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Classics scholar awarded Guggenheim fellowship

Eric Rebillard, the Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities in the Department of Classics, in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a 2020 fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

A historian of early Christianity and late antiquity, Rebillard is one of 175 writers, artists, scholars and scientists awarded the Guggenheim fellowship this year, selected from nearly 3,000 applicants.

Eric Rebillard

Fellowships are awarded through a rigorous peer-review process based on prior achievement and exceptional promise, according to the foundation. Grants spanning six to 12 months aim to give fellows time to work with as much creative freedom as possible, and with no special conditions attached.

“As we grapple with the difficulties of the moment, it is also important to look to the future,” foundation President Edward Hirsch said in a press release of the fellowships, announced in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. “The artists, writers, scholars and scientific researchers supported by the fellowship will help us understand and learn from what we are enduring individually and collectively, and it is an honor for the foundation to help them do their essential work.”

Rebillard plans to work on a monograph, “Redescribing the Triumph of Christianity,” that challenges traditional accounts of the rise of Christianity, according to the foundation. Christianity’s success, he argues, should be measured by the transformative effects it had on the culture, structures of knowledge and religious practices of the Mediterranean world, not by the number of its converts.

An expert in the transformations of religious practices in late antiquity, Rebillard is an editor of six volumes and the author of five books, most recently “Greek and Latin Narratives about the Ancient Martyrs” (2017), a collection of texts focused on early martyr narratives. The same research will produce a forthcoming monograph, “The Early Martyr Narratives: Neither Authentic Accounts Nor Forgeries.”

His previously published books include “Christians and their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE” (2016), “Transformations of Religious Practices in Late Antiquity” (2014) and “The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity” (2009).

Rebillard joined Cornell in 2004 after holding a research position at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). He received his Ph.D. from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1993 and is a former member of the École française de Rome.

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Gillian Smith