The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Announces 2012-2013 Fellows

Philip Gourevitch, Elizabeth Blackmar, and C.E. Morgan among 2012-13 Cullman Center Fellows  

April 7, 2012— The New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers has selected its fourteenth class of Fellows: 15 extraordinarily talented independent scholars, academics, and creative writers.  The Fellows were selected from a pool of 305 applicants from 21 countries.  With people born in Bulgaria, Hungary, Israel, Belgium, and England, the class of 2012 includes:

  • The fiction writers C.E. Morgan, Luc Sante,  Saïd Sayrafiezadeh,  and John Wray
  • Philip Gourevitch, a New Yorker writer and winner of The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism
  • Elizabeth Blackmar, a Professor of social and urban history at Columbia
  • Dániel Margócsy, an Assistant Professor of History at Hunter College who studies the cultural history of early modern science
  • The journalists Ruth Franklin, Anthony Gottlieb, and James Ryerson
  • The Emmy award-winning artist, cartoonist, and designer Gary Panter

“It is my great honor to welcome this year’s class of Cullman Center Fellows and I look forward to learning about the exciting discoveries they will make within the extensive collections of The New York Public Library,” said the Library’s President, Tony Marx. “It will be a wonderful opportunity to see the unique perspectives each of our Fellows will have on the Library’s mission to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge and strengthen our communities.”

As they work on book projects that range from Christians in the Ottoman Empire who modeled their pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the Muslim Hajj to Mecca (Valentina Izmirlieva) to a study of Herman Melville and slavery in the Americas during the Age of Revolution (Greg Grandin),  17th and 18th century philosophy (Anthony Gottlieb), the 19th Century Chinese mining diaspora and the gold rushes in Pacific settler-colonies (Mae Ngai), biographies of Shirley Jackson (Ruth Franklin) and Sidney Morgenbesser (James Ryerson), and a film script about Theodor Herzl (Shimon Dotan),  the fellows will have full access to the incomparable research collections and online resources of The New York Public Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  They will be in residence at the Center from September 2012 through May 2013.

Jean Strouse, the Sue Ann and John Weinberg Director of the Center, said, “I am immensely looking forward to having this superb new class of Fellows in residence at the Library, introducing them to our great collections and curators -- and to each other.  The cross-disciplinary intellectual exchanges and friendships that develop among the Fellows here each year is magical, and vital to the program’s success. ”

Each Fellow receives a stipend, a private office in the Cullman Center’s handsome quarters on the second floor of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and the invaluable assistance of the Library’s curatorial and reference staff.

The Center fosters an atmosphere of creative and scholarly collaboration both within the Library and in the larger cultural environment of New York, through informal lunches and evening public programs.

Many Cullman Center Fellows publish critically-acclaimed works based on the research and writing they do while in residence at the Library. Former Fellow Maya Jasanoff won the 2011 National Book Critics' Circle Award for Liberty's Exiles:  American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, the book she worked on at the Cullman Center.  Hari Kunzru’s new novel Gods without Men – also a Cullman Center project – has received resounding praise on both sides of the Atlantic.

Other recent Cullman Center books include Lauren Redniss’ s Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout; Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia; David Blight’s A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom; Nathan Englander’s The Ministry of Special Cases; Deborah Baker’s The Convert; John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead; Andrew Meier’s The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service; Nicole Krauss’s Great House; James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?; T.J. Stiles’s The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

The Cullman Center is made possible by a generous endowment from Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman in honor of Brooke Russell Astor, with major support provided by Mrs. John L. Weinberg, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Estate of Charles J. Liebman, John and Constance Birkelund, The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, and additional gifts from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Mel and Lois Tukman, The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, Helen and Roger Alcaly, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, William W. Karatz, Mary Ellen von der Heyden, Merilee and Roy Bostock, Lybess Sweezy and Ken Miller, and Cullman Center Fellows.

For more information about the Center, its current and former Fellows, and its programs for teachers and the general public, visit

About the 2012-2013 Fellows

Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers

Elizabeth Blackmar

American Alchemy: The Vexed Relation of Land and Capital, 1776 – 2008


Elizabeth Blackmar, Professor of History at Columbia University, is the author of Manhattan for Rent, 1785-1850, and the co-author, with Roy Rosenzweig, of The Park and the People: A History of Central Park. She has recently published a number of articles on the history of property rights, family trusts, and Real Estate Investment Trusts. At the Cullman Center, she will be researching and writing a book on the history of real estate investment in the United States from the early republic to the present.

Shimon Dotan 

HERZL, script for a feature film on Theodor Herzl

Shimon Dotan is a film director and screenwriter whose films include Hot House, The Smile of the Lamb, and You Can Thank Me Later.  Awards for his work include the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, and two Israeli Academy Awards. Dotan is a professor at New York University and The New School University, where he teaches Political Cinema and Film Directing, respectively. During his time at the Cullman Center, he will work on a script for a feature film about Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism.

Ruth Franklin

Household Spirits: The Life and Work of Shirley Jackson

Ruth Franklin is a literary critic and senior editor at The New Republic, where she has been on staff since 1999. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Bookforum, The New York Times Book Review, Slate, and Salmagundi, to which she contributes a regular film column. Her first book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, was a finalist for the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. At the Cullman Center, she will work on a biography of the American writer Shirley Jackson.

