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Wake Forest history professor awarded 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship

April 24, 2008

Sarah Watts, professor of history at Wake Forest University, has been awarded a 2008 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the category of fine arts research.

She was among 190 scholars, scientists and artists selected from a group of more than 2,600 applicants from the United States and Canada in the foundation’s 84th annual competition.  Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment.

Watts is currently drafting a book manuscript based on research in which she has assembled 257 previously unstudied satirical political cartoons produced between 1897 and 1910 by German Expressionist Lyonel Feininger. 

“Lyonel Feininger figures prominently among German Expressionists, yet his career as one of Germany’s most prominent political satirists has been overlooked, leaving him a sleeping giant in the cultural history of Bismarck’s Reich,” Watts said.  “My study of Feininger’s cartoons will present for the first time works that have never been seen together or collected in one place.  It will analyze Feininger’s satires within their milieu, delineating the possibilities and limits of political protest in Imperial Germany at a time when mass media was superseding art as a primary vehicle of visual culture.”

Watts’ research promises to reorient scholarship on Feininger, as well as established views about the development of satirical humor, literature and art in Germany.  In an East Berlin branch of the Berlin State Library, where scholarly access has been difficult since World War II, she found a rare book collection holding a series of Feininger’s cartoons that were published in Lustige Blätter, one of Germany’s most widely read magazines.  Sixty-seven of the 257 cartoons appeared on the magazine’s cover, yet only one significant art history book has examined Feininger’s years as a cartoonist.  Watts intends to organize the cartoons thematically and place each cartoon within the historical context that produced it, providing fresh insights into Feininger’s career and the culture, politics and government that he satirized.

The working title of Watts’ manuscript is “Figuring the Empire: Lyonel Feininger’s Lustige Blätter Years.”  She has authored two previous books, “Rough Rider in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Desire” and “Order Against Chaos: Business Culture and Labor Ideology in America, 1880-1920.”

Watts has been a member of the Wake Forest faculty since 1987.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts, a master’s degree in German history from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate in United States history, also from the University of Oklahoma.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was established in 1925 by U. S. Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife as a memorial to a son who died April 26, 1922. Since then, the foundation has granted more than $265 million in fellowships to almost 16,500 individuals.

Press Contacts:

Eric Frazier
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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