Medieval art scholar wins WMU’s 2023 Gründler Book Prize

Contact: Deanne Puca
Dr. Elina Gertsman

Dr. Elina Gertsman (Photo courtesy of Daniel Wolf Carroll)

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A medieval art historian has won Western Michigan University's Otto Gründler Book Prize for her book on the study of absences, “lacunae” and gaps in manuscripts from the Middle Ages and their potential deep meaning.

Dr. Elina Gertsman, professor of medieval art and Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II at Case Western Reserve University, is the winner of the 2023 Gründler prize for “The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books.”

The award, which comes with a $1,000 cash prize, was announced at the 58th International Congress on Medieval Studies held on WMU’s campus and in a hybrid format May 11-13. It is named for the late longtime director of WMU's Medieval Institute. Given annually since 1997, the Otto Gründler Book Prize recognizes a monograph on a medieval subject that the selection committee determines has made an outstanding contribution to the field. Authors from any country are eligible, and nominations are accepted from readers and publishers.

Published by Penn State University Press in 2021, Gertsman’s book demonstrates that “absence itself can be evidence of thought,” according to the prize committee. Indeed, “intentional or accidental removals and planned blank spaces could shape meaning” for medieval people.

Using a variety of materials across disciplines, “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.”

View past winners of the Gründler prize.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.