Traditionally, three publication prizes are announced at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which takes place on the campus of Western Michigan University. In 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the congress to be held virtually, the awards are announced here.
Otto Gründer Book Prize
The winner of the 2021 Otto Gründler Book Prize is Marion Turner for "Chaucer: A European Life" (Princeton University Press, 2019).
Marion Turner's "Chaucer: A European Life" is a magisterial work that is worthy of its monumental subject. It is also a witty, tactile, vivid, and compelling work that resembles nothing so much as Chaucer’s brilliant, many-faceted body of poetry. For Turner, Chaucer's European life consists not only of his engagement with figures like Machaut, Deschamps, Dante and Boccaccio, but also of an intense lived experience of European space, politics, fashions, and culture.
Turner’s characteristic mode of thought, like Chaucer's, moves from the particular to the general. Sometimes this move takes the form of spatial assemblage, as when she paints a detailed portrait of courtly life in the Gaunt household. At other times, her method is synecdochal: a single detail or image—such as the "cage" or the "Milky Way"—is chosen to emblematize Chaucer’s thought-world or his habitus at different points in his career. These conceptual techniques emerge from Turner’s deep, longstanding familiarity with European medieval archives: English, Spanish and French chronicles; royal, ecclesiastical, county, city, guild and household records; cartularies; account books; and calendars, letter-books, and parliament rolls. In a kind of literary reversal of figure and ground, Turner marshals this wealth of archival information, along with a deep knowledge of the historical and literary scholarship on Chaucer and his era, silhouetting Chaucer with richly inked-in negative space. In the words of Christopher Cannon, she thereby "craft[s] . . . a wholly new method for writing about a historical life."
Marion Turner's book is exceptionally well written, makes an extremely important contribution to our knowledge of Chaucer, and is most deserving of the twenty-fifth Otto Gründler prize.
The Otto Gründer Book Prize is awarded annually to the author of a monograph in any area of medieval studies that is judged by the selection committee to be an outstanding contribution to its field.
The Prize, instituted by Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, then president of Western Michigan University, honored and now memorializes Gründler for his distinguished service to the University and his lifelong dedication to the international community of medievalists. The first award was made in 1997.
Past winners of the Gründler prize.
Paul E. Szarmach First Article Prize
The 2021 Szarmach Prize is awarded to Mary Elizabeth Blanchard for A New Perspective on Family Strategy in Tenth- and Eleventh-Century England: Ealdorman Status and the Church, "Historical Research" 92, no. 256 (May 2019): 244-66
This article seeks to answer a deeply interesting question that, for as surprisingly obvious as it seems, has been accorded surprisingly little attention: the attitude of early medieval England's noble families toward a calling to ordination, something that was so marked a feature of English aristocratic society (and its representation in literature) in later eras.
Blanchard uses propopography and an array of hagiographical and historical sources to explore the choices made by five notable families of tenth- and eleventh-century England as to whether a member of the family should seek a career in the Church. She finds that such an option does not appear to have been seen as "useful" as way to gain traction of any kind. Blanchard looks across to the Continent for comparanda and finds a striking contrast of practice and attitude: the comparison is important and salutary. In raising as many further questions as the answers it provides, it is an article of great value and genuine interest.
The Paul E. Szarmach Prize is awarded annually to the author of a first article on a topic in the culture and history of early medieval England published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that is judged by the selection committee to be of outstanding quality.
It is with sadness that we report that this year's Szarmach Article Prize is awarded in memory of Professor Szarmach, who died on April 27 of this year.
Past winners of the Szarmach prize.
La corónica book award
The winner of the 2021 "La corónica" Book Award is Sol Miguel-Prendes for "Narrating Desire: Moral Consolation and Sentimental Fiction in Fifteenth-Century Spain" (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 2019)
Miguel-Prendes explores how the fourteenth and fifteenth-century "sentimental romances" in Iberia adopted the form of Boethius's "Consolation of Philosophy" and the many other medieval moralistic penitential works it inspired but did so in order to express very different literary and social realities, including erotic desire, vernacular modes of expression, court culture, and the emergence of print culture and private reading. Miguel-Prendes works across several linguistic and geographic communities of the peninsula, including the Catalan, Castilian and Latin, and notes how older medieval models of masculine, clerical penitential fiction were adapted in the era of early print by a larger vernacular-speaking audience (consisting of both sexes) who imbued the fictional dream vision of Boethius with private desires.
The La corónica Book Award is an annual international prize for the best monograph published on medieval Hispanic languages, literatures and cultures.
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