The Editors are pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 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 2014 is Adam T. Jernigan, author of “Paraliterary Labors in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: Typists, Teachers, and the Pink-Collar Subtext,” which appeared in volume 60, issue 1 (pages 1–27).
A special thanks to Hamilton Carroll (University of Leeds) for choosing this year’s winner. In making his selection, Professor Carroll writes,
Adam T. Jernigan’s wonderful essay, “Paraliterary Labors in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: Typists, Teachers, and the Pink-Collar Subtext,” asks us to pay new attention to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar by situating it in the context of mid-century labor transformations and attendant gender recalibrations. Jernigan argues that Plath’s focus on the forms of labor available to college-educated women at mid-century not only represents but also intervenes in debates about the gendered division of labor, or “occupational segmentation,” that arose in the newly-developing world of corporate work. Linking the new forms of (soon-to-be feminized) clerical labor engendered by the technologies of the typewriter and the Gregg shorthand system to the forms of literary writing typically opposed to them, the essay argues that Plath overturns the standard dichotomy, made famous by Truman Capote, by valorizing “typewriting” over “writing.” The essay is clear and lucid, intelligent and convincing, beautifully written and eminently readable. The essay wears its critical ambitions lightly yet persuades the reader at every turn; it is a joy to read and informative in both its close textual analysis and its historical/social context. It is an open and engaging essay that asks the reader to reconsider Plath’s novel, freeing it once and for all from the confines of patriarchal affiliation in which it has been caught for so long by citing it as a critical intervention in an important sociological debate of its time.
Adam T. Jernigan received $300 and a certificate, a copy of which appears here. [End Page iv]