Two Stanford scholars win Guggenheim Fellowships

WALTER SCHEIDEL, a professor of history and of classics, and ANTHONY MARRA, a lecturer in Stanford’s Creative Writing Program, have been awarded 2015 Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Scheidel and Marra are two of 175 scholars, artists, and scientists who received a Fellowship this year, selected on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise from among more than

Photo of Walter Scheidel
Walter Scheidel

3,000 candidates.

Scheidel, an expert on the social and economic history of ancient Rome, takes a comparative and trans-disciplinary approach to the study of ancient history.

He plans to use the opportunity to work on a global history of wealth and income inequality from antiquity to the present.

“I am asking which factors have been capable of significantly reducing inequality in the past, and it turns out that over thousands of years they have generally involved violent shocks. Mass mobilization wars, transformative revolutions, state collapse and pandemics have been the most potent leveling mechanisms in history,” Scheidel said.

Scheidel has written or co-edited 15 books. He most recently edited State Power in Ancient China and Rome (Oxford Universty Press, 2015), which examines the differences and similarities between the two largest ancient empires. The study sheds new light on state formation and the nature of imperial rule.

He has been awarded a New Directions Fellowship by the Mellon Foundation and is a corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Anthony Marra

Photo of Anthony Marra
Anthony Marra

Marra teaches fiction in Stanford’s Creative Writing Program. His first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, is set in contemporary Chechnya. Marra has traveled extensively through that region in southern Russia, which has endured devastating wars, occupations and insurgencies for the past 20 years.

Marra said he “was surprised, thrilled, and deeply grateful” to receive the Guggenheim fellowship, particularly because so many writers who inspire his work are past recipients of the honor.

Marra says he will use the fellowship to work on a novel about “enemy aliens” – Americans in Italy, and Italians in America – in the years leading up to World War II.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena won the National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction, as well as the inaugural Carla Furstenberg Cohen Fiction Award. Marra also is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Narrative Prize. His work has also been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Guggenheim Fellowships are made for a minimum of six months and a maximum of one year and are designed to help provide fellows with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible. Award amounts vary. For more information, visit the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.