Anthony Gottlieb

The Rise of Reason

Anthony Gottlieb is the author of The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. He was on the editorial staff of The Economist from 1983 to 2006, including nine years as its Executive Editor. He studied at Cambridge University, was a visiting fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, has taught at the CUNY Graduate Center and the New School, and is a visiting scholar at New York University. His essays and book reviews appear in The New York Times, Intelligent Life, The Economist and The New Yorker. At the Cullman Center, he will work on a sequel to The Dream of Reason, covering the 17th and 18th centuries.

Philip Gourevitch


Philip Gourevitch is a staff writer at The New Yorker, a former editor of The Paris Review, and the author of three books: The Ballad Of Abu Ghraib [Standard Operating Procedure], A Cold Case, and We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda,  which won a National Book Critics Circle Award and The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award. His writings have been translated into more than a dozen languages. At the Cullman Center, he will work on a book about life after genocide in Rwanda. 

Greg Grandin

The More Plot in Sin: A Story of Slavery, Deception, and the Making of the Americas

The Gilder Lehrman Fellow in American History

Greg Grandin is a Professor of History at New York University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His books include The Last Colonial Massacre, Empire’s Workshop, and Fordlandia, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and a National Book Critic Circles Award. While at the Cullman Center, he will be working on a book about Herman Melville and slavery in the Americas during the Age of Revolution.   

Valentina Izmirlieva

Christian Hajjis: Mobility and Status in the Ottoman Empire

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow

Valentina Izmirlieva is Associate Professor of Slavic Literature and Culture at Columbia University, and the author of All the Names of the Lord: Lists, Mysticism, and Magic. Much of her work addresses cultural transfers among Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the context of multi-religious empires. At the Cullman Center, she will work on a book about Christians who modeled their pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the Muslim Hajj to Mecca.


Dániel Margócsy

Imagining Natural History: Creativity and the Visual Arts in the Scientific Revolution

The Birkelund Fellow

Dániel Margócsy is Assistant Professor of History at Hunter College, CUNY. He has published articles on cabinets of curiosities, the commercialization of science, the development of taxonomy, and the art of the Dutch Golden Age. He co-edited States of Secrecy, a special issue of the British Journal for the History of Science, on scientific secrets. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on a book that examines how the creative arts influenced the development of modern science. 

C.E. Morgan

The Sport of Kings (fiction)

The Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellow

C.E. Morgan, a writer and singer, is the author of the novel All the Living. She has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a “5 Under 35” award from the National Book Foundation. In 2010, The New Yorker named her one of America’s best young fiction writers in its selection of “20 Under 40.” She holds a degree from the Harvard Divinity School. While at the Cullman Center, she will be writing a novel about horse racing, race relations, and contemporary life in the Ohio Valley and Kentucky, drawing on NYPL materials regarding evolutionary theory, American history, jazz, geology, and animal husbandry. 

Mae Ngai

Yellow and Gold: The Chinese Mining Diaspora, 1848-1908

Mae Ngai is Professor of History and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies at Columbia University. She is the author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, and The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America.. She has held fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study. At the Cullman Center, she will be working on a book about the gold rushes in Pacific settler-colonies, focusing on Anglo-American racial politics and the circulations of Chinese miners.

Gary Panter

Jimbo in Paradise

Gary Panter is a painter, cartoonist, and designer whose awards include a Chrysler Design Award and three Emmys. His work has appeared in Time, The New Yorker, Esquire, Raw, Rolling Stone, Artforum, Art In America, among other publications. His written and illustrated graphic novels include Jimbo's Inferno, Jimbo in Purgatory, and Invasion of the Elvis Zombies.  Picturebox published a monograph of his art work in 2008. At the Cullman Center, Panter will be exploring imagery and texts relating to ideas of the afterlife and Paradise, especially as they appear in Dante's Paradiso and Milton's Paradise Regained.

James Ryerson

Sidewalk Socrates: The Philosophical Life of Sidney Morgenbesser

James Ryerson is a writer and editor. He has worked at The New York Times Op-Ed page, The New York Times Magazine, Legal Affairs, Lingua Franca, and Feed. He writes frequently about philosophy and has contributed introductory chapters to Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will, by David Foster Wallace, and Take Care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself: Interviews with Richard Rorty. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on a book about the philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser.

Luc Sante

Declare Present Time Over (fiction)

Luc Sante has written about urban life, popular culture, photography, crime, and social history for thirty years. His books include Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, and the forthcoming Paris-Paname. He teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College, and is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on Declare Present Time Over, a documentary novel about the end of bohemia, 1979-82. 

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

Five Days in July, a collection of stories (fiction)

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is the author of the memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free, for which he received a Whiting Writers’ Award. His short stories and personal essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney's, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. His first book of short stories will be published by The Dial Press in 2013. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on a new book of stories based on the New York City draft riots of 1863.

John Wray

The Lost Time Accidents (fiction)

The David Ferriero Fellow

John Wray has published three novels – The Right Hand of Sleep, Canaan's Tongue, and Lowboy – which have earned him, among other distinctions, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a KEN fiction award, and the 2010 Mary Ellen von der Heyden Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. In 2007, Granta included him on its list of best American novelists under the age of 35. In addition to writing fiction, Wray is a regular contributor to Esquire, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine. At the Cullman Center, he will be writing a novel, The Lost Time Accidents, about a century in the life of a family of renegade physicists.

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers – housed, respectively, in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and the Science, Industry and Business Library – and 88 neighborhood libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items, including materials for the visually impaired. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English as a second language. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and another 25 million users internationally, who access collections and services through the NYPL website, .