Critchley Talks to TNH about Onassis Fdn Renewing New School Philosophy Dept. Grant

Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy. Photo: Courtesy of The New School

NEW YORK – The Onassis Foundation has renewed a major grant to support graduate study of ancient Greek thought at The New School for Social Research (NSSR).

Established in 2015, the Onassis Foundation Fellowship at NSSR provides three years of generous stipends, tuition scholarships, and travel funding to PhD students in the Philosophy Department focusing on ancient Greek drama, philosophy, political theory, history, and poetry. This $640,000 renewal grant — the only dedicated Onassis Foundation funding for graduate student work in the world in 2019 — will back the Fellowship through 2024 and extend tuition and stipends to five more PhD students in the Philosophy Department.

Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy, has led the Fellowship since its inception and will continue as director, working closely with Dmitri Nikulin, Professor of Philosophy; Cinzia Arruzza, Associate Professor of Philosophy; and other colleagues. Critchley has collaborated with the Onassis Foundation for nearly a decade, and his latest book, Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us (Penguin Random House, 2019) is dedicated to the Foundation. Over the next four years, he plans to deepen connections between the Fellows and modern Greece, which he views as informed and shaped by antiquity.

Co-curator of A World of Emotions Professor Angelos Chaniotis, Simon Critchley- Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research, and Irish actress and director Fiona Shaw. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

“The ancient Greeks hold a mirror up to us. Their struggles and crises are extraordinarily relevant to those of our times,” said Critchley. “The Onassis Foundation has fundamentally changed the lives and academic careers of our first six fellows, who are drawing innovative connections between ancient and twenty-first century thought. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to lead this Fellowship for four more years, and for the Foundation’s ongoing support of this new generation of emerging scholars.”

Critchley spoke with The National Herald about the renewal of the grant and what it means for his own work and to the students. He noted that it will allow him to continue his work on the Greeks and tragedy, to go back to Athens, and the stipends the students receive will help with expenses and allow students the opportunity to spend time in Athens as well, to explore the relationship between the modern city and antiquity since the complexities are more interesting than only focusing on the ancient past. Critchley pointed out that Greeks have been told for hundreds of years by German, French, and British classicists who they are, but Byzantium and Orthodox Christianity have also shaped the culture. He added that the culture was also not bound by the confines of Greece’s modern borders. Greekness was more complex geographically whether they lived in Smyrna, Alexandria, Venice or Crete, the continuity of Greekness from ancient times to the present is a linguistic continuity… language holds the community together.

Critchley told TNH that Athens is having a moment culturally in response to the terrible crisis has shaken things up and organizations like the Onassis Foundation stepped up to act as “informal ministries of culture,” supporting the interesting work and projects that are emerging.

Additionally, the grant will continue to support the position of Onassis Lecturer in Ancient Greek Thought and Language. Joseph Lemelin, a scholar of Aristotle who also works on technology and artificial intelligence, will assume the lectureship. Currently a Berggruen Fellow at New York University, Lemelin earned his PhD in Philosophy from NSSR in 2018 and was a Mellon Fellow at the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography and Social Thought. He will take over from Miriam Kotwick, who helped build a love for ancient Greece among New School graduate and undergraduate students alike, and who will start as assistant professor of classics at the University of Cincinnati this fall.

Effie Tsiotsiou, Director of Education at the Onassis Foundation, said, “‘I shall be content if my work is judged useful by those who will want to have a clear understanding of what happened…’ Thucydides, along with philosophers and tragedians, reminds us the lasting influence of ancient Greek thought. The grant renewal at The New School of Social Research is the Onassis Foundation’s answer to a valid question: What can we still learn from classical thought? Simon Critchley, Joseph Lemelin, and the five additional Philosophy PhD students are starting a new chapter in the tradition of the Onassis Foundation, which promotes the values of education, innovation, and excellence.”

“Ancient Greek thought has been at the intellectual core of NSSR’s Philosophy Department for decades,” says William Milberg, NSSR Dean and Professor of Economics. “Over the past four years, support from the Onassis Foundation has allowed our faculty and students to build on that legacy in new and exciting ways, creating a rich living context of research and teaching on ancient Greece across The New School. This grant renewal affirms that important work and I greatly look forward to the next four years.”

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.

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