this year we know it will be a lifeline for many of the new fellows at a time of great hardship,” says Edward Hirsch, president of the foundation. “The work supported by the fellowship will help us to understand more deeply what we are enduring individually and collectively, and it is an honor for the foundation to help the fellows do what they were meant to do.”
This year’s Guggenheim winners also include Tara Zahra ‘98, Homer J. Livingston Professor of History at the University of Chicago, and Seth Koven '78, G.E. Lessing Distinguished Professor of History and Poetics at Rutgers University.