Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellows

The Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships, which ACLS offered from 2001 through 2015, provided advanced assistant professors and untenured associate professors in the humanities and related social sciences with time and resources to pursue their research under optimal conditions. The Ryskamp Fellowships particularly recognized those whose scholarly contributions have advanced their fields and who had well designed and carefully developed plans for new research.
Generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, these fellowships were named for Charles A. Ryskamp, literary scholar, distinguished library and museum director, and long-serving trustee of the Mellon Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Mustafa Aksakal
Mustafa Aksakal  |  Abstract
This study takes a holistic view of the First World War and the Ottoman wartime experience. It ties together operational history with the empire’s national mobilization and its dramatic domestic developments, from the Balkans to Libya, the Caucasus to the Persian Gulf. It recognizes the interconnection of these narratives and explores the totality of war in the eastern Mediterranean.

Assistant Professor, History, American University  -  Ottoman Society at War, 1914-1918

Anne E. Lester
Anne E. Lester  |  Abstract
In 1204 European crusaders captured the Byzantine city of Constantinople, established a Latin Empire in Greece and in the years that followed French knights sent hundreds of precious objects and relics from Greek treasuries and chapels to their homeland. This study analyzes the movement and meaning of these objects of devotion within the social and familial networks of northern France. Moving beyond a narrative of military events, this study offers a new history of the materiality of crusading, of the role of women and remembrance, and of the changes in religious ideas and practices that the import of eastern relics precipitated. As the crusades failed militarily during the thirteenth century, the appropriated fragments of devotion recreated the Holy Land in the religious landscape of France.

Assistant Professor, History, University of Colorado, Boulder  -  Fragments of Devotion: Relics and Remembrance in the Time of the Fourth Crusade, 1204-1248

Alexander Jamieson Beecroft
Alexander Jamieson Beecroft  |  Abstract
Increasing scholarly and pedagogical interest is turning to the question of "world literature," and to how Comparative Literature in particular as a discipline might best reimagine itself to integrate more fully literatures from outside the modern west. One of the largest problems here is theoretical: existing models of world literature rely heavily on economic metaphors derived from world-systems theory, and these models lose their explanatory power the further we move from our own time and place. This project replaces that economic metaphor with one taken from ecology, to examine the interactions of literatures with their environments typologically and comparatively, and to imagine the discipline of Comparative Literature as constituted around that question.

Associate Professor, Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University of South Carolina  -  An Ecology of Verbal Art: Literature and its Worlds from the Local to the Global

Guy Ortolano
Guy Ortolano  |  Abstract
This project examines one of the the most ambitious programs of urban development in European history: the British New Towns. During the quarter century after 1945, the British state built 32 cities from scratch. At the program’s peak in the 1960s, as urban riots were rattling the confidence of American liberals, these British New Towns attracted attention and investment from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. But by the time that Margaret Thatcher’s government began to dismantle the New Towns program during the 1980s, the assumptions that once sustained this social vision had unraveled. As a result, British New Towns created through the agency of state planning ironically become the testing ground for liberal privatization.

Assistant Professor, History, New York University  -  British New Towns and the Unmaking of Mid-Century Modernism

Jacob P. Dalton
Jacob P. Dalton  |  Abstract
A century ago, a cache of manuscripts was discovered in a cave near Dunhuang on the old Silk Road. Among the documents were several hundred tantric texts in Tibetan, almost all ritual manuals. The advent of the tantras in seventh- and eighth-century India marked a watershed for ritual technologies across much of Asia, yet this important repository of ancient texts has yet to be mined. Ritual manuals of the sort found in Dunhuang were crucial to the evolution of the tantras. Evanescent, often locally produced, and ever open to revision, they were the literary crucible in which the tantras were forged. This project investigates what the Dunhuang manuscripts can tell us about the origins and early development of Tantra in India.

Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures and South and South East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley  -  On the Origins and Early Development of Tantra, Buddhist Ritual Manuals from Dunhuang

Lori Watt
Lori Watt  |  Abstract
In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied militaries moved millions of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and other civilians throughout Asia in addition to the 3.7 million defeated Japanese soldiers they had come to demobilize. American soldiers, Japanese colonial officials, and transnational aid workers all participated, and the sources they generated reveal the challenges of placing individuals and families into single national categories in the aftermath of empire. The transfers, in which the Allies simultaneously adjusted geographical boundaries and moved people to fit them, transformed fluid colonial identities into fixed national ones and transmitted extant colonial views to the Americans, profoundly shaping postwar East Asia. This project thus integrates the end of the Japanese empire into the world history of decolonization.

