WMU News

Dartmouth scholar wins first WMU Medieval Studies Prize

June 10, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- A book on Christian mysticism has earned a Dartmouth College scholar designation as the first recipient of a major international prize for scholarship in medieval studies offered by Western Michigan University.

The 1997 Otto Grundler Prize was awarded to Dr. Amy M. Hollywood, assistant professor of religion at Dartmouth, during ceremonies at the 32nd International Congress on Medieval Studies held in May at WMU. The $2,500 prize is named for the former director of WMU's Medieval Institute, which each year acts as host to the world's largest gathering of scholars in medieval studies. More than 2,500 persons from 28 nations attended this year's event.

"The Grundler Prize is the biggest prize in the field," says Dr. Paul E. Szarmach, who now directs WMU's Medieval Institute and the congress. "There's nothing else like it in medieval studies."

Hollywood's book, "The Soul as Virgin Wife: Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete and Meister Eckhart," was published in 1995 by the University of Notre Dame Press. It was one of 46 books and monographs from around the globe submitted to the prize committee for the inaugural award.

According to Szarmach, Hollywood's book was selected by a secret prize committee comprised of seven internationally known scholars who are leaders in various fields of medieval study. Among those making the selection was one scholar who praised Hollywood's work for exhibiting "the highest standards of scholarship" and being "theoretically sophisticated." The work, the scholar said, "gives us new ways of thinking about medieval women and religion."

"The Soul as Virgin Wife" is an expansion of Hollywood's 1991 doctoral dissertation on three 13th- and 14th-century Christian mystics, two of whom were women. Portions of the work have been presented during the Medieval Congress in previous years. For the past several years, Hollywood has delivered congress papers on such topics as the difficulty in translating the texts of medieval women.

The Grundler Prize was established by Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, president of WMU, to honor Grundler for his distinguished service to the University and his life-long dedication to the international community of medievalists. It was first announced when Grundler retired in 1995 after serving 34 years as a WMU faculty member and 19 years as director of both the Medieval Institute and the annual congress.

The prize is intended to recognize a book or monograph on a medieval subject judged by the selection committee to be an outstanding contribution to the field. Authors from any country are eligible for the prize. Books of any language may be submitted during the year after the book's publication date for a prize given the following spring. Nominations are accepted from readers or publishers.

Szarmach says that in addition to being the strongest nominee in its field, Hollywood's book received "a remarkable nomination from the field from a senior historian who called the work the best he'd ever read."

The 1998 award will be made next May at the congress to a nominated work published in 1996.

Hollywood earned a bachelor's degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1985 and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago in 1986 and 1991, respectively. She taught at Rhodes College from 1991 to 1993 and has been a Dartmouth faculty member since fall 1993.

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