Jenna Townend wins the Chauncey Wood Dissertation Award of the George Herbert Society for 2017-2019
The panel of judges who evaluated all the dissertations submitted for consideration during the current award period praised Townend’s thesis as a remarkably accomplished work of both scholarship and critical analysis. Even a listing of the many discoveries she has made about where references to Herbert appear between 1633 and 1715 would be a great boon to Herbert scholars. But in addition, a large part of her dissertation is devoted to well-executed studies of how Herbert was interpreted during this period and how he was used. She presents many detailed examples of what Herbert’s poems meant for specific readers in specific circumstances, and how they were put to strategic as well as poetic use: Herbert was not only an inspiration and source of comfort and delight but also an ally in helping people to identify who they were and what they believed and advocated in their own writings. Besides her thesis being a fine contribution to our broad understanding of Herbert’s reception in the generations immediately following his death, it also enhances close readings of Herbert’s poems by showing how numerous people in fact read Herbert closely – and not surprisingly, often differently. Townend is a skilful, assured, and impressively knowledgeable writer, and presents her material clearly and persuasively. Her work will have lasting importance in our study of Herbert, especially in the century after his death.
Professor Townend will be honored with a $500 prize, complimentary conference registration and fees, and a plaque to be presented at the Sixth Triennial Conference of the George Herbert Society at Cambridge in June 2021. She has generously asked that the additional $500 travel bursary be passed on to others with greater need for conference travel funds.
The George Herbert Society wishes to thank our distinguished panel of judges for their work in evaluating the dissertations under consideration for 2017-2019: Professor Sidney Gottlieb, Sacred Heart University/Editor, George Herbert Journal (Chair); the late Professor Cristina Malcolmson, Emerita of Bates College; and Professor Jonathan F.S. Post, Emeritus of the University of California at Los Angeles.