News | 21 April 2021

Two Humanities faculty selected as Hellman Fellows



Two Humanities faculty have been selected as Hellman Fellows this year: Filippo Gianferrari (Literature) and Robbie Kubala (Philosophy). Established at UC Santa Cruz in 2011, the purpose of the Hellman Fellows Program is to support substantially the research of promising assistant professors. The Program has been established at thirteen institutions, nine of which are campuses in the UC system.

The Hellman Fellows Fund was established by the Hellman family in 1995 to fund the research of assistant professors who need support reaching their goals. The impetus for the program came when Frances Hellman, a junior faculty member at UC San Diego, experienced first-hand the challenges that faculty can experience early in their careers before their research can attract external support.

In the 2021 cycle, ten UC Santa Cruz faculty members received awards. A scholar of Dante, Filippo Gianferrari takes an unorthodox and interdisciplinary approach to thinking about how Dante’s work interfaced with contemporary educational thought in the Western world. He arrived at UC Santa Cruz in 2019, after completing his PhD at the University of Notre Dame and teaching at both Vassar College and Smith College. “My current book project,” says Gianferrari, “attempts the first systematic study of Dante’s engagement with the medieval school curriculum and compares education in medieval Italy to northern European milieux.” Titled Training the Reader: Dante and the Rise of Vernacular Literacy, this work “integrates recent interdisciplinary research on medieval and humanistic education with current trends in Dante studies.”

Gianferrari says that the support of the Hellman Fellowship will go a long way toward aiding in the completion of this project — and even provide a foundation for the beginning of others. “I plan to spend most of this coming summer writing and editing my manuscript,” he says, “thereby completing 75% of it, which I hope to submit for review to a publisher.” He also intends to use some of this support to conduct transcription work: “During this time I will also work on transcribing a fourteenth-century manuscript — Ravenna, Biblioteca Classense, Codice 358 — transmitting allegorical commentaries to Latin school texts. This manuscript provides a sample of trends and transformations that affected pedagogical practices during the poet’s lifetime.”

Robbie Kubala’s research investigates foundational questions about value, valuing, and norms, within and across the moral and aesthetic domains. An Associate Editor of the journal Analysis Reviews, his interests also extend into the domains of social philosophy, literature, and the ethics of data and technology. Prior to arriving at UC Santa Cruz in 2019, Kubala earned a PhD in Philosophy at Columbia University and taught as a Core Lecturer in Contemporary Civilization.

Kubala says: “Philosophers interested in the arts and aesthetic experience have long been fixated on the question of whether aesthetic judgments, such as ‘Beyoncé’s Lemonade is excellent’, can be debated rationally or whether they are merely expressions of personal preference.” Titled “Social Aesthetics,” the project he will be undertaking “investigates the relationship between our aesthetic judgments and the broader social contexts that enable, shape, and constrain our aesthetic agency. I will be writing three essays, about the social dependence of aesthetic properties, the phenomenon of blame for aesthetic failures, and the moral hazards of aesthetic cosmopolitanism.” 

Receiving support as a Hellman Fellow will provide Kubala with much-needed time to work out the complex issues his project undertakes. “Philosophical work,” he says, “doesn’t usually require the material support necessary to operate a lab space, conduct research on human subjects, or travel to an archive. It just requires time to think and read carefully (and a social context in which friends and colleagues help to improve one’s work!). So I’m especially grateful to the Hellman Fellows Fund for this honor.”

Please join us in extending a warm congratulations to Gianferrari and Kubala on this wonderful news!