Ohio State nav bar

Robert L. and Phyllis J. Iles Award for Graduate Study of Myth

The Center for the Study of Religion oversees an annual competition to award up to $4500 to an Ohio State graduate student in the Arts and Humanities who is working on myth, broadly conceived.

The Robert L. and Phyllis J. Iles Award for the Graduate Study of Myth in the Center for the Study of Religion was established February 10, 2012, by the Board of Trustees of The Ohio State University, in accordance with the guidelines approved by the Board of Directors of The Ohio State University Foundation, with a gift from Sarah Iles Johnston. Effective February 22, 2024, the fund description shall be revised. The annual distribution from this fund shall be used for one award 


More specifically, the Robert L. and Phyllis J. Iles Award for Graduate Study of Myth, which is administrated by the CSR, has been established to make an award of up to $2500 each spring semester to a graduate student in the Division of Arts and Humanities in support of that student’s research on myth. The award shall be supplemented by $1,000 from the Division of the Arts and Humanities. The award shall also be supplemented by up to $1,000 from the student’s home department. It is the donor’s desire to provide as significant financial support as possible to one eligible recipient.

To be eligible, candidates must be conducting research on myth. Studies of the myths of any culture from any period of human history are eligible for consideration. A myth is a story that is sacred to and shared by a group of people who find important meanings in it, as it is conveyed through narrative, art or ritual. Eligible projects include, but are not limited to: the relationships between myths and religious practices, the uses of myth in literary and artistic productions, and the reuse of one culture’s myths by other cultures. Possible approaches include, but are not limited to, the anthropological, the literary, the historical, and the folkloric, as well as creative approaches that aim to represent a myth as part of a new artistic product. 

Candidates will be selected based on merit, although some preference will be given to proposals that cite specific need of funding for travel or for other expenses related to research or to performance or production of artistic projects. Preference will be given to candidates whose projects are part of a doctoral dissertation (with exceptions granted for students in departments that offer only the master’s degree).

 Recipients shall be selected by a committee consisting of the highest ranking official in the College of Arts and Sciences or his/her designee, the highest ranking official in the Center for the Study of Religion or his/her designee, the highest ranking official in the Center of Folklore Studies or his/her designee, and a member of the Department of Classics, as appointed by the highest ranking official in the department or his/her designee, in consultation with Student Financial Aid. 

Award amount is at discretion of the committee. 

Application Procedure and Deadline:

Applications should be submitted through the webform linked below and should include the following:

  1. a 1200-word description of the project (with a suitable project title) and how the fellowship would aid it, including a statement of how much work has already been done on the project and how much would be completed during the fellowship period;
  2. a letter of support from the student’s advisor;
  3. a letter from the chair of the student’s department, agreeing to supplement the award by a specified amount of up to $1000;
  4. a curriculum vitae of up to two pages, including publications and presentations.
  5. [OPTIONAL] where appropriate, an explanation of how the funding will be spent (e.g. travel, cost of artistic or research materials, etc.)

Applications for the fellowship must be made in advance of expenditures (there will be no post-facto awards); the funds must be spent within 12 months of the fellowship being awarded. The CSR reserves the right not to award a fellowship in a given year if none of the applications are deemed eligible. Any unused available balance will be reinvested into the principal amount of the Iles Fund.


If selected for the award, the recipient shall submit to the director of CSR a 500-word essay on the state of their research or some other aspect of the way they spent the funding that can be used as a news item on the CSR website or in other CSR materials, and a photo of either the recipient or some aspect of his or her project.

The application deadline for the 2023/2024 Iles Award is Friday, February 16, 2024.

Please contact the Humanities Institute's administrative coordinator Nick Spitulski (spitulski.1@osu.edu) with any questions.

**If you would like to contribute to the Iles Award Fund, please visit our Contributions webpage.**

Previous Iles Award Recipients:

2024: Matt Maynard (Department of Classics): "The Haunts of Pan: Wilderness Ecology and Myth"

2023: Evan DeCarlo (Department of English): "Digital Hoax-Lore: Aestheticizing Truth by Way of Hoax in Contemporary Myth and Legend"

2022: Ishmael Konney (Department of Dance): "W)gb3j3k3"

2022: Zahra Abedinezhad-Mehrabadi (Department of Comparative Studies): "The Karbala Myth and Recent Protests in Iran"

2021: Adéwálé Adénlé (Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy): "Yorùbá: OBJECTifying and MATERIALizing Gods"

2021: Carman Romano (Department of Classics): “'And in Whom Do You Most Delight?'
Poets, Im/mortals, and the Myths of the Homeric Hymns"

2020: Dannu Hütwohl (Department of Classics): "The Birth of Sacrifice: Mediterranean Myths about Gods Engaged in Ritual”

2019: Colleen Kron (Department of Classics): "A Child Initiate at Pelinna? Child Initiation & Individual Eschatology in Bacchic-Dionysiac Mystery Cults"

2018: Marcus Ziemann (Department of Classics): "The Iliad and Gilgamesh Reassessed: The Revelatory Journey Motif"

2017: Caroline Toy (Department of Comparative Studies): “There and Back Again: Materializing Mythic Worlds through Fan Pilgrimages"

2016: Kathryn Caliva (Department of Classics): "Speech Acts and Embedded Narrative Structure in the Getty Hexameters"

2016: Kaustavi Sarkar (Department of Dance): "Embodying Myth: Understanding Odissi Performance Across Forms and Mediums"

2015: Kati Fitzgerald (Department of Comparative Studies): "Performative Mythology: Tibetan Opera in America"

2014: Wenyuan Shao (Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures):  "Origin Narratives: Yi Creation Myths in Guizhou, China"

2013:  Erin Wagner (Department of English):  “Creating the Heretic from the Other: The Use of Religion and Myth in Medieval England”

2012:  Hanne Eisenfeld (Department of Greek and Latin):  “Only Mostly Dead: Immortality and Related States in Pindar’s Victory Odes”

Robert L. Iles (1934-2007) taught high school English in Perrysburg, OH for two years before beginning a career as a free-lance writer and author.  He encouraged his high school students to read, study and enjoy myths. Phyllis J. Iles (1935-2010) was a homemaker and for many years also a volunteer teaching assistant at the elementary level. She encouraged young children's enjoyment of myths. Their daughter, Sarah Iles Johnston, and son-in-law, Fritz Graf, are professors in the Department of Classics, where they both frequently teach graduate and undergraduate courses on ancient myths and religions.