Assistant Professor, History, Washington University in St. Louis  -  The Allies and the Decolonization of the Japanese Empire

Michael Gubser
Michael Gubser  |  Abstract
Although German phenomenology is sometimes discounted as overly epistemological and solipsistic, the movement produced systematic reflection on moral concerns as well as ardent calls to renew European societies facing crisis in interwar Europe and, later, the Communist bloc. The self-appointed mandate to lead a philosophical-cum-social renewal informed the tradition’s wider purposes and, in the hands of East European dissidents, reshaped contemporary politics. This project traces the history of phenomenological ethics in Central Europe from its founders Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl through its reception in East Central Europe by dissident thinkers such as Jan Patocka and Karol Wojtyla.

Assistant Professor, History, James Madison University  -  The Far Reaches: Ethics, Phenomenology, and the Call for Social Renewal in Twentieth-Century Central Europe

Michael Chad Wellmon
Michael Chad Wellmon  |  Abstract
This project recounts how disciplinarity emerged as the last and most lasting tool of the Enlightenment. Framing the Enlightenment as both a philosophical project and a historical set of technologies and practices for managing the proliferation of print, it outlines a shift from an encyclopedic to a disciplinary arrangement of knowledge in late eighteenth-century Germany. This new order of knowledge remained underdetermined, however, until an institutional framework emerged to insure its continuity. This order became disciplinary in the contemporary sense, this project argues, with the founding of the University of Berlin in 1810. The modern university and disciplinarity were mutually constitutive responses to changes in the organization and transmission of knowledge in the Enlightenment.

Assistant Professor, Germanic Literature and Languages, University of Virginia  -  Organizing Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Information Overload and the Invention of Disciplinarity

Cornelia B. Horn
Cornelia B. Horn  |  Abstract
This examination of interactions between early Islamic and normative ancient Christian literatures gives rise to a new hypothesis of the transmission mechanism and conceptual framework that plausibly describe the presence and significance of Christian apocryphal texts in the Qur’an and in the Islamic presentation of New Testament figures. First stands the new insight that the Qur’an itself is part of the transmission history of Christian apocryphal stories. The second aspect concerns the pre-Qur’anic transmission history, including the roles of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, Syriac Christianity, and Manichaeism. The third aspect accounts for the important observation that later stages of the reception of Christian apocrypha reveal the influence of Islam on the shape of Christian literature.

Assistant Professor, Theological Studies, Saint Louis University  -  The Reception of Apocryphal Traditions: Bridging Islam and Christianity in the First Millennium

Carl C. Wennerlind
Carl C. Wennerlind  |  Abstract
This project explores the changing conceptual nature of scarcity from early modern Aristotelian-influenced thinking to modern neo-classical economics. Despite a general recognition of scarcity's centrality to political economy throughout the discipline's history, limited attention has been focused on how the notion of scarcity has evolved over time. In tracing how scarcity can sometimes be viewed as a fact of nature and other times as a product of historically-specific cultural practices, this study examines the political and ideological implications of different ways of framing the relationship between humanity, nature, and the world of goods.

Assistant Professor, History, Barnard College  -  Scarcity: Historicizing the First Principle of Political Economy

Boris Kment
Boris Kment  |  Abstract
Much of human thought is concerned not with how things actually are, but with alternative possibilities (how we could have acted, how history could have unfolded, etc.). The notion of a possibility (a way things could have been) is indispensable for common-sense thought and in the human and natural sciences. Philosophers have investigated it intensively, but its nature has proven elusive. This project proposes a new analysis of the notion. Unlike previous studies, it starts from a hypothesis about why creatures like us have developed the concept of a possibility: the notion originated in such practices as providing explanations and making decisions, where we ask what would be true if such-and-such were the case. This approach solves numerous problems that have beset previous analyses.

Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Princeton University  -  On the Origin and Nature of Our Concept of Possibility

Edward N. Wright-Rios
Edward N. Wright-Rios  |  Abstract
This project examines the apocryphal female prophecy narrative embedded in conflicts plaguing modern Mexico. It brings together the study of the feminization of piety, print culture and commerce, Catholic intransigence, female religious leadership and innovation, conceptions of fanaticism, satirical journalism, photography, and reformist literary endeavors. It reveals that Mexicans conjured multiple “Matianas” (versions of the prophetess and her visions) over approximately a century as they struggled to define the nation amidst evolving gendered notions of authenticity, legitimacy, religiosity, and modernity.

Assistant Professor, History, Vanderbilt University  -  Searching for Madre Matiana: Prophecy, Politics, and Female Piety in Modern Mexico