Penn State's Hester Blum named 2019 Guggenheim Fellow

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Hester Blum, associate professor of English in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, has been named a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded annually by the foundation to artists and scholars who have “demonstrated exceptional capacity for significant exhibition or performance of their work, or who have productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability and a significant record of publication as writers, scholars and scientists.” 

Hester Blum, Penn State associate professor of English and a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow. Credit: Hester Blum / Penn StateCreative Commons

Blum is being recognized for her research focused on oceanic studies, 19th-century literature and culture, and the environmental humanities.

“I’m thrilled to be recognized by the Guggenheim Foundation, and grateful to have Penn State’s ongoing support of my research,” Blum said. “The fellowship year will give me the opportunity to travel to the U.S., Canadian, and Scandinavian Arctic for my research, and I am keen to contribute to ongoing conversations in the environmental humanities.”

“I, too, am delighted by this award,” said Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “Guggenheims are highly competitive and a great public recognition of the quality of a scholar’s work. It is fitting that Hester Blum will be honored in this way.”

Blum’s most recent book, "The News at the Ends of the Earth: The Print Culture of Polar Exploration" (2019, Duke University Press), examines polar expeditionary newspapers and other forms of knowledge that circulate geophysical and climatic extremity during the age of polar exploration and in the current era of climate change and polar resource extraction. She also is the author of "The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives" (2008, University of North Carolina Press), which received the John Gardner Maritime Research award. Her edited books include the essay collection "Turns of Event: American Literary Studies in Motion" (2016, University of Pennsylvania Press); special issues of Atlantic Studies and the Journal of Transnational American Studies on oceanic and archipelagic studies; and "Horrors of Slavery" (2008, Rutgers University Press), William Ray's 1808 Barbary captivity narrative. Blum's public humanities writing includes frequent contributions to Avidly, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Blum's work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Huntington Library, the John Carter Brown Library, the Bibliographical Society of America, the National Humanities Center, and the American Antiquarian Society, to which she was elected to membership in 2013. In addition to her Guggenheim Fellowship, Blum recently received an Environmental Humanities Fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, and was invited to participate in a Seed Box Environmental Humanities Collaboratory Mid-career Scholar Residency at Linköping University in Sweden.

This summer, Blum will participate in the Northwest Passage Project, an Arctic expedition tracking climate change. She then plans to spend her Guggenheim Fellowship year work on “Ice Ages,” a book about the temporalities of ice in an epoch of anthropogenic climate change.

In addition to “Ice Ages,” Blum is working on a second book, “Castaways,” which she describes as a “meditation on female Robinson Crusoes.” She can be reached at

"News at the Ends of the Earth" (2019), by Penn State Associate Professor Hester Blum Credit: Hester Blum / Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated April 12, 2019