News Story

McNamer Book Wins MLA Award

Professor Sarah McNamer is presented with an MLA award for her recent book
Professor Sarah McNamer (right) of the Department of English and the Program in Medieval Studies has received a prestigious MLA award for her latest book, a translation and commentary on an influential Italian devotional.

March 26, 2018 — Earlier this semester, Georgetown College English and medieval studies professor Sarah McNamer was awarded the 2017 Modern Language Association‘s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies for her latest book, Meditations on the Life of Christ: The Short Italian Text.

The book is a critical edition, translation and commentary on what she argues is a previously unpublished original version of Meditations on the Life of Christ, a 14th-century devotional text considered to be the most popular influential work of its kind in the late Middle Ages.

After centuries of assumption that Meditations was composed by Saint Bonaventure, scholars in the 19th century determined it was actually the work of an anonymous Franciscan friar.

McNamer takes the question of the author’s identity a step further: She argues not only that this previously unpublished Italian version is in fact the earliest draft of the Meditations, but that its author was a woman.

“Livelier and far more compact than the Latin text, the Italian “short text” possesses a stylistic and textual integrity that appears to testify to its primacy among early versions of the Meditations,” reads the book description. “The evidence also suggests that it was composed by a woman, a Poor Clare from Pisa — an author whose work McNamer contends was obscured by the anonymous Franciscan friar who subsequently altered and expanded the text.”

The book represents an extension of research McNamer had published before, in the 2009 article “The Origins of the Meditationes vitae Christi” for the journal Speculum. In that piece, she presents evidence that the short Italian text — a piece arguably superior to the Latin version in many ways — may have been composed by a nun.

This perspective, expanded upon in her new translation and commentary, earned her the prestigious MLA Scaglione Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies. The book was published this spring by the University of Notre Dame Press.

Medieval Studies