July 17, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 19

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    Ebeling to further studies of Tamil with fellowship

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    A junior professor has been honored for his exceptional teaching in the College’s Core.

    Sascha Ebeling, Assistant Professor in South Asian Languages & Civilizations, is the second recipient of a novel fellowship program funded by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. Ebeling is receiving the fellowship for his teaching of “Readings in World Literature” in the College’s Humanities sequence.

    The Whiting Foundation Research Fellowship for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching not only will provide Ebeling with a year of research leave, it also will fund one year of teaching by a replacement in South Asian Languages & Civilizations during his leave. Supported by a grant from the Whiting Foundation and offered jointly by the Division of the Humanities and the College, the fellowship is given annually to tenure-track faculty. It recognizes excellent teaching in the Humanities or the Art, Music and Drama cores.

    “We want to encourage our faculty to excel at both scholarship and pedagogy,” said Martha Roth, Dean of the Division of the Humanities, and the Chauncey S. Boucher Distinguished Service Professor of Assyriology in the Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations. “This a wonderful award that really underscores our twin goals and highlights the relationship between research and teaching at the University.”

    Mario Santana, Associate Dean and Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division, Associate Professor of Romance Languages & Literature, and chair of the Whiting Research Fellowship Committee, said Ebeling was selected “because he is a devoted, engaging and imaginative teacher and mentor, with an astonishing command of various languages and literary traditions.”

    A scholar of Tamil language and literature of all periods, Ebeling’s research interests include 19th-century South Indian literary culture, South Indian cultures and religion of the Angkorean civilization in Cambodia, and issues in Comparative Literature.

    “I feel absolutely thrilled,” said Ebeling of the fellowship. “I love teaching, since for me, the entire academic effort is about contact with other people, exchanging views, learning through discussion. My goal is to show my students how literature, in all shapes and sizes, can be an essential part of their lives, not just entertainment or dry academic exercise.”

    He recently completed a monograph-length survey of 19th-century Tamil literature, Colonizing the Realm of Words: The Transformation of Tamil Literature in Nineteenth-century South India, which is forthcoming from SUNY Press in 2009.

    Ebeling said he is excited to have the opportunity to fully concentrate on his research projects for an entire academic year. He plans to use his fellowship to complete several articles and start writing two new books. The first is an introduction to the history of the novel in South India, intended to explain the riches of South Indian literature to a general literary studies audience. “The second book,” he said, “is a re-assessment of the discipline of Comparative Literature in a globalized world, centering around the question of why literature matters in our lives.”

    Ebeling studied South Asian Studies, Romance Languages and Literatures, and General Linguistics at the University of Cologne, Germany and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, before joining the Chicago faculty in 2005.

    He taught Tamil literature and South Asian Studies at the University of Cologne and was a Tamil manuscriptologist at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences. Since 2000, Ebeling has served as a project director of the Digital Archive of South Indian Inscriptions, a project to develop a comprehensive digital corpus of South Indian inscriptions.

    Ebeling also teaches several classes in Tamil, as well as a course in European poetry and the literature of the Middle Ages in Europe and Asia.

    Ebeling believes the Whiting Foundation award sends an important message to the larger academic community. “Teaching and research, ideally, go hand in hand, and today’s students are tomorrow’s researchers.”

    The Whiting foundation implemented the program to recognize outstanding teachers, who must maintain a balance between teaching and research.