Honors and Awards

UMass Amherst Professor Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina Receives Prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship

Gerzina is one of 171 scientists, writers, scholars and artists honored across 48 fields

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, the Paul Murray Kendall Chair in Biography and professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2023.

gretchen gerzina
Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina. Credit: Michael Benabib

Gerzina is one of a diverse group of 171 individuals from 72 different academic institutions in the 2023 fellowship class. The recipients were appointed by the board of trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation on the basis of their prior achievement and “exceptional promise” from a pool of nearly 2,500 applicants for the prestigious honor. Gerzina received her award in the “Intellectual and Cultural History” category.

“The new class of Fellows has followed their calling to enhance all of our lives, to provide greater human knowledge and deeper understanding,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation and a 1985 Fellow in Poetry. “We’re lucky to look to them to bring us into the future.”

A specialist on the novel and biography, Gerzina works in the fields of Black British studies, Victorian studies (including Victorian children’s literature), African American women’s writing (especially Toni Morrison) and mixed-race studies. She has published nine books in these fields and has published numerous articles and reviews. She is currently working on two more books, “The Black Woman in British Literature and Culture, 1668-1928” and a memoir about growing up mixed race in Springfield, Mass., titled “Growing Up on the Corner of Black and White.”

On Feb 8, 2023, Gerzina presented “Forgotten Lives: What They Mean, and Why They’re Important,” as part of the UMass Amherst Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series.

Gerzina also works extensively in the media in both Great Britain and America. She hosted a nationally syndicated author interview program on American public radio for 15 years and appears regularly in podcasts and on British radio, including hosting a 10-part BBC radio series “Britain’s Black Past.” She lectures regularly to universities and conferences in both countries, most recently to Oxford, Exeter, MIT and the British Association of Victorian Studies.

Since its establishment, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted nearly $400 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award and other internationally recognized honors.

To see the complete list of 2023 Fellows, visit www.gf.org.