The Robert Penn Warren Center at WKU announces that the award jury has chosen Disseminal Chaucer: Rereading the Nun’s Priest’s Tale by Peter W. Travis of Dartmouth College for the 2009 Warren-Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Criticism.
The award will be presented at 3 p.m. April 16 in Cherry Hall 125 during the annual Robert Penn Warren Symposium.
Among 42 books submitted for this year’s contest, Travis’s book, nominated by the University of Notre Dame Press, was chosen for the breadth and depth of Dr. Travis’s scholarship, and the wit and originality of his writing, according to the jury.
Dr. Travis is the Henry Winkley Professor of Anglo-Saxon and English Language and Literature at Dartmouth. His primary interests are medieval literature and contemporary critical theory and he recently developed and taught a College Course on contemporary masculinities called “The Masculine Mystique.”
Disseminal Chaucer sees the Nun’s Priest’s tale as a kaleidoscopic parody of a broad range of medieval intellectual concerns – its theories of argument, its ways of reading stories, its treatment of its archive, its sexual politics, its understanding of metaphor, its ways of reflecting upon the political and social world. Travis captures the gusto, the canniness, the encyclopedic intelligence, and, most of all, the wicked restless energy of Chaucer.
One juror remarked that “to read Disseminating Chaucer is an exhilarating experience, as Travis goes about demonstrating by a series of close readings that the Tale is a parody of the generic expectations of a readerly sensibility too intent on finding unitary truth in any piece of literature it reads.”
Another juror argued that “with an equally impressive combination of theoretical sophistication and independence of mind, Travis gives us a Chaucer engaged with the questions of our own moment—particularly the debate over the problems and possibilities of literary representation.’’ Travis captures the debates about the nature of rhetoric and literature that went on in Chaucer’s world, noticing how often the medieval rhetoricians Chaucer both loved and mocked in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale argue in ways that closely resemble recent developments in literary theory, from Stanley Fish to Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida. Travis’s book is itself what he says of the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, a text that celebrates “the kinetic spirit and visceral élan of the act of thinking itself.’’
The award is given in honor of Warren and Cleanth Brooks. It was established in 1994 by the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies. Each year it goes to an outstanding work of literary scholarship or criticism that exemplifies in the broadest sense the spirit, scope and standards represented by the critical tradition established by Warren and Brooks. It is intended to recognize and honor work that employs in a significant way the methods associated with a close reading of texts.
Contact: Wes Berry, (270) 745-5770.