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Biography Fellowships


The Leon Levy Center for Biography offers four resident fellowships at the Graduate Center for the academic year beginning each September. Awards include writing space, full access to research facilities, and a stipend of $65,000. Applications are available at the link to the right, either for online submission or PDF download.

"The Leon Levy Fellowship changed my life entirely… The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72 was the illustrated biography I wrote because the fellowship gave me the confidence to risk writing a 'collage biography' of an 18th-century collage artist."

—Molly Peacock, 2008–2009 fellow, author of The Paper Garden (McClelland & Stewart, 2010).

Fellows devote their time to their projects and participate in monthly seminars and the public events of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, including the annual lecture and the annual conference, and they are encouraged to join in the dynamic intellectual community of the Graduate Center. 

Former fellows who have published books worked on during their fellowships include Adam Begley (Updike), Alexandra Chasin (Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger's War on Drugs), James Davis (Eric Walrond: A Life in the Harlem Renaissance and the Transatlantic Caribbean), Ruth Franklin (Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life), Langdon Hammer (James Merrill: Life and Art), Elizabeth Kendall (Balanchine and the Lost Muse), Wendy Lesser (Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets), John Matteson (The Lives of Margaret Fuller), D.T. Max (Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace), Pamela Newkirk (Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga), Molly Peacock (The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72), and Siobhan Roberts (Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway).

Applications are particularly welcome from CUNY faculty, but fellows may not teach or partake in other full-time employment during their academic year-in-residence. While our selection committees evaluate each application on its own merits, preference in the award of fellowships is given to those who have not yet published a biography or received fellowships for the writing of a biography. We also welcome applications from published and accomplished writers who are undertaking their first biography. The Leon Levy Center for Biography does not award fellowships for work on autobiographies, memoirs, essays, plays, films, or fiction. 

Biography Fellowship applications are available at the links above for online submission, or as a PDF file to download, print and mail, both with a deadline of December 15. Applications require a brief CV or resume (3 pages max), a narrative account of the applicant's career (250 words), a project description (750 words), a sample of the proposed biography (maximum 2,500 words), and four letters of reference, which must be postmarked by the deadline. Applicants are discouraged from seeking letters from their agents, editors, or publishers. Fellowship decisions will be announced, and all applicants notified, in mid-April.

NOTE: The fellowship selection process is slightly behind schedule. The Center will name fellowship competition winners by early May 2017 at the latest. We apologize for the inconvenience. Should you have any questions, please contact Interim Associate Director Joseph Murphy at


Dissertation Fellowships

"The LLCB fellowship was simply one of the best experiences as a graduate student. It is so rare for such a diverse group from academia and the literary world to get together and discuss our work."

—Thomas Hafer, 2011–2012 dissertation fellow, History

The Leon Levy Center for Biography offers Dissertation Fellowships for two PhD candidates at the Graduate Center. Applications are welcome from students in any discipline, but an applicant's dissertation project must be devoted to biography in order to be considered. Dissertation Fellows are provided with writing space, and participate in the monthly biography fellow seminars. They will also be expected to attend the Leon Levy Center for Biography's annual lecture and the annual conference.

Application forms will be available from the Provost's office. The application requires a statement of purpose to the Leon Levy Center for Biography, a dissertation proposal, a bibliography, two letters of reference and a CV. Applications are received by the Provost's Office and are reviewed by the Leon Levy Center for Biography.