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 or visit our archive to see previous winners.

MSA Book Prize Winner (for a book published in 2017)

The Modernist Studies Association awards its Book Prize to Christopher Reed's Bachelor Japanists: Japanese Aesthetics and Western Masculinities (Columbia)

Bachelor Japanists is a deeply researched, beautifully written, rewarding account of Western connoisseurs’ engagements with a Japan of their wishful imagination across almost a century. As we travel from Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century, via early-twentieth-century Boston, to Seattle in the 1940s and 1950s, we meet an arresting range of ‘bachelors’—not always unmarried, and, indeed, not always men—who found in Japanese culture whole new ways of being and seeing. Reconstructing in compelling detail such estranging and emancipating encounters in what is among many other things a tour de force of cultural-historical storytelling, this original, assured, and independent-minded book takes seriously not just the pitfalls of fantasy but also its potentially life-changing pleasures.

View the Book Prize Shortlist

MSA Book Prize Committee
Jeremy Braddock (chair), Cornell University
Anne Anlin Cheng, Princeton University
Marina McKay, University of Oxford

MSA First Book Prize Winner (for a book published in 2017)

The Modernist Studies Association awards its Prize for a First Book to Adrienne Brown's The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race (Johns Hopkins UP, 2017)

How did modern architecture mediate the lived experience of race? Bringing together the cross-cutting histories of Reconstruction, late nineteenth-century immigration into the United States, and the dawn of the Jim Crow era, Adrienne Brown’s The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race invites us to look at tall buildings from a dazzling new perspective. In the years between the skyscraper’s invention in the 1880s and the unveiling of the Empire State Building in 1931, Brown argues, denizens of American cities entered into a new “racial sensorium,” a phenomenological condition characterized by the disorienting, seemingly anti-gravitational proliferation of taller and taller buildings. The Black Skyscraper revisits canonical works by Howells, James, Larsen, Fitzgerald, and DuBois to uncover a powerful relationship between race and architectural form that determines the modern individual’s racially coded place (or placelessness) within metropolitan social hierarchies. And the skyscraper’s complex visuality not only influenced the aesthetics of realist fiction and flights of modernist experimentation, but also contributed to the stylistic and generic variety of popular Jazz Age and Harlem Renaissance forms: pulp, melodrama, and science fiction. Brown’s study marries rich archival and historical research with close readings of literary texts, revealing how the skyscraper’s scale, and the shadows it cast, produced crucial – and until now overlooked – racial dimensions of American modernism.

View the First Book Prize Shortlist

MSA First Book Prize Committee
Urmila Seshagiri, chair (University of Tennessee Knoxville)
Laura Doyle (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Jesse Matz (Kenyon College)

2017 MSA Book Prize Winner for for an edition, anthology, or essay collection

The Modernist Studies Association awards its Book Prize for an edition, anthology or essay collection to Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue for The Poems of T.S. Eliot (London: Faber & Faber, 2015)

This major publication is a landmark in modernist scholarship and poetry editing, a superb critical edition of the poems establishing a new text of the Collected Poems 1909-1962, presenting Eliot’s uncollected verse (including love poems to his wife Valerie Eliot), Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the Anabase translation, bawdy verse; and, very importantly, a new reading text (or editorial composite) of the drafts of The Waste Land. Each of Eliot’s poems and major projects has its own full commentary, wonderfully comprehensive, imaginative in its range, scrupulously scholarly, and the two volumes close with a full textual history of the poems. The Waste Land alone has a 62-page commentary – which will change the way we read this key epochal text – and 56 pages of textual history. This is a nine-year project by the editors, magisterial in its range, depth and scope, and the finesse of the editorial policy and practice is matchless.

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

2017 MSA Book Prize for an Edition, Anthology, or Essay Collection Committee
Vassiliki Kolocotroni, University of Glasgow (chair)
Adam Piette, University of Sheffield
Sanja Bahun, University of Essex


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