Magic Awards 2019-20

The Humanities Council is proud to announce the 2019-20 awardees of David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grants for innovation.

Awards support the work of faculty across campus who bring innovative and collaborative teaching in the humanities and build bridges across departments and disciplines.

Awards are given in the following categories:

  • New Projects in the Humanities
  • Team Teaching Grants in Humanistic Studies
  • Curricular Innovation
  • Collaborative Humanities

This year’s themes are diverse, ranging from “Policing Urban America” to the “Science of Roman History” and “The Past, Present, and Future of Incarceration.”

We are excited to support 27 new and multi-year Magic projects involving 45 faculty from 23 different departments and programs across the University.


New Projects in the Humanities

These grants support first-time projects with the potential to change how the humanities are conceived and taught. 

Policing Urban America
Laurence Ralph (Anthropology)

This project renders ethnographic interviews into an animated series. The films will be screened publicly and serve as a pedagogical tool in Princeton courses and in a new initiative within the Chicago Public School system, aimed at teaching the history of police violence to middle and high school students.

Piranesi on the Page
Carolyn Yerkes (Art and Archaeology)

Known as an artist, etcher, and architect, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778)  was also a maker of bound books. An exhibit opening in Firestone Library’s new galleries in September 2020 demonstrates how he combined his creative obsessions most vividly.

The Power of LIFE: LIFE Magazine and American Photography, 1936–1972
James Steward and Katherine Bussard (Princeton University Art Museum)

On view at the Princeton University Art Museum from February to June, 2020, this exhibit considers how the iconic magazine LIFE shaped the modern idea of photography and Americans’ idea of themselves and their modern history. Co-organized with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

African Spirituality in Global Consciousness: Magic, Vision, Truth
Lauren Coyle Rosen (Anthropology)

A year of workshops and lectures explores the histories of “traditional” African spirituality in Africa and the diaspora, generating insights about “magical” aspects of humanistic knowing and being from a range of disciplines–theology, anthropology, history, literature, sociology, art, and philosophy. 

Tang-Song Transition Workshop
Anna Shields (East Asian Studies)

In its second year, the workshop uses resources in Princeton University Art Museum, Marquand Library, and Gest Library to take an interdisciplinary approach an epochal shift in Chinese history, from China’s medieval to early modern period.

50th Anniversary of Co-Education at Princeton
Jane Cox (Theater, Lewis Center for the Arts)

Journalistic research by three generations of Princeton women—current students, professional artist alumnae, and the first generation of graduating women—will culminate in a Lewis Center for the Arts theatrical event exploring the experiences of women at Princeton.

Paris, Modern: Workshop Series
Joshua Kotin (English) and Effie Rentzou (French & Italian)

Four workshops related to a team-taught graduate course, “Paris, Modern” (Fall 2019) will feature works-in-progress by well­-known scholars of the artistic, literary, and intellectual culture in Paris between 1905 and 1940.

Atmospheric Perspective
Sylvia Lavin (Architecture)

Seminars on the environmental historiography of architecture will cross with histories of drawing, representation, architecture, and the environmental humanities, working with source materials and developing skills in collaborative research and curatorial techniques.


Team Teaching Grants in Humanistic Studies

These new team-taught courses reach across disciplines and address topics of broad interest. They fulfill the capstone seminar requirement for the Humanistic Studies certificate. All courses are supported by the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project in the Humanities Council.

Poetry and the Digital World
Brian Kernighan (Computer Science) and Effie Rentzou (French & Italian)

A new capstone seminar in Humanistic Studies will bring together humanities and applied sciences, addressing questions of literacy, media, and modes of knowledge. Organized around two poles, poetry and digital technology, the course will explore each as a mode of understanding the real, but also as modes and media of distributing knowledge. The course will use geolocation, image recognition, and augmented reality to create a new interface for poetry–lifting it off the page. 

Incarceration in Antiquity
Matthew Larsen (Religion; Society of Fellows) and Caroline Cheung (Classics)

Expanding the history of incarceration beyond the prison-industrial complex, this project will create two new, team-taught courses in Humanistic Studies: “Incarceration in Roman Antiquity” (Fall 2019) and “Christianity and Incarceration” (Fall 2020). Undergraduates will travel to Montgomery, Alabama, and  to Corinth, Greece (with support from the Stanley J. Seeger ’52 Center for Hellenic Studies), where students will employ mapping and modeling technologies. The project will culminate in an interdisciplinary conference. Also supported by the Council for Science and Technology and the Center for Digital Humanities

Building Medieval Worlds
Sarah M. Anderson (English) and Janet E. Kay (History; Society of Fellows)

This new Humanistic Studies team-taught course (Spring 2020) will investigate how peoples in the early medieval period (400-1100 CE) constructed their cultural identities and negotiated their places within cultural and physical landscapes. Funds will support a class tour and gallery talk at the Morgan Library and at the Cloisters, as well as in-class workshops.

