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Home / News & Updates / Professors Saidiya Hartman and Audra Simpson Are Winners of the Lionel Trilling Book Award and Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching

Professors Saidiya Hartman and Audra Simpson Are Winners of the Lionel Trilling Book Award and Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Academic Awards Committee of Columbia College recently awarded Saidiya Hartman, a professor of English and comparative literature and gender studies, and a 2019 MacArthur Fellow, the 45th annual Lionel Trilling Book Award for her book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval, and Audra Simpson, a professor of anthropology, the 59th annual Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching, for her “love and dedication to the act of teaching.”

Hartman and Simpson were selected by a committee of Columbia College students that recognizes faculty members for their contributions to academia and publishing.

The Lionel Trilling Book Award, established in 1976 in honor of Lionel Trilling CC 1925, GSAS’38, is awarded annually to a member of the faculty whose book was published in the previous year and upholds a level of excellence commensurate with Trilling’s legacy. Trilling was a gifted and dedicated Columbia professor committed to undergraduate education, and was a public intellectual known for his scholarship and literary criticism

Saidya Hartman

Saidiya Hartman, professor of English and comparative literature and gender studies

Courtesy Saidiya Hartman

Hartman is the author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (Oxford, 1997); Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007); and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (Norton, 2019), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, the Mary Nickliss Prize for U.S. Women’s and Gender History from the Organization of American Historians, and the Judy Grahn Prize for Lesbian Nonfiction. She is working on a new book project, N Folio: An Essay on Narrative and the Archive.

Hartman was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2019, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library, a Fulbright Scholar in Ghana, a Whitney Oates Fellow at Princeton and a Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. She earned a B.A. from Wesleyan and a Ph.D. from Yale

As to why Hartman was selected, Sam Yoo CC’21, the Lionel Trilling Book Award Chair, said: “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval is a truly engrossing read that brings to the forefront the stories of some of the most forgotten and neglected Americans at the turn of the 20th century: black women. Giving a face to a history that has been written out of too many places, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments is an especially noteworthy publication that is incredibly researched and thought out, yet at the same time, universally accessible in its beautifully poetic prose.”

The Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching — established in honor of Mark Van Doren GSAS 1920, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, novelist, playwright, critic, editor and biographer, as well as a renowned scholar and legendary Columbia faculty member — has been awarded annually since 1962 in recognition of a faculty member’s “humanity, devotion to truth and inspiring leadership.”

Audra Simpson

Audra Simpson, professor of anthropology

Courtesy Audra Simpson

Audra Simpson is professor of anthropology at Columbia. She focuses on Indigenous and settler society, politics and history. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press, 2014), winner of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies Prize, the Laura Romero Prize from the American Studies Association as well as the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (2015).

Simpson, a Kahnawà:ke Mohawk, focuses on Indigenous and settler society, politics and history. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press, 2014), winner of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies Prize, the Laura Romero Prize from the American Studies Association and the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (2015).

She is co-editor of Theorizing Native Studies (Duke University Press, 2014) and has articles in Postcolonial Studies, Theory & Event, Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures, Law and Contemporary Problems and Wicazo Sa Review.

Paulina Fein CC’20, the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching chair, who recently earned her degree in history, said of Simpson: “Members of our committee were impressed with Simpson’s ability to engage and to be innovative with her students, even within the confines of a virtual classroom.”

“Simpson’s passion and ability to make complex and crucial topics accessible really stood out to us. In addition to being an excellent instructor, it was clear to us that [she cares] about each and every one of her students,” said Fein

About the Academic Awards Committee

The Academic Awards Committee of Columbia College is composed of nine students who represent a cross-section of classes and majors. The group meets throughout the academic year to determine the professor and book most fitting for awards, reading the books of Trilling Award nominees and auditing the courses of Van Doren Award nominees.

The Van Doren Award criteria includes class presentation of material, undergraduate community involvement and mentorship of students. Trilling Award nominations are considered for style, accessibility, scholarship, relevance and whether the committee would recommend the book to peers.

This year’s awards decisions were made amidst the current pandemic, for which the student committee had to forgo the usual in-person observation of the professors. Instead, the students made use of digital tools and resources, along with determination and perseverance, to make their award decisions.

Hartman and Simpson will be recognized at the 2021 awards ceremony.

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