Seven Oxford academics elected British Academy Fellows

Founded in 1902, the British Academy is the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. It is a Fellowship of over 1600 of the leading minds in these subjects from the UK and overseas. Current Fellows include the classicist Professor Dame Mary Beard, the historian Professor Sir Simon Schama and philosopher Professor Baroness Onora O’Neill. Previous Fellows include Dame Frances Yates, Sir Winston Churchill, Seamus Heaney and Beatrice Webb.

This year 85 Fellows have been elected: 52 UK Fellows, 29 Corresponding Fellows and four Honorary Fellows.

The seven new Fellows from Oxford are:

Daniel Freeman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Department of Psychiatry;

Simon Gilson, Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian Studies at the Department of Medieval and Modern Languages;

Ian Jewitt, Sir Roy Harrod Fellow in Economics at the Department of Economics;

Sally Maitlis, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Leadership at Saïd Business School;

Hilary Owen, Senior Research Fellow in the Sub-Faculty of Portuguese at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages;

David Willis, Jesus Professor of Celtic at the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics and the English Faculty; and

Mark Wynn, Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, Faculty of Theology and Religion

Welcoming the elections, Professor Dan Grimley, Head of Humanities at Oxford University, said, ‘I am delighted to see that four academics from the humanities have been newly elected Fellows of the British Academy. Professors Simon Gilson, Hilary Owen, David Willis and Mark Wynn are doing outstanding work in a broad range of fields. This reflects the depth and diversity of the research in our faculties of Medieval and Modern Languages; English; Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics; and Theology and Religion.’

Professor Belinda Lennox, Head of Department, Professor of Psychiatry, said, ‘Huge congratulations to Daniel Freeman on this highly prestigious fellowship. It is an outstanding achievement, and fitting recognition of his pioneering, world leading research, improving outcomes for people with severe mental health conditions. British Academy fellowships are the highest level of distinction for humanities and social sciences. They are awarded to only a couple of people in each research field each year. Daniel demonstrates outstanding scholarship and impact in his research and is richly deserving of this award. We are proud to have him in Psychiatry.

Professor Timothy Power, Head of Social Sciences Division, Oxford University, added, ‘I am delighted Ian Jewitt and Sally Maitlis have received the great honour of being elected Fellows of the British Academy. My congratulations to them both on being recognised for academic distinction within their fields. They will bring their in-depth knowledge and outstanding research to this prestigious Fellowship, joining other leading minds in the social sciences and humanities.’

The 2022 Fellows:

Professor Daniel Freeman is particularly known for his work understanding and treating paranoia, including developing the Feeling Safe Programme, which is the most effective psychological therapy for persecutory delusions. He has also been a pioneer in using virtual reality to assess, understand, and treat mental health conditions. He presented the BBC Radio 4 series ‘A history of delusions’.

He said, ‘It is a wonderful honour. My work focuses on using psychological science to develop, test, and implement new effective therapies for mental health conditions. None of it would happen without the expertise and efforts of my research group, lived experience advisors, collaborators, mentors, and so many people behind the scenes in the Department of Psychiatry and throughout the university.’

Professor Simon Gilson is a leading specialist on Dante, and works extensively on Renaissance Italian literary, intellectual and cultural history. He is best known for two pioneering books on the reception of Dante in Italy c. 1350-1600, as well as his work on several funded collaborative projects that have produced major databases and digital resources. He is the current Chair of the Society for Italian Studies, the subject association for University teachers of Italian in the UK and Ireland.

He commented that ‘it is a wonderful honour to be elected to the British Academy. The Academy has done truly remarkable work to support and stress the strategic importance of modern languages in the UK today, and it is a real privilege to become one of its Fellows’.

Professor Ian Jewitt’s research interests cover microeconomic theory, especially information economics and decision theory. He said, ‘Many of my most esteemed colleagues are fellows of the Academy and not a few of my close friends. It is a great honour and a great pleasure to join them.’

Professor Sally Maitlis maintained, ‘It is an immense honour to be nominated to the British Academy, our national institution for the humanities and social sciences. It is humbling to have my work recognised in this way and very exciting to become part of the British Academy Fellowship, an amazing community of scholars, including many who have been great influences on my work.’

She added, ‘One of the distinctive things about the BA community is that it spans the humanities and social sciences. This is especially meaningful to me, as my research builds on core ideas from psychology and human development, and has long been embedded in narrative traditions grounded in the humanities. From these perspectives, I have explored how people make sense of challenging and sometimes deeply painful issues in their work. These include experiences such as renegotiating careers which have been derailed and identities undermined by physical injury, navigating intractable problems in pursuing a calling, and leaders dealing with mental health difficulties in themselves and others.’

Professor Hilary Owen’s research focuses on contemporary Portuguese and Lusophone African literatures, cultures and cinema, with a particular focus on gender, feminism and postcolonial theory.

She said, ‘I am honoured and delighted at receiving this recognition from the British Academy. I am very much looking forward to contributing to the vital work the Academy does, and to bringing my perspectives from Portuguese Studies.’

Professor David Willis investigates the principles of grammatical variation and change, looking particularly at Celtic languages, especially Welsh, Slavonic languages and English. He is also interested in the ways in which digital humanities can inform historical linguistics, including the use of electronic corpora, geospatial techniques (GIS), and the use of social media to track linguistic change.

He said, ‘I am delighted and honoured to have been elected a fellow of the British Academy. The Academy has always done an enormous amount to support the humanities and social sciences, and my own research has benefited so much from its activities. I am greatly looking forward to becoming involved with its work over the coming years.’

Professor Mark Wynn said, ‘I am very grateful to receive this honour, which is recognition at least as much of the position I hold at Oxford — as Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion — as it is of my research. The Fellowship will give new momentum to my work on the philosophy of the spiritual life, and enable me to develop further the themes I explore in my most recent book Spiritual Traditions and the Virtues: Living Between Heaven and Earth (Oxford University Press, 2020).’

Welcoming the Fellows, the new President of the British Academy, Professor Julia Black, said, ‘I am delighted to welcome these distinguished and pioneering scholars to our Fellowship. I am equally delighted that we have so many new female Fellows. While I hope this means that the tide is finally turning for women in academia, there is still much to do to make the research world diverse and open to all.

‘With our new Fellows’ expertise and insights, the Academy is better placed than ever to open new seams of knowledge and understanding and to enhance the wellbeing and prosperity of societies around the world. I congratulate each of our new Fellows on their achievement and look forward to working with them.’