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Pitt professor wins Guggenheim Fellowship for scholarship on horror films

Pitt professor Adam Lowenstein studies horror films.
Irina Reyn
University of Pittsburgh
Pitt professor Adam Lowenstein studies horror films.

University of Pittsburgh professor Adam Lowenstein is among this year’s class of prestigious Guggenheim Fellows. And it’s thanks to a subject of scholarly interest as close by as the nearest streaming channel: horror films.

The coveted fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation went to 171 artists, scholars and scientists from the U.S. and Canada, in fields ranging from dance and poetry to physics and applied mathematics. While the grants typically range from $30,000 to $45,000, Lowenstein said he had not yet learned the amount of his award.

At Pitt, Lowenstein is a professor of English and Film and Media Studies. And he’s internationally recognized for his focus on horror films and their cultural impact. His books include “Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film” (2005) and “Horror Film and Otherness” (2022).

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This year’s Guggenheim Fellows were announced late last week. Reached by phone Monday, Lowenstein said, “It’s such a huge honor because they’re thinking about your career as a whole, and you’re being evaluated by the very most eminent people in your field, and you’re receiving this award alongside … a really stellar list of scholars from many different field and many different places.”

Among other honors and appointments, Lowenstein is a board member of the George A. Romero Foundation and was instrumental in Pitt’s acquisition of the iconic filmmaker’s archive. He has held visiting professorships at Columbia University, New York University, and Tel Aviv University, and has received a Macgeorge Fellowship from the University of Melbourne.

The one-year Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded after an application process, and usually for a specific project. Lowenstein’s project is a book in progress tentatively titled “The Jewish Horror Film: Taboo and Redemption.”

Lowenstein said he wants to expand the definition of “Jewish horror films” to include more than representations of traditional Jewish folklore like “The Golem.”

“I’m more interested in sort of Jewish horror as a provocation — the idea of, well, what happens when we take a category like Jewish horror and ask yourselves, well, what could it include?” he said.

Lowenstein cites filmmaker David Cronenberg (“The Fly,” “Scanners”), an avowed atheist whom Lowenstein interviewed about his Jewishness — a topic he told Lowenstein no one had ever asked him about before. He also cites the acknowledged influence of Jewish-American horror novelist Ira Levin (“Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Stepford Wives”) on Jordan Peele, writer-director of “Get Out” and “Nope.”

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: