Modern Language Association Honors Four Yale Faculty Books

Four Yale faculty members – including two new recruits and a recently tenured professor in the English department – were honored for their latest books by the Modern Language Association (MLA) during its annual convention in December. The Yale scholars are: Joseph Roach, professor of English and theater studies; Wai Chee Dimock, professor of American studies and English; John Rogers, associate professor of English; and Alexander M. Schenker, professor emeritus of Slavic linguistics and Slavic languages and literatures.

Roach, who joined the University faculty this fall, was awarded the James Russell Lowell Prize for his book “Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance.” The prize is presented annually to an MLA member for an outstanding literary or linguistic study, a critical edition of an important work or a critical biography. The judges lauded Roach’s “great originality of both method and materials” and his “multilayered arguments,” and predicted that the book “will be widely used, admired and emulated.”

Dimock, another new faculty member, was cited as finalist for the James Russell Lowell Prize for her book “Residues of Justice: Literature, Law and Philosophy,” which the judges described as both “wise” and “ambitious.”

In addition, the MLA named Rogers, a recently tenured English professor, as co-winner of the Prize for a First Book for his work “The Matter of Revolution: Science, Poetry and Politics in the Age of Milton.” The prize honors the first book-length scholarly publication by a MLA member. The judges called the book “exciting, original and intellectually stimulating.” In addition to the MLA award, “The Matter of Revolution” has captured three other prizes: Yale’s Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication by a Junior Faculty Member in the Humanities; Choice magazine’s award for Outstanding Academic Book for 1996; and the James Holly Hanford Award of the Milton Society of America.

“We’re very pleased to have this kind of recognition from the MLA. It’s an indication that the Yale English faculty is writing new and wonderful scholarship,” says Alexander Welsh, the Emily Sanford Professor and acting chair of the English department. “We take great pride in these awards, but the credit must go to the individual authors,” he adds, noting that the English department faculty were particularly pleased that their newest members were among those honored by the MLA.

A fourth MLA award, the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures, was presented to Schenker for his book “The Dawn of Slavic: An Introduction to Slavic Philology, 1100-1350,” published by the Yale University Press. The Scaglione Prize is awarded biennially for an outstanding scholarly work on the linguistics or literatures of the Slavic languages. The judges described the book as “spectacular” and said that, in Schenker’s attempt to honor the field of traditional philology, he “demonstrates how exciting the topic can be.” Schenker was also recently honored with election as a foreign member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Modern Language Association is the largest of America’s learned societies in the fields of the humanities, with 30,000 members from around the globe. It is also one of the oldest such organizations, having been founded in 1883.

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