The following release was issued by the Modern Language Association of America about its prize to Pace University Professor Emerita, Jean Fagan Yellin.
JEAN FAGAN YELLIN TO RECEIVE MLA`S WILLIAM SANDERS SCARBOROUGH PRIZE FOR AN OUTSTANDING SCHOLARLY STUDY OF BLACK AMERICAN LITERATURE OR CULTURE
New York, NY – 30 November 2005 – The Modern Language Association of America today announced it is awarding its fourth annual William Sanders Scarborough Prize to Jean Fagan Yellin, of Pace University, for her book Harriet Jacobs: A Life, published by Basic Civitas Books. The prize is awarded for an outstanding scholarly study of black American literature or culture. Yellin will receive a certificate and a check for $1,000.
The William Sanders Scarborough Prize is one of eighteen awards that will be presented on 28 December 2005 during the association`s annual convention, held this year in Washington, DC. The members of the selection committee were Wahneema Lubiano (Duke Univ.); Dwight A. McBride (Northwestern Univ.), chair; and Kenneth Warren (Univ. of Chicago). The committee`s citation for the winning book reads:
Harriet Jacobs: A Life exemplifies the scholarly depth, organizational precision, and attention to the requirements of form that one hopes for in a biography and conveys the larger narrative that a great biography delivers to us-that is, the general life of the social order in which the particular life is lived. While attending to the relation of material life to affective life, Jean Fagan Yellin conveys some understanding of the interiority of the historical Jacobs without producing a sentimental idealism of the person. While constructing a relentlessly researched narrative of the limits of Jacobs`s existence, Yellin nonetheless makes certain our understanding of the possibilities of Jacobs`s life. Bringing texture to Jacobs`s well-known story, the book is at once clear and complicated, sweeping but nuanced, elegant and poignant.
Jean Fagan Yellin, distinguished professor Emerita at Pace University, is author of Women and Sisters: The Anti-slavery Feminists in American Culture and The Intricate Knot: Black Figures in American Literature, 1776-1863. She has also edited Harriet Jacobs`s 1861 slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself, and editions of Uncle Tom`s Cabin, Margret Howth, and Clotel. She is coeditor of The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Antislavery and Women`s Political Culture and co compiler of the bibliography The Pen Is Ours: A Listing of Writings by African-American Women to 1910, with Secondary Bibliography to the Present. She has received grants from such institutions as the National Endowment for the Humanities; the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University; and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. She is currently completing work on the Harriet Jacobs Papers, which will result in the first scholarly edition of the papers of an African-American woman held in slavery.
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 fifty states and the District of Columbia, as well as from Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. PMLA, the association`s flagship journal of literary scholarship, has published distinguished scholarly articles for over one hundred years. Approximately 9,500 members of the MLA and its allied and affiliate organizations attend the association`s annual convention each December. The MLA is a constituent of the American Council of Learned Societies and the International Federation for Modern Languages and Literatures.
The William Sanders Scarborough Prize was established in 2001 and named for the first African American member of the MLA. It is awarded under the auspices of the Committee on Honors and Awards and was presented for the first time in 2002, when the winner was Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. In 2003, the award went to Maurice O. Wallace. The award in 2004 was given to Joanna Brooks, with Thadious M. Davis and Susan Gillman both receiving honorable mentions.
Other awards sponsored by the committee are the William Riley Parker Prize; the James Russell Lowell Prize; the MLA Prize for a First Book; the Howard R. Marraro Prize; the Kenneth W. Mildenberger Prize; the Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize; the MLA Prize for Independent Scholars; the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize; the Morton N. Cohen Award; the MLA Prizes for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition and for a Distinguished Bibliography; the Lois Roth Award; the Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize; the MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies; and the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prizes for Comparative Literary Studies, for French and Francophone Studies, for Italian Studies, for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures, for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures, for a Translation of a Literary Work, for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature, and for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies.
William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) was the first African American member of the Modern Language Association. Brought up in the South, Scarborough was a dedicated student of languages and literature. He attended Atlanta University and graduated in 1875 from Oberlin College, where he later received an MA degree. After teaching at various southern schools, Scarborough was appointed professor of Latin and Greek at Wilberforce University. He later served as president of the university from 1908 through 1920. Scarborough`s published works include First Lessons in Greek (1881) and Birds of Aristophanes (1886) and many articles in national magazines, including Forum and Arena. In 1882 he was the third black man to be elected membership to the American Philological Association. Scarborough`s areas of interest included classical philology and linguistics with an emphasis on Negro dialects.