The University of Chicago Press has awarded the 2014 Gordon J. Laing Prize to Alison Winter, professor of history, for her book Memory: Fragments of a Modern History. The prize was presented to Winter during a reception at the UChicago Quadrangle Club.
The UChicago Press annually awards the Laing prize to the faculty author, editor, or translator of a book published in the previous three years that has brought great distinction to the Press. Winter's book is a modern history of memory, and how scientific perspectives on it have shaped legal and cultural controversies.
“Tracing the cultural and scientific history of our understanding of memory, Winter introduces readers to innovative scientists and sensationalistic seekers,” the Press wrote in announcing the honor. “She draws on evidence ranging from scientific papers to diaries to movies in order to explore the way that new understandings from the laboratory have seeped out into psychiatrists' offices, courtrooms and the culture at large. Along the way, she investigates the sensational battles over the validity of repressed memories and shows us how changes in technology—such as the emergence of recording devices and computers—have again and again altered the way we conceptualize and even try to study, the ways we remember.”
Originally published in hardcover in January 2012, the book has received extensive praise in such publications as Science and the London Review of Books. Bookforum’s review included these accolades: “Impressive…. Winter has done an admirable job synthesizing many diverse sources into a tidy cultural history…. A compelling demonstration that the science of memory—like all science—is both a product of and an influence on the culture from which it springs."
UChicago Press also published Winter’s first book, Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain. Winter is a professor of the history of science and medicine. Her current research focuses on the scientific study and medical extraction of memory in America and Britain.