The Modern Language Association of America has announced its fifteenth Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures, to be awarded in January 2023 to Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Assistant Professor of Yiddish Samuel J. Spinner for his book Jewish Primitivism (Stanford University Press, 2021).
In its prize citation, the MLA selection committee writes: “Boldly taking on a loaded and fraught category of cultural and literary analysis, Samuel J. Spinner’s Jewish Primitivism offers an entirely new model of conducting multilingual comparative analysis.” The book “reinvigorates critical scrutiny of primitivism as a concept to tell a hitherto untold story of Jewish modernism, within and beyond the fault lines and permutations of the trilingualism of Hebrew, Yiddish, and German.”
The Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize honors the memory of Jeanne Daman Scaglione, a Roman Catholic who was headmistress of a Jewish kindergarten in Brussels, Belgium. When arrests and deportations of Jews began in 1942, she worked with Belgian and Jewish resistance units, helping to find hiding places for two thousand children throughout Belgium. She also helped rescue many Jewish men about to be deported as slave laborers by obtaining false papers for them.
A co-editor of the German Jewish Cultures series with Indiana University Press, Professor Spinner teaches widely in the Johns Hopkins undergraduate curriculum and trains graduate students in the PhD program in Jewish Languages and Literatures. Presently he is at work on a second book, Monuments of Words: Books and Holocaust Memory, which explores the aesthetics of monumentality in literature in relation to Holocaust representation and remembrance.