2017-18 Anne Middleton Book Prize Winner
The winner of the 2017-18 Anne Middleton Book Prize is Curtis A. Gruenler, Professor of English at Hope College, for Piers Plowman and the Poetics of Enigma: Riddles, Rhetoric, and Theology (University of Notre Dame Press, 2017).
Curtis Gruenler’s Piers Plowman and the Poetics of Enigma: Riddles, Rhetoric, and Theology is an astonishingly broad-ranging and erudite survey of all forms of ‘riddle,’ and demonstrates with great originality the applications of this material to close reading of riddling and riddle contests in William Langland’s poetic masterpiece and other contemporary vernacular texts. This volume offers the innovative proposition that all forms of riddling and riddle—everything from folk riddles and word-play through cryptic prophecies to the mysteries of Christian theology—belong to a tradition unified by a ‘poetics of enigma.’ In a series of close readings larded with learned discussion of riddle material, Piers Plowman and the Poetics of Enigma demonstrates the transformative potential this paradigm has for interpretation not just of local cruxes but also the entire modus operandi of the poet: ‘the poem wants readers to play its games and to do so in the pursuit of wisdom’ (165). The riddles framework opens up myriad possibilities for rethinking and re-reading the poem, and its interpretative implications will be long lasting. A great strength of the book is that, while celebrating riddles and the enigmatic, it eschews that mode of writing itself. In not assuming previous knowledge of the poem and in treating a wide range of riddles and theories of the enigmatic with great lucidity, this book has the potential to bring new scholars to Piers Plowman.
More information about the Anne Middleton Book Prize.