Book Prize


Each year, the Modernist Studies Association seeks nominations for its Book Prize, awarded to a book published in the previous year. A panel of judges determines the book that made the most significant contribution to modernist studies. The winner receives $1,000 plus up to $500 toward travel expenses to the MSA Conference, where the award is presented. A book first published in another year will not be eligible for the prize. This exclusion applies even if a new edition (paperback or revised, for example) was published in the award year. Please visit our Nominations page to recommend a book for this year's prize orvisit our archive to see previous winners.

2016 MSA Book Prize Winner (for a book published in 2015)

The Modernist Studies Association awards its 2016 Book Prize to Paul Saint-Amour's Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Tense Future tackles modernism as a product of the interwar period in terms of the collective psychological effects of the imminent dread produced by total war. The study draws out this new phenomenology of anticipation as one among other of the strands of modernism which can no longer be united under some global theory of modernism or modernity. This approach yields a series of stimulating readings of those modernist classics which deal with war – Parade’s End, Ulysses, Mrs Dalloway and The Years – and makes a welcome foray outside that corpus to Cicely Hamilton’s Savage, moving on to the question of historical archiving, which opens up the topic of the encyclopedism of modernism as a response to the fragility of civilizations revealed by total war. Aiming to be polyvalent and suggestive, Saint-Amour’s text repeatedly glances forward from the interwar to the cold war, setting up models of interference which remind modernist studies not to be bound by period. Throughout, this study develops its arguments carefully through many layers, presents its case studies with clarity and control, and rewards the reader with a constant flow of insight.

View the 2016 Book Prize Shortlist

2016 MSA Book Prize Committee
David Ayers (chair), University of Kent
Alan Golding, University of Louisville
Suzanne Hobson, Queen Mary University of London

2016 MSA Prize for a First Book Winner

The Modernist Studies Association awards its 2016 Prize for a First Book to Hannah Freed-Thall's Spoiled Distinctions: Aesthetics and the Ordinary in French Modernism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Elegantly conceived and beautifully written, Hannah Freed-Thall’s Spoiled Distinctions examines French modernism’s aesthetic preoccupation with the commonplace and everyday. Through its analytically astute engagements with language and form, Spoiled Distinctions argues that in and around the deceptively empty terminology of the “quelconque,” writers from Proust to Yasmina Reza describe an involving variety of artistic experience and response that emerges in the indeterminate, “whatever” styles of attention to aspects of our shared world that seem hard to specify or value. In a series of subtle, intricate, and absorbing close readings, Freed-Thall discovers a wonderfully disruptive sense of modernism as a mode that is attuned to registers of meaning that become weirdly beautiful in their stubborn embodiment of the ordinary, even as they come to suggest that our perceptual field is all but sublimely nuanced in its capacity to elude the names we use to order and contain it.

View the 2016 First Book Prize Shortlist

2016 MSA First Book Prize Committee
David James (Chair), Queen Mary, University of London
Tsitsi Jaji, Duke University
Mark Goble, University of California–Berkeley

2015 MSA Book Prize Winner for for an edition, anthology, or essay collection

The Modernist Studies Association awards its 2015 Book Prize for an edition, anthology or essay collection to Anthony Cuda and Ronald Schuchard for The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot, Volume II: The Perfect Critic, 1919-1926 (Johns Hopkins)

A monumental work of scholarly editing, the long overdue Collected Prose of T. S. Eliot is sure to be widely used, appreciated, and admired. Volume II finds Eliot in his most prolific and indispensible years as a critic. Amidst such touchstones as the Sacred Wood essays, here one finds such important and previously uncollected material as neglected entries from the Dial “London Letters,” reviews and regular commentaries from The Criterion, and unsigned book reviews from far-flung locations, on often surprising topics. While the entire edition, projected to eight volumes, constitutes a major achievement and an indispensible archive, Volume II is certain to be the one most used by scholars, most central to ongoing studies and re-evaluations of Eliot and the history of modernist criticism. Clear and easily grasped editorial principles and superb content notes speak to the dedication, diligence, and sound sense of the editorial team.

View the 2015 Book Prize Shortlist: Edition, Anthology, or Essay Collection

2015 MSA Book Prize for an Edition, Anthology, or Essay Collection Committee
Patrick Collier, Ball State University (chair)
Anna Snaith, King’s College London
Andrew Thacker, Nottingham Trent University


Please visit our Nominations page to recommend a book for this year's prize.
Visit our archive to see previous winners.