Five Montgomery Fellows to visit College

by Frances Cohen | 4/26/17 2:50am

This term, five writers, artists and performers from around the world will receive the Montgomery Fellowship, a 40-year old program that brings distinguished figures to the College from both academic and non-academic fields. The fellows in residence this term are author André Aciman, performing artist Rhodessa Jones, poet José Kozer, novelist Édouard Louis and photographer Fazal Sheikh.

First, faculty and staff nominate individuals to become Montgomery Fellows and then a steering committee chooses specific candidates. Fellows typically live at a designated house by Occom Pond. While in residence, the fellows participate in a range of intellectual activities with students and faculty, which includes visiting classes, participating in group discussions and giving lectures.

This term’s five fellows will be visiting the College for varying time periods throughout the term.

Sheikh, who is on campus this week, has received a MacArthur fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship for his photography featuring refugees and other marginalized people. His talk on Tuesday focused on his recent series, “The Erasure Trilogy,” a five-year body of work that was conducted in Israel and Palestine and focuses on themes of memory loss and suppression.

Sheikh said he is excited about the opportunity to have conversations with students who could bring a fresh perspective to his work.

“When you are so familiar with your own work, it is helpful from time to time to have conversations with people who are coming with fresh eyes to the material, who may bring their own histories to bear on the way in which they read what they see and receive the images,” he said.

Aciman, a memoirist and novelist, has received several awards including the 1995 Whiting Award for his memoir “Out of Egypt,” which describes his experiences growing up as a Jew in Egypt, and the 2007 Lambda Literary Award for gay fiction for his novel “Call Me By Your Name.” He is an expert on early 20th century French novelist Marcel Proust and is currently a professor at the Graduate Center of City University of New York.

Aciman is giving a lecture today entitled “Memory, Identity and Exile.” He is excited by the opportunity of the fellowship, he said, because it provides an outlet for his passions.

“The Montgomery Fellowship is amazing because it allows you to be on campus and go to various classes, each of which is talking about something that is the closest thing to your heart,” he said.

Jones is the founding director of the Medea Project, which seeks to serve incarcerated women living with HIV by providing them with performance workshops. She will be giving a lecture entitled “Gathering Stories at the Edge of the World” on May 3.

Louis wrote his first novel, “En finir avec Belleguele” (“The End of Eddy”), when he was 22 years old. The novel takes place in a violent working class community in northern France and tells the story of a boy growing up gay. Due to its popularity, the book was translated into over 20 languages.

Louis’ work has also focused on challenging the extreme right in France. His article “Manifeste pour une contre-offensive intellectuelle et politique” (“Manifesto for an Intellectual and Political Counteroffensive”), co-written with philosopher Geoffroy de Lagasnerie and published in the French newspaper Le Monde, addressed this topic. He will be hosting a public talk and book signing on May 18.

Louis said one of his main aims while at Dartmouth is to facilitate conversations about those who are not necessarily given enough attention.

“I would like to talk about the people that we don’t normally talk about — excluded people, invisible people, the working class,” he said.

Louis’ focus on themes of overlooked people aligns closely with the work of many of the other fellows this term. Director of the Montgomery Fellows program Klaus Milich said there was a deliberate intention to select fellows who focus especially on themes like exile and displacement, as they are timely political topics.

Louis said he is honored to join the list of previous fellows who participated in important and relevant conversations, which are especially crucial given the political landscape in America right now.

Kozer will be visiting campus the week of May 2 and participating in many of its events, such as performing poetry readings. He has published more than 60 poetry collections and won the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize in 2013 for his lifetime contribution to poetry.

“I am happy at my small level to contribute to this discussion, and I can tell by reading the list of the fellows before me that it was those kinds of people that were fellows — people who, during all their lives, created new spaces and new discussions,” he said.

The Montgomery Fellows program also organized an upcoming “Poetry and Politics” week, beginning May 1, in conjunction with the Leslie Center for Humanities and English professor Vievee Francis. This is the first year that the event will take place, Milich said.