Brown, Nehamas chosen for new Mellon Foundation awards

Two Princeton professors are among the first five recipients of the Andrew Mellon Foundation 's new Distinguished Achievement Awards for scholars in the humanities.

They are Peter Brown, the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History , and Alexander Nehamas, the Edmund Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities and professor of philosophy and comparative literature .

The three-year awards, worth up to $1.5 million each, will provide the recipients and their institutions with opportunities to deepen and extend humanistic research. They are intended to benefit not only the individual scholars, but also their institutions and scholarship more broadly. The funds, which will be granted to and overseen by the institutions with which the recipients are affiliated, will underwrite salaries, research assistance and expenses, and support for colleagues engaged in collaboration with the awardees. They will be structured to meet the recipients' individual scholarly needs.

The Distinguished Achievement Awards have two objectives: to enable notable scholars in the humanities to pursue their work under especially favorable conditions; and to underscore the decisive contributions the humanities make to the nation's intellectual life. The awards are intended for those who have made major contributions to their own disciplines, whose influence may well have extended more broadly to other fields and whose current work promises to make significant new advances through both teaching and research.

"The Andrew Mellon Foundation has, from its inception, been dedicated to enabling first-rate scholars and institutions to cultivate and to advance humanistic learning and understanding," said Hanna Gray, the foundation's chair. "These new awards are made in recognition of individuals who have excelled in that mission and whose work and influence continue to enrich the broader community of humanistic studies."

Peter Brown

Beginning with his broadly influential biography of St. Augustine, Brown has demonstrated a wide range of talent. He is credited with having created the study of late antiquity, that crucial historical period in which paganism yielded to Christianity, and with opening up other new fields of inquiry.

His own studies have been very diverse, covering such subjects as the cult of saints, conceptions of the body, rhetoric and power, sexuality and the rise of Christendom. In the process, his writings have illuminated distinctive features of late antiquity, while shaping the studies of successive generations of classical and medieval scholars. Brown has been at Princeton since 1983.

"I'm deeply honored by the award," said Brown, who is currently studying issues of poverty, wealth and care of the poor in early Christianity and in the last centuries of the Roman Empire. "I know how generous and how very thoughtful the Mellon Foundation is."

Alexander Nehamas

Nehamas has made major contributions in classics and ancient philosophy, especially in the study of Plato. He also has written on Nietzsche and Foucault, as well as on "modern anxieties" and the aesthetics of popular culture.

By placing interpretation at the center of his work, he has sustained philosophy as a discipline that is once again relevant to other fields such as art history, literary criticism and religious studies. He has been at Princeton since 1990, and has served as chair of the Council of the Humanities since 1994.

"The Mellon Award is extraordinary because it recognizes the importance of the humanities in a manner unprecedented in American intellectual life," Nehamas said. "It is also extraordinary because of the opportunities it provides: to consider the general direction of my thinking, to follow paths I have not taken before -- sometimes in the company of others who may share my interests -- and to reconsider my teaching and the ways in which my work can affect a broader public."

The other award winners are: Stephen Greenblatt, professor of the humanities at Harvard University; Sabine MacCormack, professor of history and classical studies at the University of Michigan; and Robert Pippin, professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601