Neil Kenny & Patrick McGuinness Win R. Gapper Book Prize

The Faculty is delighted to report that Neil Kenny and Patrick McGuinness have been announced as the joint winners of the prestigious R. Gapper Book Prize for their publications Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France (Oxford: OUP, 2015) and Poetry and Radical Politics in fin de siècle France (Oxford: OUP, 2015) respectively.

The R. Gapper prizes are awarded by The Society for French Studies for scholarly work of outstanding merit, quality, and value in the field of French and Francophone studies. The R. Gapper Book Prize is usually awarded to a single book in the field of French studies which appeared in the previous calendar year, and commends books of critical and scholarly distinction which have a clear impact on the wider critical debate. This is the first time that the prize has been awarded to multiple recipients, and it will be presented to the two winners a the Society’s annual conference in July.

The prize was awarded on the recommendation of a Prize Jury, who made the following comments about the winning books:

Neil Kenny, Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France (Oxford: OUP, 2015). Neil Kenny’s study is a work of tremendous scholarly distinction that combines a tight focus on tenses with an extraordinarily wide range of material from linguistic theory through to Montaigne and Rabelais, taking in on the way epitaphs, sermons, rituals, obituaries and much else besides. The work provides a fascinating way of understanding cultural difference through the changing use of tenses in different periods. Indeed, in this, it tells us as much about how the modern age understands relations between the living and the dead as did early modern France. Readers of Kenny’s book working in any literary period will want to look at their own authors again through the lens of tenses.

Patrick McGuinness, Poetry and Radical Politics in fin de siècle France (Oxford: OUP, 2015). Patrick McGuinness’s book is equally a work of supreme critical and scholarly distinction. The arc of the work takes us from the legacies of Romanticism, through key late-nineteenth-century literary/political movements (focusing on the Symbolist and Decadent movements and their successors) and up to fin de siècle poetry. What distinguished it for the panel was the sureness of its engagement with the range of poetic sources on which it draws, and the novelty of the approach it takes to political discourse in juxtaposing it with a highly diverse poetic tradition. The work adroitly finds ways to illuminate interactions of poetry and politics, e.g. in the place it gives to polemic. The range of sources it encompasses—manifestos, prefaces, treatises, journalism—is impressive and enlightening, while the book also succeeds in shifting our habitual angle when it comes to viewing the political significance of major poetic works, such as those of Mallarmé.

The Faculty is especially pleased that this success follows that of 1st-year DPhil student Vittoria Fallanca, who was announced as the runner-up for the R. Gapper Postgraduate Essay Prize last month for her work ‘The Design of the Essais: Montaigne and the language of ‘dessein’’.

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