WMU News

Book on medieval civic triumph ritual wins Grundler Prize

May 7, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- A book that examines the medieval "civic triumph" -- a community celebration that heralded the inauguration of new royalty, battle victories or a triumph of any sort -- has been named the winner of a prestigious prize for scholarship in medieval studies by Western Michigan University.

The 2000 Otto Grundler Prize was awarded to Dr. Gordon Kipling, professor of English literature at the University of California Los Angeles, during ceremonies at the 35th International Congress on Medieval Studies held May 4-7 at WMU. The $2,500 prize is named for the former director of WMU's Medieval Institute, which each year acts as host to the world's largest gathering of scholars in medieval studies. Nearly 3,000 persons attended this year's event.

Kipling's book, "Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph," was selected from 15 nominations submitted from across the globe. Published in 1998 by the Oxford University Press, the book examines the medieval civic triumph, described as "one of the great spectacles of state that stood at the heart of national and civic life in the Middle Ages."

"It was more than just a parade," explains Dr. Paul E. Szarmach, director of the Medieval Institute. "It was a performance, a ritual celebration that expressed a community's values. It was an imagistic representation of political, religious and sociological ideals that expressed who these communities were and what they wanted to be."

Szarmach says that while the civic triumph was peculiar to the late medieval period, remnants of it remain today. The famous ticker tape parade in New York City following the return of soldiers from World War II or Russia's annual May Day display of its military, tanks and missiles are contemporary examples of the ritualistic event.

"The ceremony really shows the power of the reigning dynasty," says Szarmach. "It was an elaborate drama that became a defining ritual of late medieval society in England, France and the Low Countries."

The Grundler Prize was established by WMU President Emeritus Diether H. Haenicke to honor Grundler for his distinguished service to the University and his life-long dedication to the international community of medievalists. The prize is intended to recognize a book or monograph on a medieval subject judged by a selection committee to be an outstanding contribution to the field. Authors from any country are eligible for the prize and nominations are accepted from readers or publishers.

A specialist in medieval and Tudor drama, theatrical spectacle, pageantry, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Anglo-Dutch relations, Kipling is the author of "The Triumph of Honour: Burgundian Origins of the Elizabethan Renaissance" and the editor of "The Receyt of the Ladie Katheryne." A 1990 recipient of a Fulbright Research Fellowship, Kipling also has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment of the Humanities.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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