Otto Gründler Book Prize
The winner of the 2023 Otto Gründler Book Prize is Elina Gertsman, for "The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books" (Penn State University Press, 2021).
Most know the maxim "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," but Elina Gertsman’s "The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books" demonstrates that absence itself can be evidence of thought. Indeed, as Gertsman says, “because all emptiness bears traces—visual, cognitive, material—it often functions as a footprint of its makers and beholders.”
This book is a fascinating study of absences, of lacunae or gaps, in manuscripts and their deep meaning. Drawing theoretical and methodological inspiration from modern art, post-modern criticism and scientific analysis, in addition to art history, Gertsman weaves a compelling tapestry of meaning from those traces of emptiness. She explores the manuscripts of the later Middle Ages as both products and producers of the era’s culture. The framing of empty spaces was especially crucial at a time when the mathematical concept of zero was transformative, philosophical and religious notions of the void were vigorously debated and optical science was growing. Such ideas had a material expression in manuscripts, since erasure, intentional or accidental removals and planned blank spaces could shape meaning. "The Absent Image" thus reminds its readers that medium could itself be the message.
The book is well researched and wonderfully illustrated and utilizes a variety of materials in different disciplines (e.g., philosophy, physics, religion, etc.). The careful, well-explained argument commands and rewards the reader, who will never again consider a blank space in a manuscript to be a "mistake" or a "lack of completion," but rather an opening of doors to other, meaningful explanations. Gertsman has an almost preternatural way of describing and commenting on the manuscript images, and she does so seemingly effortlessly, but always to the point and with great acuity and depth of understanding.
"The Absent Image" has already received scholarly recognition and drawn substantial public attention. The "Times Literary Supplement" has praised its quality, saying, "Gertsman makes a convincing argument, and at times shows a wonderful novelistic sensibility in describing the micro-dramas on display." It is a compelling and a beautifully executed book, with wide-ranging insights across medieval studies, and so a well-deserving winner of the twenty-seventh Otto Gründler Prize.
The Otto Gründler 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.
La Corónica Book Award
The winner of the 2023 "La corónica" Book Award is Henry Berlin for "Alone Together: Poetics of the Passions in Late Medieval Iberia" (University of Toronto Press, 2021).
Working in various linguistic traditions of the Iberian peninsula, including Catalan, Portuguese and Castilian, Henry Berlin offers a profound and nuanced study of a large corpus of primarily fifteenth-century historical, philosophical and literary texts with an interdisciplinary perspective that reveals the political, ethical and poetic dimensions of emotional rhetoric.
"Alone Together" shows how fourteenth-century intellectuals developed "emotional interpretive communities" as an alternative to traditional Christian stoicism. Berlin illustrates how thinkers such as the poet Pere Torroella and the theologian Alfonso Fernández de Madrigal represent various forms of love (regal, divine, fraternal, communal), as well as how authors of sentimental fiction such as Rodríguez del Padrón and Ausiàs March offer alternative models of compassion as a generative creative force, and he explores the role these authors’ rhetorical communities had in shaping Iberian culture after 1300.
Paul E. Szarmach First Article Prize
The 2023 Paul E. Szarmach First Article Prize is awarded to Michael Lysander Angerer of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, for "Beyond 'Germanic' and 'Christian' Monoliths: Revisiting Old English and Old Saxon Biblical Epics," published in JEGP 120, no. 1 (2021): 73–92.
Disrupting the traditional Christian/Germanic binary articulated in previous scholarship, the article offers an incisive reevaluation of three verse texts, the Old English "Genesis A" and "Genesis B" (itself based on an Old Saxon original) and the Old Saxon "Heliand." By examining key episodes, motifs, and terminology in the three texts, Angerer demonstrates that they emerged from noticeably divergent Insular and Continental literary cultures and must be situated in nuanced historical, exegetical, and social contexts specific to the times and places of their production.
The author displays an impressive mastery of prior scholarship even as he emphasizes how the detection of hitherto undiscussed thematic overlaps that simultaneously evoke both Christian and Germanic resonances can elevate critical understanding of the texts. Angerer’s article has wide implications not only for future research on the Old English and Old Saxon biblical epics, but also for how they might be presented and discussed in the classroom.
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.
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