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Donald Gray Prize
22 Oct 2021

John MacNeill Miller receives Honorable Mention for NAVSA’s Donald Gray Prize for best 2020 article in Victorian studies

Each autumn volunteer judges select the best essay in Victorian studies published during the prior calendar year. And in years where more than one piece merits special recognition, the judges may also identify an essay for honorable mention. This year, the judges have indeed opted to identify both an honorable mention and a winner.

The honorable mention essay for 2020 is John MacNeill Miller’s "The Ecological Plot: A Brief History of Multispecies Storytelling, from Malthus to Middlemarch" (48/1). Of this essay, the judges wrote: "This essay expands our understanding of ecology, as it emerged in the nineteenth century, while also exploring the limits of the Victorian novel. Miller situates the ecological plot in multispecies storytelling—an aesthetic mode of representing collective life and material interdependencies indicative of the ecological imagination—whose history he traces through compelling new readings of Malthus, Martineau, and Darwin. In so doing, he offers us a tantalizing vision of a nineteenth-century alternative to the social novel that came to dominate both the genre and literary criticism. While Miller acknowledges that his essay only offers a brief genealogy, it provides an armature and provocation for the field – how, by working synchronically and diachronically and across genres—we can arrive at new understandings of the form and function of the novel and its situatedness within the broader cultural fabric."

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