The Modern Language Association of America today announced it is awarding its twentieth annual Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book to Meredith Martin, of Princeton University, for The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860–1930, published by Princeton University Press.

The MLA Prize for a First Book was established in 1993.It is awarded annually for the first book-length publication of a member of the association that is a literary or linguistic study, a critical edition of important work, or a critical biography. The MLA Prize for a First Book is one of sixteen awards that will be presented on 11 January 2014, during the association’s annual convention, to be held in Chicago.

The members of the selection committee were Anne Coldiron (Florida State Univ.), chair; Marsha S. Collins (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); Kevin McLaughlin (Brown Univ.); Andrew Piper (McGill Univ.); and Karen Stolley (Emory Univ.). The committee’s citation for Martin’s book reads:

Meredith Martin’s The Rise and Fall of Meter is an impressive, elegant work that intervenes in old and new literary histories alike. This book traces the surprisingly polemical history of the standardization of English prosody. Bringing to light new archival materials, the work excavates the full turbulence and excitement of the nineteenth-and twentieth-century debates about English verse rhythms. Complex, concise, and clear, Martin’s book deftly weaves together cultural analysis; the study of language, form, and sound; and literary history. With a rich critical eclecticism, the book reframes and reanimates our understanding of the history of poetry and poetics. The result is an intriguing story, as relevant to the new aesthetics as it is to older historical and cultural studies. Martin’s work reminds us that at its best, great scholarship has much in common with great storytelling.

Meredith Martin is an associate professor of English and faculty director of the Princeton Digital Humanities Initiative at Princeton University. She received her BA from Smith College and her MA and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She is the project director and managing editor of the Princeton Prosody Archive and was co-editor of a special issue of Victorian Poetry and editor of a special issue of the Hopkins Quarterly. Her essays have appeared in books such as Decadent Poetics and Modernism and Nostalgia and journals such as Modernism and Modernity and Victorian Studies. The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860–1930 is also the recipient of the Warren-Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Criticism from the Robert Penn Warren Center.

The Modern Language Association of America and its nearly 30,000 members in 100 countries work to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literature. Founded in 1883, the MLA provides opportunities for its members to share their scholarly findings and teaching experiences with colleagues and to discuss trends in the academy. The MLA sustains one of the finest publication programs in the humanities, producing a variety of publications for language and literature professionals and for the general public. The association publishes the MLA International Bibliography, the only comprehensive bibliography in language and literature, available online. The MLA Annual Convention features meetings on a wide variety of subjects; this year’s convention in Chicago is expected to draw 8,000 attendees. More information on MLA programs is available at is external).

Before the establishment of the MLA Prize for a First Book in 1993, members who were authors of first books were eligible, along with other members, to compete for the association’s James Russell Lowe II Prize, established in 1969. Apart from its limitation to members’ first books, the MLA Prize for a First Book follows the same criteria and definitions as the Lowell prize. Previous winners of the prize have been Steven Justice, Elaine Hadley, Marc Redfield, John Rogers, Katie Trumpener, Deidre Shauna Lynch, Srinivas Aravamudan, Patricia Cain, Bruce W. Holsinger, Paul Downes, Priya Joshi, Paul K. Saint-Amour, Elizabeth S. Goodstein, Virginia Jackson, Sean X. Goudie, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Andrew Piper, Vivasvan Soni, and Nergis Ertürk. Honorable mentions have been presented to Ian Baucom, Yopie Prins, Zhen Zhang, and Eric Slauter.

The MLA Prize for a First Book is awarded under the auspices of the association’s Committee on Honors and Awards. Other awards sponsored by the committee are the William Riley Parker Prize; the James Russell Lowell Prize; 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 Prize for a Scholarly Edition; the MLA Prize for a Bibliography, Archive, or Digital Project; the Lois Roth Award; the William Sanders Scarborough Prize; the Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies; the MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies; the MLA Prize for Studies in Native American Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; 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, and for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature; and the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies.

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