Modern Language Association honors three Humanities faculty members

The Modern Language Association will honor three University of Chicago faculty members for their recent publications. The MLA will present awards to Michael Bourdaghs, Janel Mueller and Joshua Scodel on Saturday, Jan. 7.

Bourdaghs, Associate Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, will receive the Scaglione Prize for Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature. Bourdaghs and his co-editors, Atsuko Ueda of Princeton University and Joseph A. Murphy of the University of Florida, will be honored for their translation of Natsume Soseki’s Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings.

The 1907 work by Soseki, one of Japan’s most celebrated modern novelists, “is an audacious attempt to produce a scientific theory of ‘literature,’ complete with formulas and graphs, that would be valid for all places and all time periods. It’s radically unlike anything that existed at the time, and it foreshadows much of 20th- century literary criticism,” Bourdaghs said.

Mueller, the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in English Language and Literature, and Scodel, the Helen A. Regenstein Professor in English Language and Literature, Comparative Literature, and the College, will receive the Modern Language Association Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition.

Mueller and Scodel are co-editors of two volumes of Queen Elizabeth I’s translations of works in Latin, French, and Italian. Both volumes, Elizabeth I: Translations, 1544-1589 and Elizabeth I: Translations, 1592-1598, are published by the University of Chicago Press.


The MLA prize committee’s citation praised Mueller and Scodel for offering new insight into Elizabeth “as a writer, a negotiator of word and phrase…Readers will be taken by these editions, moved by the passionate connoisseurship they both exhibit and elicit.”

Scodel and Mueller said they were “thrilled” by the MLA’s recognition of their work. “Janel Mueller and I tried to demonstrate in our edition how much Elizabeth reveals her own cast of mind through her lifelong activity as a translator, and I'm delighted that others find our work interesting,” Scodel said.

Bourdaghs also expressed his gratitude to the MLA for the honor.

“We began this project because we wanted to get a conversation started about this utterly fascinating, but largely forgotten, book from 1907,” Bourdaghs said. “The award is gratifying to us because it means that the conversation we hoped for is underway.”