The Editors are pleased to announce the winner of the 2013 Margaret Church Memorial Prize for the best essay to appear in MFS. The Church Prize was established in 1984 in memory of Dr. Church, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Purdue University and a longtime editor of this journal.
The winner for 2013 is Ellen Crowell, author of “Posthumous Playback: Oscar Wilde and the Phonographic Logic of Modern Biography” which appeared in volume 59, issue 3 (pages 480–500).
A special thanks to Joseph Urgo (University of North Carolina, Asheville) for choosing this year’s winner. In making his selection, Professor Urgo writes,
Itself an impressive example of intellectual work, Ellen Crowell’s essay charts a specific example of how ideas, in the form of intellectual responses to events, move history. In this spirited and gracefully written essay, Professor Crowell charts the ways in which a consciousness of the insufficiency of inherited form (in this case, sanitized Victorian biography) resulted in a creative vacuum, compelling practitioners to borrow from new forms and structures (in this case, the representational promise of film and phonograph), in order to manipulate an inherited genre to meet the demands of fresh subject matter. Crowell calls the modernist biographical response to preserving the meaning of Oscar Wilde’s life and voice, memorably, “biographical experiment as cultural indictment,” acts of life writing which challenged the political silencing of Wilde, and, in intellectual terms, advanced literary history by pushing the biographical form away from Victorian hagiography toward adaptations of new aesthetic, representational technologies. The breadth of Crowell’s intellectual grasp, the subtlety of her multi-disciplinary analyses, and the attention to the form and structure of the essay itself, make her contribution a model of scholarly research and writing in the humanities.
Professor Crowell received $300 and a certificate, a copy of which appears here. [End Page iv]
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