Ph.D. Candidate, Matthew Omelsky, Awarded Mellon/ACLS Fellowship

Friday, April 28, 2017

Rising sixth year graduate student Matthew Omelsky has been awarded a prestigious Mellon/ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year. Matthew was one of 65 fellows across the United States selected from a pool of over 1,000 applicants.  The fellowship offers promising graduate students a year of support to focus their attention on completing projects that form the foundations of their careers and that will help shape a generation of humanistic scholarship.  

Matthew’s dissertation is titled Fugitive Time: Black Culture and Utopian Desire.  It examines how African diasporic writers and filmmakers from Zimbabwe, Martinique, Britain, and the United States inscribe into their works a sense of anticipation of release from subjection, as if to experience in advance the feeling of unequivocal bodily relief. Charting its appearance in both descriptive content and aesthetic form—such as metaphor, narrative structure, and aspects of cinematic editing—“Fugitive Time” shows how this recurring form of utopian time-consciousness distinct to African diasporic cultural expression evolves from the eighteenth-century slave narrative to the contemporary novel, and how it mutates across disparate global geographies. Examining epic poetry, autobiography, experimental film, and historical novels, the project isolates this fugitive anticipation of the outside of subjection and the persistent memory of violence that engenders it. In these works, utopia, however elusive, lies in that moment when the body at last finds release. 

The ACLS program is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.