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The Society for the Humanities at Cornell University seeks interdisciplinary research projects for residencies that reflect on the philosophical, aesthetic, political, legal, ecological, religious, and cultural understandings of authority. Selected Fellows will collaborate with the Taylor Family Director of the Society for the Humanities, Paul Fleming, Professor of Comparative Literature and German Studies. The Invited Society Scholars will be Prasenjit Duara, Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies at Duke University, Bonnie Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Political Science at Brown University, and Holly Hughes, Professor of Theatre and Drama at University of Michigan.

Four full year Faculty Fellowships are awarded to Cornell faculty each year by our Board of External Advisors. Fellows' appointments are subject to the consent of their department chair and the approval of the Dean. Applicants must be in at least their second year of tenure-track employment in order to apply for a Faculty Fellowship. Tradition has restricted fellowships to professors in humanities departments of the College of Arts and Sciences, though faculty members holding regular appointments elsewhere in the university are welcome to apply if their work is closely related to the year's theme and if their Dean is willing to provide their salary during their appointment at the Society.

Faculty Fellows receive leaves of absence from their departments, but not from Cornell; the College of Arts and Sciences allows the time spent as a Faculty Fellow to count in computing regular sabbatic leave. A Faculty Fellow is paid through his or her department the salary he or she would have received, plus Cornell's contribution to fringe benefits. (Applicants should inform their department chair of their intention to apply and receive a brief letter of support committing to prior release from teaching and advising. Where necessary, departments negotiate with the Dean for funds to help provide replacement teaching.) Office space and clerical assistance in matters related to the Fellow's research are provided in the Andrew D. White Center for the Humanities.

Faculty Fellows are released from, and are expected to decline, the usual departmental, college, or university obligations. An exception is normally made for supervision of graduate student research in cases where an interruption would be detrimental to the student. Fellows are expected to spend most of their time in research and writing, but they offer a weekly seminar during one semester of their residency on a topic related to their research and in keeping with the Society's focal theme. We prefer that these seminars be somewhat experimental and interdisciplinary -- in any case, not what you normally offer to satisfy established curricular requirements of your department.


Please email the following application materials to by October 31, 2017. Please email materials in a single PDF in the order listed below with the subject line “FACULTY FELLOWSHIP APPLICATION_Last Name”. *Note especially item 5.*

1. Curriculum Vitae

2. List of the leaves and fellowships you have held in the past three years (including study leave)

3. From the Department Chair, a brief letter of support committing to prior release from teaching and advising upon receipt of a fellowship..

4. A one-page abstract describing the research project the applicant would like to pursue during the term of the fellowship (no more than 300 words)

5. A detailed statement of the research project (1,000 – 2,000 words). Applicants may also include a one-page bibliography of the most essential materials to the project

6. A course proposal for a seminar related to the applicant’s research. Seminars meet two hours per week for one semester and enrollment is limited to fifteen advanced undergraduates and graduate students. The course proposal should consist of:

a. A brief course description suitable for the University course catalog (50 - 125 words)

b. A detailed course proposal (up to 300 words)

c. A list of the essential texts for the course

7. No more than three of your articles.

8. The names of three referees who will supply letters. One of the referees should be a colleague at Cornell; the other two, scholars at other institutions. Please inform your referees of our focal theme, your proposed plans for teaching and research, and ask them to send their letters either electronically or by post by October 31st.

We must stress the importance of our being able to supply all these materials to the External Advisory Board; it should be obvious that letters from distinguished referees at other institutions are extremely important. We might add that the Board generally gives special weight to candidates' descriptions of their proposed research and the contribution it might make to our understanding of the year's theme.

We hope you will consider becoming a candidate. If you would like to apply, please send the above materials by October 31, 2017. We shall announce the results of the election of the Faculty Fellows after the meeting of the External Advisory Board in December.

Society for the Humanities Focal Theme, 2018-2019:

The Society for the Humanities at Cornell University seeks interdisciplinary research projects for residencies that reflect on the philosophical, aesthetic, political, legal, ecological, religious, and cultural understandings of authority.

From auctoritas to the author to authoritarianism, the question of authority – whether grounded in epistemological expertise, juridical power, rhetorical persuasiveness, creative innovation, divine decree, or political charisma – is inextricable from humanistic inquiry and critique. With authority, the power to decide, to authorize, to adjudicate, to rule, and to hold sway stands or falls – in science, law, art, oratory, religion, or politics. The Society invites scholarly projects that trace the consequences, crises, and possibilities of authority across historical periods, disciplinary boundaries, geographic territories, and social contexts.

At stake in authority is who or what authorizes and bestows power, prestige, and influence. On what basis does authority claim to rule? Knowledge? Law? Charisma? Popular will? The sovereign word? Tradition? Moreover, each expression of authority calls forth its contestation and opposition. At times authority is contested within the same discursive sphere (e.g. different scientific paradigms or hermeneutic interpretations at loggerheads); at times, however, the opposition is based on another source of authority: religious law vs. secular law; scientific knowledge vs. political will; economic concerns vs. ethical concerns. At such junctures, the question then arises: who or what power adjudicates the conflict between appeals to different authoritative instances?

The Society invites scholars to explore the ‘ends of authority,’ understood as its purposes, goals, and ideals as well as its limitations, aporias, and paradoxes. Applicants could investigate the rise of authoritarianism across different historical and political or religious contexts, exploring its conditions, its appeal, its critiques. One could research the crisis of scientific authority, in which expertise itself is called into question on grounds that are impervious to scientific argumentation. Considering the death of the author, one could question what signs, strokes, words, tics, and idiosyncrasies determine a text’s or artwork’s ‘author’; what authorizes an original from its copy or fake; or the degree to which the authority of a few authors still determines research fields today. In the age of a superabundance of information, what differentiates ‘real’ (authoritative) information from ‘fake news,’ and how one can be interchanged with the other as an ‘equal’ source of authority?