January 19, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 8

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    Modern Language Assn. honors three on faculty

    By Jennifer Carnig
    News Office

    Bill Brown

    The Modern Language Association honored three University faculty members during its annual convention held in December in Washington, D.C.

    Bill Brown, Chairman of English Language & Literature and the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor, was awarded the 42nd annual William Riley Parker Prize for an Outstanding Article Published in PMLA, the association’s journal of literary scholarship. His article “The Dark Wood of Postmodernity (Space, Faith, Allegory)” appeared in the May 2005 issue of PMLA.

    Loren Kruger, Professor in English Language & Literature and Comparative Literature, and African Studies, was awarded the 13th annual Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literature for her book Post-imperial Brecht: Politics and Performance, East and South.

    Justin Steinberg, Assistant Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, was awarded the eighth annual Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies. The title of his book is Accounting for Dante: Urban Readers and Writers in Late Medieval Italy.

    “There is a very rigorous selection process involved in giving out these awards, so to earn one is quite an honor,” said Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA. A formal committee of scholars from across the country is established for each prize, Feal said, and each member reads hundreds of submissions during the course of the year before the group confers to determine the winners. “It is a highly competitive process.”

    Established in 1883, the MLA is the largest and one of the oldest American learned societies in the humanities. It promotes advancement of literary and linguistic studies, and its 30,000 members hail from all 50 states as well as Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. PMLA, the flagship journal of the association, has published distinguished scholarly articles for more than 100 years.

    Loren Kruger

    Brown’s William Riley Parker Prize is the association’s oldest award. In his article, Brown uses Dante’s work as a tool to study Fredric Jameson’s view of the contemporary world. The award committee called his assessments of Jameson’s theoretical accomplishments both illuminating and inspiring.

    “The design with which Brown organizes various contexts of allegory in his interpretive strategy illuminates, and the skill with which he uncovers the network of references in Jameson’s text inspires,” the committee wrote.

    The Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literature, which Kruger earned, was awarded for the first time in 1993, and it has been presented annually since then for an outstanding scholarly work that involves at least two literatures. In Post-imperial Brecht, Kruger studies theater as performance in the changing ideological contexts of pre- and post-wall East Germany and pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. The committee that read her work called it “a brilliant comparative study.

    “Kruger’s comparative approach is exemplary, and she is particularly strong on the details of specific productions and ideological debates concerning art and aesthetic issues,” the committee wrote. “Her study crosses continental boundaries and views performance as a theoretical concept that is transnational in nature and represents comparative literature at its best.”

    Justin Steinberg

    The Aldo and Jean Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies was first presented in 1999. The prize honors both the writer in this case, Steinberg as well as the publisher, the University of Notre Dame Press. The prize is unique in the sense that it honors a manuscript before it is published, as well as the publisher for putting out an important work at a time when university presses often are under financial constraints.

    Steinberg’s work, which is scheduled to be published this year, proposes a return to medieval manuscript culture to open up Dante’s texts to historical, social and political determinations.

    “This book will make a significant contribution to Dante studies, to medieval studies and to those Italianists interested in articulating relations between texts and broader political forces,” the award committee wrote.

    “That’s a really exciting award because it recognizes a scholar’s work at the beginning of his career when that recognition means the most,” Feal added. “It’s usually a scholarly predictor.”

    All of the awards were presented Wednesday, Dec. 28 at the MLA’s annual convention. More than 9,500 members of the association and its affiliate organizations attend the convention annually.

    More than two-dozen Chicago faculty members presented papers at this year’s convention, including Kenneth Warren, the William J. Friedman & Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor in English Language & Literature, in a special community forum open to the public on English Studies and Political Literacy.