R. Gapper book prize

The Society awards an annual prize for a book published in the field of French studies. The award commends books of critical and scholarly distinction which have a clear impact on the wider critical debate. It includes a cash prize of £2000, and expenses-paid travel to the next annual conference of the Society for French Studies. In addition, the award is publicized in French Studies, in the French Studies Bulletin, and on the Society’s website. 

The award is usually made in February of each year and is presented to the winner at the annual conference of the Society for French Studies. The winner is selected by the Gapper Book Prize Jury, appointed by the SFS Executive and chaired by one of their number. Their decision is then proposed to the SFS Executive and to the R. H. Gapper Charitable Trust, who jointly award the prize. The criteria for award of the prize are, broadly, the book’s critical and scholarly distinction and its likely impact on wider critical debate. In assessing these, the following qualities will be taken into account: 

  • Scope and range
  • Intellectual ambition
  • Originality
  • Coherence and persuasiveness
  • Depth of scholarship
  • Eloquence 

Publishers, series editors, university departments, individual scholars and authors wishing to nominate themselves are invited to forward a copy of the book, published in 2017, for consideration to the current Chair of the Jury: Professor Margaret Topping, Dean of the Graduate School, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland, by 31 July 2018 at the latest. 

2016 Recipients

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.

Winner: Neil Kenny

Project Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France
Institution University of Oxford
Publication Oxford: OUP, 2015

Winner: Patrick McGuinness

Project Poetry and Radical Politics in fin de siècle France: From Anarchism to Action Française
Institution University of Oxford
Publication Oxford: OUP, 2015

Previous recipients


Winner: Robert Mills

Project Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages
Institution UCL
Publication University of Chicago Press, 2015

Runner up: ​Mairéad Hanrahan

Project Cixous’s Semi-Fictions
Institution UCL
Publication Edinburgh University Press, 2015

Runner up: Joseph Harris

Project Inventing the Spectator
Institution Royal Holloway
Publication Oxford University Press, 2015

Runner up: Ann Jefferson

Project Genius in France: an Idea and its Uses
Institution University of Oxford
Publication Princeton University Press, 2015


Winner: Christopher Prendergast

Project Mirages and Mad Beliefs: Proust the Skeptic
Publication Princeton University Press, 2014


Winner: Siân Reynolds

Project Marriage and Revolution: Monsieur & Madame Roland
Publication Oxford University Press, 2013


Winner: Michael Moriarty

Project Disguised Vices: Theories of Virtue in Early Modern French Thought
Publication Oxford University Press, 2012


Winner: Judith Still

Project Derrida and Hospitality: Theory and Practice
Publication Edinburgh University Press, 2011


Winner: Ardis Butterfield

Project The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language and Nation in the Hundred Years War
Publication Oxford University Press, 2010


Winner: Alain Viala

Project La France galante
Publication Presses universitaires de France, 2009


Winner: ​Mark Greengrass

Project Governing Passions. Peace and Reform in the French Kingdom, 1576-1585

: (Oxford University Press).

Publication Oxford University Press, 2008

Winner: Christopher Prendergast

Project The Classic. Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars
Publication Oxford University Press, 2008


Winner: Eric Robertson

Project Arp: Painter, Poet, Sculptor
Publication Yale University Press, 2007


Winner: Maria C. Scott

Project Baudelaire’s ‘Le Spleen de Paris’ : Shifting Perspectives
Publication Ashgate, 2006


Winner: Roger Pearson

Project Mallarmé and Circumstance: The Translation of Silence
Publication Oxford University Press, 2005


Winner: Sylvia Huot

Project Madness in Medieval French Literature: Identities Lost and Found
Publication Oxford University Press, 2004

Professor Margaret Topping,
Dean of the Graduate School,
Queen’s University Belfast,
Belfast BT7 1NN,
Northern Ireland