NAVSA awards two competitive prizes each year: the Donald Gray prize, for best essay on a Victorian topic, and the graduate paper prize, for the best paper read by a graduate student at the annual conference. (NAVSA also makes available travel grants, based on financial need.)
The Donald Gray Prize
Congratulations to the winners of the 2006 Donald Gray prize! Honorees were chosen from essays published in journals during the 2005 calendar year.
- Winner: Professor Catherine Robson (English, U of California, Davis). "Standing on the Burning Deck: Poetry, Performance, History." PMLA 120 (2005): 148-62.
This essay is an original and fascinating study of the life and history of a poem, Felicia Hemans's "Casablanca." It asks how such a poem, "established itself at the heart of one culture and . . . has haunted another." With verve and critical generosity, it brings together a number of issues relevant to the exploration of nineteenth-century poetry, among them memorization, recitation, school curricula, classroom procedure, class anxiety, the body, and the child. One of the Gray Prize committee members commented that he had never seen anyone do more to historicize a single poem, explaining the ubiquity of this poem while never losing sight of its literary distinctiveness. Taking the most memorized, most recited of all nineteenth-century poems, this essay encourages us to "think about our relationship to literature in the most corporeal of ways" and, in doing so, also tells an engaging tale.
- Honorable Mention: Professor Jason Rudy (English, U of Maryland). "Rhythmic Intimacy, Spasmodic Epistemology." Victorian Poetry 42 (Winter 2004*): 451-72. [*Appeared in print in February 2005.]
This essay is a mesmerizing study of rhythmic design in the poetry of the Spasmodics. It won the admiration of the Gray Prize Committee for its innovative and serious reconsideration of an often neglected group of poets, its admirable lucidity of expression, and its wider implications for the study of Victorian poetry generally. In recent years, critics have begun to explore with new intensity and historic specificity the role of rhythm in the physiological and psychological nature of poetic experience. This essay's important contribution to this exploration gives us a greater appreciation for the centrality of the Spasmodics' poetic theory and for the connections between poetic expression and mid-nineteenth century scientific and philosophical thought. It stands out as both well researched and well argued and, to quote one of the readers, it gives an account of "what it means to read poetry . . . and why meter matters."
NAVSA is delighted to announce the winners of the Donald Gray Prize for the Best Essay published in the field of Victorian studies in the previous year. Named after Donald J. Gray, Culbertson Professor Emeritus in the English Department of Indiana University, the Donald Gray Prize is awarded to the best essay that appeared in print in journals from the previous calendar year on any topic related to the study of Victorian Britain. It carries with it an award of $1000. Essays are self-nominated and are also submitted by journal editors and members of the NAVSA Advisory Board.
2007 Gray Prize
The North American Victorian Studies Association is now seeking nominations
for the annual Donald Gray Prize for best essay published in the field of
Victorian Studies. The prize carries with it an award of $1000 and will be
awarded to essays that appeared in print in journals from the previous
calendar year, on any topic related to the study of Victorian Britain. (The
prize is limited to journal essays; those published in essay collections are
not eligible.) Anyone, regardless of NAVSA membership status, is free to
nominate an essay that appeared in print between 1 January 2006 and 31
December 2006. Self-nominated essays are welcome; nominations will also be
solicited from the Advisory Board of NAVSA and the prize committee judges.
Authors may be from any country and of any institutional standing.
To nominate an essay, please submit by Monday, 16 May 2007 (that's a receipt deadline, not a postmark deadline):
- a brief
cover sheet with complete address and email information for both the
essay's nominator and its author, and
- four hard copies of the essay to
the Executive Secretary of NAVSA at the following address:
Melissa V. Gregory
Department of English
Mail Stop 925
University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio 43606
Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Further
information about the prize may be found at
Graduate Student Paper Prize
Congratulations to the winners of the 2006 Graduate Student Paper Prize!
- Winner: Jason Lindquist (Indiana U), "On 'Imagination' and the Rise of a Victorian Aesthetics of Complexity"
This essay is striking for its sheer intellectual breadth. It impressively exemplifies a truly interdisciplinary Victorian studies in its willingness to bring together poetry (Hallam), natural science (Darwin), social science (Martineau), and the cosmos (Tyndall) plus passing references to the Victorian city, population studies, and textual production. Lindquist writes beautifully and generously. As is necessary in this kind of interdisciplinary study, he brings his reader into the paper by providing background on potentially unfamiliar texts, juggling context and argument seemingly effortlessly and seamlessly. The paper itself deals with what might be a "bewildering complexity" or plenitude of texts but the author's clear style overcomes this substantial challenge.
- Honorable Mention: Melissa McLeod (Georgia SU), "Acoustic Science and Racial Identity in Daniel Deronda"
This essay combines critical sophistication (building on the emergent emphasis on sound technologies in Victorian Studies) with historical research (on Helmholtz) with careful and nuanced close reading (of the tropes of electricity, vibrations, and sympathy). It is beautifully written, and markedly jargon free. Its argument is intelligent and clear. McLeod manages to bring together the very disparate threads of this novel—racial identity, Deronda's Jewishness, Gwendolen's moral progression—with Deronda's many musical scenes, thus uniting scenes and plot lines that have previously seemed incoherent to many critics.
- Honorable Mention: Lisa M. Smith (U Toronto), "Dorothea Through the Pier-Glass: Physiological Psychology and Perception in Middlemarch"
This essay roots Eliot's central theme of sympathy in terms of nineteenth-century theories of physiological psychology. Drawing on Victorian theories of perception, Smith argues that Eliot departed from mainstream psychology (which emphasized conservation of energy and self control). Instead, she argues, Eliot advocated the importance of strong, exhausting emotions to move perceptions away from a purely egocentric view of the world. A fine example of interdisciplinary research, Smith's essay convincingly engages with nineteenth-century scientific thought to elucidate an important aspect of the novel.
Congratulations to all five winners of the NAVSA prizes!