MLA’S Scaglione Prize for African Studies Awarded to Belinda Edmondson

Belinda Edmondson
Photo: Isaac Jimenez
Creole Noise book cover

The Modern Language Association of America today announced it is awarding its first annual Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for African Studies to Belinda Edmondson, Distinguished Professor in the Departments of English and Africana Studies at Rutgers University-Newark, for her book Creole Noise: Early Caribbean Dialect, Literature, and Performance, published by Oxford University Press. The prize is awarded annually for an outstanding scholarly work in African or African diaspora literary or linguistic studies.

The Scaglione Prize for African Studies is one of twenty-two awards that will be presented on 5 January 2024 during the association’s annual convention, to be held in Philadelphia. The members of the selection committee were Simon Gikandi (Princeton Univ.), chair; Ato Quayson (Stanford Univ.); and Phyllis Taoua (Univ. of Arizona, Tucson). The committee’s citation for Edmondson’s book reads:

"Belinda Edmondson’s Creole Noise: Early Caribbean Dialect, Literature, and Performance offers a powerful and compelling genealogy of the relationship between noise and dialect in Caribbean literature and complicates the traditional binarism between the blackness of orality and the whiteness of literary narrative. Focusing on the culture, currency, and politics of Creole and its long history, Edmondson provides a captivating story of the language at various sites of contestation between classes, racial groups, and ethnicities and traces its diasporic crossing from Jamaica to Harlem. Superbly written, the book is also carefully calibrated. Edmondson demonstrates a mastery of the historical evolution of criticism in the field, and her astute balance of archival work, literary history, and interpretation stands out as an enthralling example of the power and scope of African diasporic scholarship at its best."

The Modern Language Association of America and its over 20,000 members in 100 countries work to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literature. Founded in 1883, the MLA provides opportunities for its members to share their scholarly findings and teaching experiences with colleagues and to discuss trends in the academy. The MLA sustains one of the finest publication programs in the humanities, producing a variety of publications for language and literature professionals and for the general public. The association publishes the MLA International Bibliography, the only comprehensive bibliography in language and literature, available online. The MLA Annual Convention features 750 scholarly and professional development sessions. More information on MLA programs is available at

The Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for African Studies is awarded under the auspices of the MLA’s Committee on Honors and Awards. Other awards sponsored by the committee are the William Riley Parker Prize; the James Russell Lowell Prize; the MLA Prize for a First Book; the Howard R. Marraro Prize; the Kenneth W. Mildenberger Prize; the Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize; the MLA Prize for Independent Scholars; the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize; the Morton N. Cohen Award; the MLA Prizes for a Scholarly Edition and for Bibliographical or Archival Scholarship; the Lois Roth Award; the William Sanders Scarborough Prize; the Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies; the MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies; the MLA Prize for Studies in Native American Literatures, Cultures, and Languages; the Matei Calinescu Prize; the MLA Prize for an Edited Collection; the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prizes for Comparative Literary Studies, for French and Francophone Studies, for Italian Studies, for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures, for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures, for a Translation of a Literary Work, for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature, for East Asian Studies, for Middle Eastern Studies, and for South Asian Studies; and the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies. A complete list of current and previous winners can be found on the MLA website.

The Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Endowment Fund was established and donated by Aldo Scaglione to the Modern Language Association in 1987. The fund honors the memory of Scaglione’s late wife, Jeanne Daman Scaglione. A Roman Catholic, Jeanne Daman 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. Jeanne Scaglione’s life and contributions to humanity are commemorated in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Aldo Scaglione, a member of the Modern Language Association from 1957 until his death in 2013, was Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Literature at New York University. A native of Turin, Italy, he received a doctorate in modern letters from the University of Turin. He taught at the University of Toulouse and at the University of Chicago. From 1952 to 1968 he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and from 1968 to 1987 he was W. R. Kenan Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 1987 he came to New York University as professor of Italian and then chair of the Department of Italian. Scaglione was a Fulbright Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow, held senior fellowships from the Newberry Library and the German Academic Exchange Service, and was a visiting professor at Yale University, the City University of New York, and the Humanities Research Institute of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1975 he was named Cavaliere dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana. Scaglione was president of the American Boccaccio Association and was a member of the MLA Executive Council from 1981 to 1984. His published books include Nature and Love in the Late Middle Ages (1963), Ars Grammatica (1970), The Classical Theory of Composition (1972), The Theory of German Word Order (1981), The Liberal Arts and the Jesuit College System (1986), Knights at Court: Courtliness, Chivalry, and Courtesy from Ottonian Germany to the Italian Renaissance (1991), and Essays on the Arts of Discourse: Linguistics, Rhetoric, Poetics (1998).