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Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Karen Sullivan, associate professor of literature at Bard College, has been awarded the Modern Language Association of America’s (MLA) 14th annual Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophile Studies. Sullivan won the award for her book Truth and the Heretic: Crises of Knowledge in Medieval French Literature, published by the University of Chicago Press. The prize, which carries a $2000 award, will be presented on December 28 in Philadelphia. “Drawing on a dramatically varied network of documentary sources (difficult to find but here unearthed and read with great sensitivity) and troubadour lyric, Sullivan reads the ethic and literature of courtly love as a form of religious dissent. Transcripts of heresy trials are compared to scenes from romance narrative, revealing analogous concerns with competing definitions of truth, the languages of secrecy, and the contrast between judicial prosecution and noble love. Truth and the Heretic: Crises of Knowledge in Medieval French Literature is a model of learned and scholarly writing,” writes the selection committee. In the Middle Ages, the heretic, more than any other social or religious deviant, was experienced as an imaginary construct. Everyone believed heretics existed, but no one believed himself or herself to be a heretic, even if condemned as such by representatives of the Catholic Church. Exploring the figure of the heretic in Catholic writings of the 12th and 13th centuries as well as the heretic’s characterological counterpart in troubadour lyrics, Arthurian romance, and comic tales, Truth and the Heretic seeks to understand why French literature of the period celebrated the very characters who were so persecuted in society at large and explores the relation between orthodoxy and deviance, authority and innovation. Karen Sullivan received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her A.B. from Bryn Mawr College. She is the author of The Interrogation of Joan of Arc and numerous articles and book reviews on Joan of Arc, Christine de Pizan, and medieval heretics and inquisitors, which have appeared in journals such as Reinardus, Cabinet Magazine, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, and Romantic Review. She is the recipient of grants from Bard College; the University of California, Berkeley; and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Sullivan is an advisory board member of the International Joan of Arc Society and a member of the Medieval Academy of America and the Centre d’Etudes Cathares/René Nelli. Forthcoming is an article for Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum and a book, Lives of the Inquisitors. First presented in 1993, the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Literary Studies is awarded annually to an outstanding book in its field—a literary or linguistic study, a critical edition of an important work, or a critical biography—written by a member of the association. The MLA, the largest and one of the oldest American learned societies in the humanities (est. 1883), promotes the advancement of literary and linguistic studies. The 30,000 members of the association come from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as from Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. ###

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This event was last updated on 01-18-2007