Winner: Estill, Laura. “The Urge to Organize Early Modern Miscellanies: Reading Cotgrave's The English Treasury of Wit and Language.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 112, no. 1 (2018): 27–73.
This deeply researched bibliographic study uses the centuries-long reception history of one 1655 commonplace book to chart the broader processes by which the seventeenth-century models of anonymity and collaboration shifted to the modern template of playwright-as author. The committee found Estill’s remarkably extensive, meticulous, and pain-staking research of new and unpublished archival evidence profoundly impressive and worthy of commendation. And we found her metacritical argument—on what present-day readers can and must learn from the irretrievable alterity of early reading (“Early readers did not always ask, ‘Who wrote this? Where is this from? When was the original published?’ whereas today’s scholars cannot escape these questions,” 69)—compelling and convincing indeed.
Honorable Mention: Kuhn, John. “Sejanus, the King’s Men Altar Scenes, and the Theatrical Production of Paganism.” Early Theatre 20, no. 2 (2017): 77–98.
This impressive study synthesizes two hundred years of critical conversation about forty-odd non-canonical plays spanning the seventeenth century, including original translation as well as expert knowledge in indigenous technologies and religious practices. Kuhn’s innovative argument brings together critical conversations around early modern drama and Indigenous Studies, proposing an exciting model of how the recycling of material properties drove new dramatic and ideological content.
Award Committee: Matthew Sergi, Elizabeth Tavares, Emma Maggie Solberg (chair). Awards announcement and presentation took place during the annual MRDS business meeting in May 2019, at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.