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Australian writer named 2018 recipient of creative arts fellowship at IU

Mar 9, 2018

Writer Sophie Cunningham has been announced as the 2018 recipient of the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre’s Visiting Fellowship in Creative Arts at Indiana University.

The fellowship is the result of a partnership between IU Bloomington and the University of Sydney, and was made possible by a gift from Michael Thawley, Australia’s secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Thawley, the Australian ambassador to the U.S. from 2000 to 2005, was awarded Indiana University’s Thomas Hart Benton Medallion in 2002.

Cunningham applied for the fellowship so she could access the archives relating to the Bloomsbury Group held by the Lilly Library, as she works toward the final draft of her novel, “This Devastating Fever.” The book is based on specific periods in the life of Leonard Woolf, including his marriage to Virginia Woolf.

“Archival research has the capacity to bring a project alive like nothing else: letters, stray comments, the chance to make unexpected connections not only provide depth to a project but give it creative spark,” Cunningham said. “The combination of having access to the Bloomsbury archives at the Lilly Library and having several months at Indiana University that I can dedicate to finishing my novel on Leonard Woolf means that I will, after several long years, be able to finish – or close to finish – my novel, ‘This Devastating Fever.’ I’m grateful and excited to receive the Visiting Fellowship in Creative Arts at Indiana University.”

Cunningham is expected to give a public reading April 5 at the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council’s First Thursdays Festival.

She is author of the novel “Geography” and the acclaimed work of creative nonfiction “Melbourne.” She is an experienced commercial and literary editor, with years of experience at publishing company Allen & Unwin and at one of Australia’s oldest literary magazines, Meanjin. She is also one of the women who recently established the Stella Prize, $50,000 awarded annually to writing in any genre by an Australian woman.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with the University of Sydney through the Visiting Fellowship in Creative Arts,” IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel said. “The fellowship program has already been highly successful in forging new connections between faculty and students on the Bloomington campus and the University of Sydney’s prestigious United States Studies Centre. We are very pleased to offer Sophie Cunningham a warm Hoosier welcome and access to the Lilly Library’s impressive archive on the Bloomsbury group. She joins a long line of international scholars and artists whose work has benefited from resources offered by the Lilly that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.”

A selection panel evaluated applications for the fellowship, including Richard Evans, director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra; Rachel Kent, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art; Mary Darwell, former director of Arts NSW; Kate Lilley, an associate professor of English and the inaugural recipient of the fellowship; and Edward Comentale, associate provost of arts and humanities at IU Bloomington.

The fellowship is intended to support people working in the creative arts, including music, fine arts, film, theater, design, creative writing and literature. Preference is given to applicants who are both accomplished scholars and accomplished practitioners in their chosen field. The fellowship aims to support substantial progress toward the completion of a significant artistic project. Fellows also receive support from the IU Bloomington campus in the form of housing and office space.


IU Newsroom

Bethany Nolan

Executive Director of Internal Communications

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