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The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Announces 2014-2015 Fellows


The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Announces 2014-2015 Fellows

Hal Foster, Keith Gessen, Megan Marshall, Ayana Mathis, Steven Pincus, Dash Shaw, and Justin Torres among 2014-2015 Cullman Center Fellows

April 22, 2014 – The New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers has selected its sixteenth class of Fellows: fifteen extraordinarily talented independent scholars, academics, and creative writers whose work will benefit directly from access to the collections at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Chosen from a pool of 288 applicants from 24 countries, the 2014 class of Cullman Center Fellows includes:

  • The novelists Keith Gessen, Ayana Mathis, Jordi Puntí, and Justin Torres
  • The historians Deborah Coen, Kim Phillips-Fein, and Steven Pincus
  • The non-fiction writers Jon Lee Anderson and Megan Marshall

"I am tremendously proud to welcome the Cullman Center's new class of Fellows to The New York Public Library," said NYPL President Tony Marx. "The Cullman Center offers these talented individuals access to our world-renowned collections within an environment that inspires and supports their exciting work. I congratulate the new Fellows and look forward to seeing the unique and creative ways they engage with our collections."

The 2014 class of Fellows will be in residence at the Cullman Center from September 2014 through May 2015. Each Fellow receives a stipend, a private office in the Cullman Center’s handsome quarters at The New York Public Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street and full access to the incomparable research collections and online resources there, as well as the invaluable assistance of the Library’s curatorial and reference staff. The projects the Fellows will work on during their tenure include: a graphic novel about a Quaker during the American Civil War (Dash Shaw); a novel about a blues singer and her estranged daughter (Ayana Mathis); biographies of Fidel Castro (Jon Lee Anderson), and Nathaniel Hawthorne's sister Elizabeth (Megan Marshall); studies of Iran in the 1960s and '70s (Negar Azimi), the killing of Archbishop Romero and the death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s (Carlos Dada), the relationships between natural disasters and the Renaissance imagination (Gerard Passannante), climate science in 19th-century central Europe (Deborah Coen), modernism in 20th-century art (Hal Foster), and the origins of the British Empire (Steven Pincus).

"This will be a terrific group of Fellows, coming from many countries and working on an extraordinary range of topics," said Jean Strouse, the Sue Ann and John Weinberg Director of the Cullman Center. "It is a measure of NYPL’s fantastic research collections that next year we will all be learning about, among other things, Fidel Castro, Hawthorne’s sister, Xavier Cugat, Quaker soldiers, climate science, modern art, life in Russia, lyric poems, earthquakes, Britain, fiscal crises, blues, New York, Iran.  In addition to delving deeply into NYPL resources and working with our superb curators, the Fellows will be surprised by how much they gain from the rich, cross-disciplinary exchanges of ideas that take place here throughout the year. It promises to be a lot of fun!"

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 lunch-time talks and public Conversations from the Cullman Center, a series of evening programs featuring Cullman Center alumni.

Many Cullman Center Fellows publish critically-acclaimed works based on the research and writing they do while in residence at the Library, and receive distinguished honors and awards. In 2013, President Obama awarded the National Humanities medal to Camilo José Vergara; C.E. Morgan won a Whiting Young Writers’ Award; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded so-called "genius" grants to Karen Russell and Donald Antrim; and Álvaro Enrigue won Spain’s Herralde Prize for his novel Sudden Death, which will be published in the U.S. next spring. Recently, Deborah Baker, Hari Kunzru, and David Sandlin were among those awarded Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. And the incoming Fellow Megan Marshall just won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.

Other award-winning and prominent past Cullman Center Fellows include André Aciman, David Blight, Ian Buruma, Jennifer Egan, Nathan Englander, Will Eno, James Fenton, Ian Frazier, Nell Freudenberger, Annette Gordon-Reed, Philip Gourevitch, Anthony Grafton, David Grann, Maya Jasanoff, Ben Katchor, Nicole Krauss, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Hermione Lee, Colum McCann, Pankaj Mishra, Téa Obreht, Darryl Pinckney, Lauren Redniss, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Danzy Senna, James Shapiro, T.J. Stiles, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Colm Tóibín, and Colson Whitehead.

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

About the 2014-2015 Fellowat the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers

Jon Lee Anderson

The Great Conspirator: The Extraordinary Life of Fidel Castro

Jon Lee Anderson is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of a number of books including Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and The Fall of Baghdad. His honors include several awards from the Overseas Press Club of New York, and, from Spain, the Liberpress, Terenci Moix, and Reporteros del Mundo awards. In 2013 he received Columbia University's Maria Moors Cabot Prize for his reporting in Latin America. At the Cullman Center he will be working on a book about Fidel Castro. 

Negar Azimi

The Shahbanou and the Iranian Avant-Garde

Negar Azimi’s writing has appeared in Artforum, Frieze, The Nation, The New York Review of Books blogand The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. Since 2004 Azimi has been Senior Editor at Bidoun, an award-winning arts and culture magazine with a focus on the Middle East and its diaspora. She sits on the board of Artists Space in New York, is a member of the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut, and has received an Arts Writers Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. At the Cullman Center she will work on a book about the 1960s and ‘70s in Iran.

Deborah Coen

Dynamic Empire: Climate and Circulation in Late Imperial Austria


Deborah Coen is Associate Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she teaches modern European history and the history of science. She is the author of Vienna in the Age of Uncertainty: Science, Liberalism, and Private Life, which won, among other awards, the Austrian Cultural Forum's book prize, and of The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter. At the Cullman Center she will be working on a history of climate science and the politics of scale in nineteenth-century central Europe.

Carlos Dada

The United States, Archbishop Romero and the Salvadoran Death Squads

Carlos Dada is the founder and editor of El Faro, an online news site based in San Salvador. A Knight Fellow at Stanford in 2005 and a member of the Cabot Prizes Board at Columbia University, Dada has received the Maria Moors Cabot Award and the Internazionale Premio Anna Politkovskaja Award, among other prizes. His journalism has focused on war crimes and impunity. During his stay at the Cullman Center he will be working on a book about the killing of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.

Hal Foster

Bathetic, Brutal, Banal: Strategies of Survival in 20th-Century Art

Hal Foster is Townsend Martin Class of 1917 Professor of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is a winner of the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing and the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism, and a regular contributor to The London Review of BooksArtforum, and October (which he co-edits). His most recent books are The Art-Architecture Complex and The First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter, and Ruscha. At the Cullman Center he will work on a book that explores the enigmatic thesis of Walter Benjamin that modernism "teaches us to outlive culture, if need be."  

Keith Gessen

Russia, a novel

Keith Gessen is a founder of the literary magazine n+1 and the author of All the Sad Young Literary Men. From Russian he has translated Ludmilla Petrushevskaya and Kirill Medvedev, and has written about Russian politics and culture for The New YorkerThe London Review of Books, and n+1. At the Cullman Center he will be working on his second novel, Russia.

Kenneth Gross

Time’s Ear: An Essay on the Lyric

Kenneth Gross is the Alan F. Hilfiker Distinguished Professor of English at Rochester University. His numerous books include The Dream of the Moving StatueShakespeare’s NoiseShylock is Shakespeare, and, most recently, Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life, co-winner of the 2011-2012 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. While at the Cullman Center he will be working on a book about the nature of lyric poetry, about the strange games lyric poetry plays with our ways of listening and knowing, and how it survives in time and memory.

Megan Marshall

Ebe: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Forgotten Sister

The Gilder Lehrman Fellow

Megan Marshall, an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Emerson College, is the author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism, which also won several prizes. Marshall’s work has appeared in The New York TimesSlateThe New YorkerThe Atlantic, and The London Review of Books, among other publications. At the Cullman Center Marshall will be writing a biography of Elizabeth Hawthorne, known as "Ebe," the brilliant, reclusive older sister of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Ayana Mathis

Untitled Novel

The Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellow

Ayana Mathis is the author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, a 2013 New York Times Notable Book of the Year, an NPR Best Book of the Year, and a top selection for Oprah's Book Club 2.0. Mathis's work has been published in The New York TimesThe Financial TimesEsquire, and The New Yorker. While at the Cullman Center she will be working on a novel about a septuagenarian blues singer and her estranged daughter. 

Gerard Passannante

Earthquakes of the Mind: On Sudden Shakings, Invisible Worlds, and the Making of Renaissance Knowledge

The Mellon Foundation Fellow

Gerard Passannante is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of The Lucretian Renaissance: Philology and the Afterlife of Tradition, which was awarded the American Comparative Literature Association’s 2014 Harry Levin Prize, and numerous articles on Renaissance literature, science, and intellectual history. At the Cullman Center he will be working on a book that explores the entanglements of natural disaster and the speculative imagination. 

Kim Phillips-Fein

Fear City: The New York City Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of the Age of Austerity

Kim Phillips-Fein is an Associate Professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, where she teaches 20th-century American political history. She is the author of Invisible Hands: The Businessmen's Crusade Against the New Deal. At the Cullman Center she will be writing a book about New York City's near-bankruptcy in 1975, the impact of the cutbacks to public institutions—including the city's libraries—that resulted from the fiscal crisis, and the transformation of the city between the 1970s and today. 

Steven Pincus

The Origins of the British Empire c. 1650-1784

The Birkelund Fellow

Steven Pincus is Bradford Durfee Professor of History and of Area and International Studies at Yale. He specializes in early modern British, European, and Atlantic History, and is the author of 1688: The First Modern Revolution, which the Economist named one of the best books on history published in 2009. Pincus will spend the Cullman Center fellowship year researching and writing a book on the origins of the British Empire.

Jordi Puntí

The Century of Mr. Cugat (a novel)

Jordi Puntí is an author, translator, and regular contributor to the Catalan and Spanish press. He lives in Barcelona and has published two collections of short stories and a memoir about his childhood in an industrial town in Spain in the 1970s. His first novel, Lost Luggage, was translated into sixteen languages and won the Spanish National Critics’ Award, the Catalan Booksellers Prize, and the Lletra d’Or. At the Cullman Center Puntí will be working on a novel inspired by the life of the musician Xavier Cugat. 

Dash Shaw


The David Ferriero Fellow

Dash Shaw is a graphic novelist and animator. His most recent book, New School, was named one of the best books of 2013 by NPR. Shaw’s previous works include BodyWorld and Bottomless Belly Button, and the animations Seraph and Wheel of Fortune. At the Cullman Center he will work on a graphic novel about a Quaker during the American Civil War. 

Justin Torres

Yesterday is Here (a novel)

Justin Torres is the author of We the Animals, which has been translated into fourteen languages. He has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, Tin House, The Washington Post, Glimmer Train, Flaunt, and other publications. He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and most recently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The National Book Foundation named him one of 2012's 5 Under 35. He received a Rolón Fellowship in Literature from United States Artists and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. At the Cullman Center he will work on completing his second novel.

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, Helen and Roger Alcaly, Mel and Lois Tukman, The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, William W. Karatz, Mary Ellen von der Heyden, The Arts and Letters Foundation, Merilee and Roy Bostock, Lybess Sweezy and Ken Miller, and Cullman Center Fellows.

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