The Society for French Studies is delighted to announce the outcome of the sixteenth annual R. Gapper Book Prize. For the first time this year, there are joint winners: Neil Kenny, for Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France, and Patrick McGuinness for Poetry and Radical Politics in fin de siècle France: From Anarchism to Action française.
The Prize was presented to the two winners at the Society’s annual conference in Durham, in July 2017. The award, which is given to the best book published in 2015 by a scholar working in French studies in Britain or Ireland, is made by the Society for French Studies together with the Gapper family, representing the R. H. Gapper Charitable Trust, on the recommendation of a Prize Jury appointed by the Society. The jury this year consisted of Prof. Margaret Topping (Queen’s University Belfast); Prof. Jean Duffy (University of Edinburgh); Prof. Shirley Jordan (Queen Mary, University of London); Prof. John O’Brien (Durham University); Prof. Paddy O’Donovan (University College Cork); and Prof. Emma Wilson (University of Cambridge). The Society for French Studies gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the R. H. Gapper Charitable Trust for this prize.
The jury had the following to say 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.