Emory Professors Awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships

April 8, 2021

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Elaine Justice
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Emory University professors (L-R) Laura Otis, Katherine Young and Tayari Jones have been awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships to support their groundbreaking research.

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Three Emory University professors have been awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced today.

The faculty members, all based in Emory College of Arts and Sciences, include:

  • Laura Otis, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of English, Department of English, won a fellowship in the field of English literature;
  • Katherine Young, assistant professor of composition, Department of Music, won in the field of music composition; and 
  • Tayari Jones, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing, Department of English, won in the fiction category.

“In writing, music, scholarship and interdisciplinary collaboration, Tayari Jones, Laura Otis and Katherine Young transcend boundaries and have shown the world their creativity and discoveries,” said Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “They embody the extraordinary range of artistic expression and scholarship that defines the Emory mission and illuminates our purpose as a university.”

“I’m thrilled to have three outstanding colleagues named Guggenheim Fellows this year and to see them recognized for their highly creative scholarship, which continues to have important influence and impact on their respective fields and the world at large. They represent the very best of Emory and the ideals of our liberal arts foundation,” said Michael A. Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences and Charles Howard Candler Professor of English.

The Guggenheim Foundation has awarded Fellowships this year to 184 American and Canadian scientists, scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and writers and artists of all kinds, selected from almost 3,000 applicants. Fellowship amounts vary, but are designed to help fund writers, scholars and scientists in their work.

Edward Hirsch, president of the Foundation, noted in a news release announcing this year’s fellows what a “devastating year” it had been for many. “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, a survival tool as well as a creative one,” Hirsch said. “The work supported by the Fellowship will help us understand more deeply what we are enduring individually and collectively, and it is an honor for the Foundation to help them do what they were meant to do.” 

Laura Otis

Otis began her career as a scientist, earning her bachelor’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale and her master’s in neuroscience from the University of California at San Francisco. Before receiving her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Cornell University, she worked in labs for eight years. A fiction writer as well as a literary scholar, she earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College.

Otis studies and teaches about the ways that scientific and literary thinking intersect and foster each other's growth. She is especially interested in multisensory imagery and emotions and has recently worked as a guest scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. She is the author of the academic books “Banned Emotions,” “Rethinking Thought,” “Müller’s Lab,” “Networking,” “Membranes” and “Organic Memory,” along with six novels. In 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for creativity. 

Katherine Young

A composer and bassoonist, Young makes electroacoustic music and sonic art using expressive noises, curious timbres and kinetic structures to explore the dramatic physicality of sound, shifting interpersonal dynamics and tensions between the familiar and the strange. The LAPhil, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW, and others have commissioned her music. She performs often as a soloist, and her debut solo album garnered praise in The Wire (“Bassoon colossus”) and Downbeat (“seriously bold leaps for the bassoon”).

In her scholarly work, she researches the incorporation of idiosyncratic electronics and improvisation in contemporary notated music. She taught composition, electronic music and improvisation at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Berklee College of Music before joining the Emory faculty in 2020. 

Tayari Jones

A New York Times bestselling author, Jones is the author of four novels, most recently “An American Marriage.” Published in 2018, “An American Marriage” is an Oprah’s Book Club Selection and appeared on Barack Obama’s summer reading list as well as his year-end roundup. The novel was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize), Aspen Words Prize and an NAACP Image Award. It has been published in two dozen countries.

Jones, a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, has been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Her third novel, “Silver Sparrow,” was added to the NEA Big Read library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, the University of Iowa and Arizona State University. She joined the faculty of Emory’s Creative Writing Program in 2018.

Created in 1925 by U.S.Sen. Simon and Olga Guggenheim in memory of their son, John Simon Guggenheim, the Foundation has offered fellowships to exceptional individuals in pursuit of scholarship in any field of knowledge and creation in any art form, under the freest possible conditions.