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September 20, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

Sparrow earns scholarly, creative achievement award

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Tom Sparrow, instructor in Slippery Rock University's philosophy department, has been named the 2013-14 recipient of the President's Award for Scholarly and Creative Achievement.

SRU President Cheryl Norton will present the award as part of the University's annual Academic Honors Convocation at 1:30 p.m., April 5, in Morrow Field House.

"The nomination letters for all of the candidates were superb. Determining the winner was difficult. Dr. Sparrow's colleagues and outside nominations cited his outstanding scholarly work with such praise, he rose to the top and I believe he is truly deserving of this year's honor," Norton said.

The annual event salutes SRU's academic success and draws more than 3,000 students, faculty, staff and parents. The event honors spring and fall semester 2013 dean's list students, presidential scholars, academic honoraries, scholar athletes, service learning scholars and scholarship recipients.

The 2014 President's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the President's Award for Outstanding Service and the new President's Award for Excellence in Academic Advising will also be presented at the ceremony.

"Levinas Unhinged," published in 2013 by Zero Books, presents Sparrow's research on French philosopher Emmanel Levinas.

Sparrow said his book is notable "because it not only offers a novel reading of the philosopher's work, one which opens up new avenues into this corpus, it is also interdisciplinary in scope. It will not only help to draw new readers into Levinas' philosophy, it should spark new ways of reading and applying his through in non-philosophical fields. So, the book is not only a contribution to several fields of philosophy, including ethics, aesthetics and metaphysics, it also addresses issues in philosophy of race, environmental ethics and ecological theory. More than a work of mere theory, it also has the potential for practical application."

Four of the book's chapters are revision of papers Sparrow presented at conferences or symposium, including one presented at the North American Levinas Society meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. An SRU Faculty Travel Grant supported the visit.

"I think the book is an excellence reminder of why it's important for the University to invest in the scholarly endeavors of its faculty," Sparrow said.

"Tom Sparrow's 'Levinas Unhinged' may be the best book ever written on the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. It is also surely one of the most innovative works of continental philosophy to be published in 2013," wrote Graham Harman, associate provost for research administration and professor of philosophy at American University in Cairo, in support of Sparrow's nomination. "With this book and two other forthcoming works, which I have been able to read in manuscript form as a series editor, Professor Sparrow has already established himself as a force to recon with in his generation of thinkers."

"Based on the quality and quantity of Sparrow's written output so far," Harman said, "I fully anticipate that he will be one of the most respected leaders in his field by the time he reaches retirement."

"Sparrow exhibits an aspect of Levinas which is darker, yet no less fundamental, than his ethical and theological guises. This darkened Levinas provides answers to problems in aesthetics, speculative philosophy, ecology, ethics and philosophy of race, problems which not only trouble scholars, but which haunt anyone who insists that the material of existence is the beginning and end of existence itself," Harman wrote for the book cover.

"Most 'defenders' of Levinas have undercut his genius by presenting him either as a pious old finger-wagging grandpa or as Jacques Derrida's halfhearted apprentice. In this book Tom Sparrow gives us the true Levinas: A formidable metaphysician who did more than anyone else to sensualize and concretize the work of Heidegger. Levinas is not in our review mirror, but remains in our motorcade today. He will still have much to teach us. Sparrow lucidly reminds us why," Harman wrote.

"This book is noteworthy and original achievement, which opens up important new ground in contemporary philosophy; in addition, because of its deep consideration of aesthetics, it also makes an important contribution to recent theoretical debates in literature, film and the fine arts. 'Levinas Unhinged' provides a powerful new reading of the great French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and secondarily of the American philosopher Alphonso Lingis, who has both translated Levinas into English and attempted to extend his legacy," wrote Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University, in support of Sparrow's nomination.

And, Dylan Trig, from the School of Philosophy at University College in Dublin, Ireland, said, "...Sparrow's reading of Levinas shows us that Levinas is capable of developing a materialist metaphysics. Such a claim is in direct contradistinction to the view of Levinas as a philosopher of transcendence. Sparrow defends his thesis in a series of strikingly original chapters devoted to Levinas' account of embodiment, subjectivity and aesthetics. This re-reading of Levinas from a contemporary perspective shifts Levinasian scholarship from a static basis in theology and ethics to a re-contextualizing of Levinas as an interlocutor of Deleuze and Spinoza rather than Heidegger and Plato. What emerges from this re-reading is a reformation of the very grounds of Levinas' thought."

Sparrow, who joined the SRU faculty in 2011 earned his doctorate from Duquesne University. He completed his bachelor of arts degree at East Stroudsburg University and his master's degree at West Chester University. His areas of specialization include continental philosophy from Kant to the present, phenomenology and modern philosophy.

He formerly taught at Chatham University, Duquesne and the Community College of Allegheny County.

Other nominees for this year's award were: Joseph Harry, associate professor of communication, and Heike Hartmann, assistant professor of geography, geology and the environment.

The President's Award for Scholarly and Creative Achievement is open to faculty in all departments, with one faculty member selected per department to complete an application. The scholarly or creative work must be included in the application along with three supporting letters or documents, one of which must be external to the university.

The award includes $500 for the winner's use for professional travel.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.