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Mellon Foundation grant funds Sawyer seminar

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Cornell $175,000 to offer a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the comparative study of cultures.

To be housed and administered by the Society for the Humanities, the seminar will focus on the topic of “Political Will” under the direction of Elizabeth Anker, associate professor of English; Tracy McNulty, professor of Romance studies; Camille Robcis, assistant professor of history; and Neil Saccamano, associate professor of English and comparative literature.

“We are deeply grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for recognizing the quality of our faculty proposal with this significant award,” said President David Skorton, “as well as for its extensive contributions, over many years, to enhancing the quality of the humanities at Cornell.”

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer program aims to engage leading scholars in comparative inquiry that otherwise would be difficult to pursue, while enabling temporary research centers on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.

The Cornell project will reflect on the concept of “political will,” including shared consent of the people that legitimizes a democracy. The seminar will also examine sovereignty and aesthetics.

The grant supports a series of weekly seminars, visiting lectures, workshops and a public conference aimed at broad audiences at Cornell and across central New York. The seminar will include Cornell faculty and graduate students as well as faculty from the Central New York Humanities Corridor, a collaborative effort with Syracuse University and the University of Rochester also supported by the Mellon Foundation. The Sawyer award covers development costs, guest lectures, and funds for a postdoctoral teaching fellow and two graduate student fellows who will participate in the seminar.

The Sawyer Seminar will be offered in 2014-15 and, according to Timothy Murray, director of the Society for the Humanities, will contribute to the society’s celebrations of Cornell’s sesquicentennial.

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John Carberry