Two humanists receive prestigious MLA awards

By: Linda B. Glaser,  A&S Communications
Tue, 12/06/2016

Marilyn Migiel and Caroline Levine, faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences, will be honored by the Modern Language Association (MLA) at the group’s annual convention Jan. 7.

Migiel, professor of Romance studies and senior associate dean for arts and humanities, will receive the 24th annual Howard R. Marraro Prize, awarded biennially for an outstanding book in the field of Italian literature or comparative literature involving the Italian language. The award is for her latest work, “The Ethical Dimension of the ‘Decameron.’”

This is the second time Migiel has received the Marraro Prize. Her book “A Rhetoric of the ‘Decameron’” was recognized in 2004.

The new book is a “brilliant new reading of Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron,’” noted the award committee, offering “fresh perspectives on authorial authenticity, multiplicity of interpretations, and readers’ reception. … Brilliantly written and richly annotated, this book revisits a canonical text from a new perspective and promises to revive its critical debate for new generations of scholars.”

Migiel teaches and works on a wide array of texts and authors from the Italian Middle Ages to the present day, though she is known primarily for her feminist readings of medieval and Renaissance Italian literature. In her recent research, Migiel is exploring how literary works engage readers in reflection about ethical choices. Her other books include “Gender and Genealogy in Tasso’s ‘Gerusalemme Liberata’” and “Refiguring Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance,” edited with Juliana Schiesari. She is at work on a book-length study of authorial control and readerly judgment in Boccaccio’s “De casibus virorum illustrium (On the Fates of Illustrious Men).”

Levine, the David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of Humanities in the Department of English, will receive the 47th annual James Russell Lowell Prize for her book “Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network.”

The prize is awarded annually for an outstanding book – a literary or linguistic study, a critical edition of an important work or a critical biography – written by a member of the MLA.

“Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network” was also the recipient of the Dorothy Lee Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Culture from the Media Ecology Association.

Levine’s book “argues for a redesign of formalism to explore new ways of thinking about relations between literature and social life,” noted the award committee, who called the book “pathbreaking,” and “erudite and convincing.” The committee added that it is written “with a stunning clarity that opens it to diverse readers in and beyond the academy.”

Levine’s research interests include how and why the humanities and the arts matter, especially in democratic societies. She argues for the understanding of forms and structures as crucial to understanding links between art and society. She is currently the 19th-century editor for the Norton Anthology of World Literature and has written on topics ranging from formalist theory to Victorian poetry, and from television serials to academic freedom. Her other books include “The Serious Pleasures of Suspense: Victorian Realism and Narrative Doubt” (2003), which received the Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative, and “Provoking Democracy: Why We Need the Arts” (2007).

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.