Lehigh professor of philosophy, Roslyn Weiss was recently awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship allowing her to write her second novel on Plato’s Republic.
The fellowship is a prestigious award for “individuals who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts,” according to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation’s website.
Weiss is one of 184 winners in a 3,000 person applicant pool. She said the application process was extensive and included a written narrative of her career and life as a scholar.
The fellowship lasts one year and Weiss plans on starting in September 2021. She is hoping to have the first draft of her novel written by the end of August of 2022.
Weiss is a highly regarded professor and scholar in the field of philosophy, with a focus on medieval Jewish and ancient Greek philosophy. She has written four books on Plato, one of which is specifically about Plato’s Republic.
Weiss began her study of Plato’s Republic as an undergraduate student at Brooklyn College.
“I still have my copy of the book I bought back then—it has my notes in the margins,” Weiss said. “It’s a book I’ve loved for 40 years.”
Weiss went on to receive a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University and a Master’s in Jewish studies from Baltimore Hebrew University
Plato’s Republic is divided into 10 separate books, however Weiss focuses on the first.
“Most people dig into the last nine books to see what Plato defines as justice, but Weiss states that if you pay attention to the first, Plato forewarns you against doing this,” said Gordon Bearn, philosophy department chair. “Weiss has read the texts of Plato with an attention to their dramatic literary context. Meaning, she can understand what Plato meant in full voice.”
The fellowship includes the monetary support needed for Weiss to research, study and write her novel.
“The honor she receives in this award reflects right back on the department and really a tremendous achievement,” Bearn said.
Weiss said there are two aspects of the award that mean a lot to her: the recognition of her project through a fifth novel and the recognition of her work as a scholar.
“As I am nearing the end of my career it is really a stamp of approval on my entire career,” Weiss said. “It was a wonderful way for my career to end with this capstone experience of getting this prestigious award.”
Charlotte Brown, ‘23, said that Weiss was one of the factors contributing to her decision to become a philosophy major.
“There is always something more to learn, which is something she has impressed upon students in class,” Brown said. “She knows a lot but is open to dialogue.” Brown said.
Weiss said the reason she is so passionate about the work she does is because you can never reach the end, and no matter how much digging you do you can still do more and discuss the work more.
“She draws out of her students the same level of detail she displays in her own study,” Bearn said.