Emory Report
November 26, 2007
Volume 60, Number 12

Emory Report homepage  

November 26, 2007
Retired faculty continue research with Heilbrun Fellowship award

By kim Urquhart

The Heilbrun Distinguished Emeritus Fellowship is allowing two former Emory professors to continue and advance the research they have pursued throughout their careers.

Emerti professors Robert Detweiler and David Hesla, both of the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts, are the most recent recipients of the award, which carries a $10,000 stipend and includes workspace in Woodruff Library.

The fellows were honored at a campus reception sponsored by the Emeritus College. Named in honor of Alfred Heilbrun Jr., professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology, the yearlong fellowship is now in its seventh year. The grant is administered by Emory College but reflects the Emeritus College’s mission to strengthen retired faculty member’s ties to Emory.

The program supports academic research that is only made possible with the time afforded by retirement, said English professor John Bugge, chair of the selection committee that each year awards two emeriti faculty recipients from the arts and sciences.

Robert Detweiler, who for eight years served as the director of the ILA, has published extensively on the intersection of religion, literature and culture. He will use the Heilbrun fellowship to write “Falling to Nil.”

“'Falling to Nil' will engage literature to illustrate and interpret both the negative and positive effects of nothingness,” explained Heidi Nordberg, Detweiler’s former research assistant who delivered remarks on his behalf.

“He will try to understand and possibly mitigate the sense of despair and nothingness,” said Nordberg, “that has prevailed in Europe and in our own American nation since at least the end of World War II — provoked by the trauma of Nazi-operated death camps and the annihilation of 7 million Jews, the effect of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear warfare and the vogue of existentialism.”

Hesla, who taught at Emory from 1965 to 2000, is using the Heilbrun fellowship to support two research projects.

The first involves the preparation of Hesla’s familial documents for deposit in historical archives, including his mother’s reminisces of her school days in small-town Iowa and materials from his father’s work as a missionary in China.

Hesla is also writing a philosophical and musicological analysis of Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” a tone poem inspired by Frederick Nietzsche’s book of the same title. He explained that the piece, used in the opening scene of the Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “has astonished musicologists because it ends in two different keys.” For Hesla, this project will be the conclusion of an “enigma” he has been fascinated with for 30 years, the subject of many of his lectures at Emory.