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ISU Announces Winner of 2023 Teaching Literature Book Award

October 2, 2023

The Idaho State University Department of English and Philosophy has announced “The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study” as the winner of the 2023 Teaching Literature Book Award. 

The Teaching Literature Book Award (TLBA) is a national prize that recognizes the best book on teaching literature at the college level. The award is presented biennially by the faculty in the graduate programs in English at Idaho State University. Nominated books are judged by a committee of external and internal reviewers. 

The winning book, “The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study,” explores the history of teaching literature in the twentieth-century. Authors Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan examine the syllabi, course notes, lectures, and assignments from some key literary critics and authors, including T.S. Eliot, I.A. Richards, Caroline Spurgeon, Josephine Miles, and Simon J. Ortiz. 

The book shows that core ideas and texts of twentieth-century literary study have arisen not at elite research universities, but in classrooms at small liberal arts colleges, public universities, HBCUs, and community colleges. In other words, engaging, challenging work with students from a range of backgrounds and in all kinds of post-secondary classrooms developed many of the most influential critical approaches to literature. 

Jessica Winston, Professor of English and Chair of the Award Committee, says, “the book offers important evidence to counter the academic commonplace that research and teaching are separate, even in tension with each other.”

Winston continued, “‘The Teaching Archive’ is not a typical book on college-level literature pedagogy.” She says, “The book insists we recognize the importance of teaching in shaping the broader discipline.” One TLBA reviewer called the work, “inspiring.” Another noted, it made her want to “run back to the classroom.” 

Rachel Sagner Buurma is Professor of English at Swarthmore College, and Laura Heffernan is Professor of English at University of North Florida. Buurma and Heffernan jointly commented, “We’re so honored to receive the Teaching LIterature Book Award.” The authors continued: “The award is especially meaningful because the prize — like our book itself — honors the everyday teaching of literature as not only worthy of scholarly attention but formative of our core intellectual and disciplinary histories.”

The winning book was published in 2021 by the University of Chicago Press. It also received the 2022 Modernist Studies Book Prize from the Modernist Studies Association.

The award committee also gave an honorable mention to two books. TLBA reviewers describe “Teaching Late-Twentieth-Century Mexicana and Chicana Writers” as a “rich collection” that provides concrete information and strategies for approaching women writers from Latin and Central America and the United States. The chapters provide resources for teaching works in translation and conveying the complex historical, political, and cultural background of the poetry, essays, and fiction of both canonical and less widely known Mexican and Chicana writers. 

Published by the Modern Language Association as part of the Options in Teaching series in 2021, “Teaching Late-Twentieth-Century Mexicana and Chicana Writers” was edited by Elizabeth Coonrod Martinez, recently retired Director of the Center for Latino Research and Professor of Latino Studies at DePaul University. 

The second book to receive an honorable mention is “Teaching Games and Game Studies in the Literature Classroom.” TLBA reviewers found the approaches “fascinating,” while stating that the collection makes a “strong case” for ways that game studies can encourage meaningful engagement with literary texts and can build important critical skills across humanities disciplines. 

“Teaching Games and Game Studies” was edited by Tison Pugh, Pegasus Professor of English at University of Central Florida, and Lynn Ramey, Professor of French, at Vanderbilt University. It was published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2022. Tison Pugh also co-edited “Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other,” which won the Teaching Literature Book Award in 2019. 

This year’s committee included Benjamin Hagen, Associate Professor of English, University of South Dakota; Jill S. Kuhnheim, Professor Emerita, University of Kansas and Visiting Professor of Hispanic Studies, Brown University; and Tarshia Stanley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of English, Wagner College, and 2021 Teaching Literature Book Award Winner. Jessica Winston and Susan Goslee, ISU Associate Professor of English, also served on the committee. 

More information about the award, including past winners, is available at isu.edu/english. 


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