Message from President about Update to Cummings Prize eligibility

11 Dec 2014 10:01 AM | David Bergstone (Administrator)

Dear VAF members,

I wanted to call your attention to a short but important amendment to the description of the Cummings Prize that the VAF Board of Directors approved at its November meeting. The board chose to insert the four underlined words in the last sentence of the prize description: “Edited collections of previously published materials are not eligible.” I quote my thoughts on this question below as background on the issues under discussion.

Remember that if you have a candidate for the Cummings Prize, the deadline for nominations is next Monday, December 15th.

Please let me, or the Cummings Prize committee chair, Matt Lasner,, know if you have any questions.

Regards, Chris Wilson, VAF President

Excerpt from VAF President’s Report, Fall Board Meeting, November 1, 2014, Chris Wilson:

Cummings Prize. Elaine Jackson-Retondo, in her Cummings committee report and our discussions at the Spring [2014] board meeting, raised the question of whether or not multi-authored, edited books should be eligible for the Cummings Prize.

I think there is a distinction to be made between a book that is primarily the conception of the editor(s), often including previously published work (such as the pivotal book, Common Places), and a multi-author book, that is conceived together and executed by a group of authors, even if one or two of those authors coordinate the manuscript preparation and are credited as editors. The former is what is envisioned in the Cummings guidelines, “Edited collections are not eligible.” I suggest that the latter, multi-author books created from scratch, are something else and should not be excluded. Such multi-author, team projects strike me as being vernacular in their collaborative spirit. The increase of collaborative team projects in Digital Humanities will only make this question more important in the future.

So that rather than the current total prohibition of edited books, I suggest we consider amending the guidelines to something like, “While edited collections are not eligible for the prize, a book consisting of predominately new material created by a group of collaborating contributors is eligible. Anyone nominating such an edited book should elaborate in their letter of nomination on the integral nature of the authors’ collaboration.” [The board in its wisdom as noted above, found a briefer, more straightforward way to address this question.]

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