Near Eastern Humanities Sequence
Eve Krakowski (Near Eastern Studies) and Moulie Vidas (Religion) 

This year-long survey of Near Eastern literature, thought, and culture, designed roughly on the model of the Western and East Asian Humanities sequences offered by the Program in Humanistic Studies, will introduce students to a set of interconnected humanistic traditions as well as offer access to material that is rarely taught at Princeton. The inaugural course will be taught by Johannes Haubold (Classics) and Daniel Sheffield (Near Eastern Studies) in Fall 2019.


Curricular Innovation

These grants support new “breakthrough” courses with experiential or field components that move outside the traditional classroom setting. These grants also aim to enrich, deepen, and internationalize learning across the humanities curriculum.

Korean Language Learning in Virtual Environments: Exploring and Navigating the Metropolitan City of Seoul
Ho Jung Choi (East Asian Studies)

In a collaboration with Yonsei University in Seoul, a virtual reality pedagogy will be created for  Princeton’s Korean language courses, using VR 360 video footages. A virtual cultural and linguistic immersion will be complemented by an undergraduate break trip to Seoul.

Ancient Greek Religion: Place, Matter, Text
Joshua Billings (Classics) and Michael Flower (Classics)

Graduate students will explore theoretical approaches to space, landscape, material culture, ritual, magic, belief, and text, and visit case studies in Athens, Delphi, Olympia, and Eleusis.  The course combines the literary-critical analysis of ancient texts with an exploration of the relevant material and archaeological evidence.

Art, Culture and History in Poland (1050-1950)
Thomas Kaufmann (Art and Archaeology)

In a new course, “From Nation-Building to Nationalisms in Central Europe,” students will travel to distinctive geographical regions in Poland: Warsaw, Wrocław (Breslau), Silesia, and Krakow.  The trip will introduce students to the multi-cultural and multi-religious character of Polish cultural history, and present little seen masterpieces by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci.

Moscow on the Hudson: Fall Break Trip to Moscow
Katherine Reischl (Slavic) and Aaron Shkuda (Princeton-Mellon Initiative)

This course explores literary and cultural studies in an urban studies context, at two seemingly disparate sites, from Central Park to Gorky Park. Students will experience the physical construct of sites, locations, and expressions of cultural identity in both Moscow and New York City.

The Science of Roman History
Caroline Cheung (Classics)

Methods from history, archaeology, chemistry, biology, and mathematics will shed light on understudied and neglected aspects of ancient history, through case studies and hands-on experiences.. Also supported by the 250th Anniversary Fund and the Council for Science and Technology

Understor(e)y
Rebecca Lazier (Dance, Lewis Center for the Arts) and Sigrid Adriaenssens (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

The grant will support reflections on a collaborative art and engineering project at the Lewis Center for the Arts, designed to bridge the humanities and engineering through the creation of interdisciplinary choreographic sculptures and interactive tensile structures. The grant will also support a culminating festival of talks, performances, and long-table discussions.

Yakutsk, Siberia
Simon Morrison (Music)

As part of a PIIRS Global Seminar, students will travel from Moscow to Yakutsk, Siberia, to study the effects of climate change in the region, learn about the Indigenous culture, examine the history of the GULAG prison camp system, and explore the natural environment (cave complexes and waterways).

Read about Past Magic Projects.


Collaborative Humanities

The David A. Gardner Magic grants help support a number of ambitious multi-year research and teaching collaborations as they develop new scholarly networks in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, China, and North and South America..

New Global Initiatives

Starting in 2019, Magic funds will support four new Global Initiatives led by Princeton faculty: Jonathan Gold (Religion; South Asian Studies), Wendy Belcher (Comaparative Literature; African Studies), Rhae Lynn Barnes (History), and Jamie Reuland (Music) and Beatrice Kitzinger (Art and Archaeology).

Exploratory Grants

In 2019-20, the Council’s Magic fund provided four one-year
Exploratory Grants to help faculty spark new collaborations at Princeton and beyond. Elena Fratto (Slavic), Christine Sagnier (French), Katherine Reischl (Slavic), and Judith Weisenfeld (Religion) will each develop new multi-institutional collaborations and scholarly networks. The projects reach across the United States, Russia, Japan, France, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.


Read about all of the Humanities Council’s Funding Opportunities.

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