2019 CARA Award Citations

CARA Kindrick Service Award:

This year the CARA Committee is delighted to honor Carol Symes, Associate Professor in the Department of History with joint appointments in Global Studies, Theater and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with the CARA-Kindrick Service Award for her service to the profession and to Medieval Studies more broadly. As part of a core group of faculty at the University of Illinois, Professor Symes was instrumental in remaking the Medieval Studies Program and reimagining it as a part of a global project. In doing so, she “redrew the map for conceptualizing a global medieval program” at the University of Illinois, and beyond. Symes’s contribution went farther still: in 2012/13 she innovated a new scholarly journal dedicated to this approach, The Medieval Globe, published by ARC Humanities Press and open access. In the introductory issue Symes offered a lucid manifesto for global Medieval Studies that “lays out the stakes and the potentials for transforming our discipline.” Through her tireless work and dedication to a global conception of the Middle Ages, it is clear that Symes has changed our field and its orientation. She has offered a model for thinking broadly, reading widely and voraciously, and for seeing the medieval past in a dynamic framing that renders medieval studies a far richer, more complex and compelling field than previously conceived. Through her extraordinary leadership and dedication to new ideas, through her award-winning teaching and publication record, and in her dedication to mentoring graduate students, junior faculty, and colleagues, she has truly changed our field and pushed the boundaries of our disciplines. Carol Symes has provoked all of us to see the Middle Ages in a new global light and thus to see the potential for new kinds of scholarship, collaboration, and understanding.

CARA Awards for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies:

This year CARA is again very pleased to recognize two scholars for excellence in teaching. Elizabeth Sears is the George H. Forsyth Jr. Collegiate Professor of History of Art and Chair of the Department of History of Art at the University of Michigan. Over her three decades of teaching at Princeton University (1982-1989), Universität Hamburg (1991-1992) and the University of Michigan (1992-present) she has inspired and mentored undergraduate and graduate students in courses ranging from “The Medieval Book,” and “The Gothic Age” to “Medieval Image Theory” and “Aby Warburg and His Legacy,” all the while serving on numerous teaching and administrative committees. In her scholarly work she has managed to open up art history and the study of images for students of all levels as exemplified in her edited collection, Reading Medieval Images published in 2002 by combining concise discussions of methodology with in-depth case studies. Her teaching is inspired and seeks to explore the “rich ambiguity of medieval artifacts and texts of all kinds.” For this she also won the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts’ Excellence in Teaching Award. As a teacher and graduate mentor, Professor Sears “fosters the individual.” In addition to serving as the editor of Gesta, Sears served as the publications chair for the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA) and established a book series, Viewpoints. “Wise, measured, insightful, and dedicated, Professor Sears is a model for how to conduct ourselves in the field.”

The CARA Committee is also pleased to recognize Sonja Drimmer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Massachusetts for her outstanding role teaching, mentoring, and inspiring undergraduate and graduate students. During her short time at UMass, Drimmer has created profound collaborations that have drawn together her colleagues at UMass as well as at Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges, creating a vibrant medieval studies network. In the classroom, she is a brilliant and provocative teacher, often beginning lectures with a question or an object for discussion, provoking students to ask questions in turn. Quite simply, students in her classes have been “spellbound by her creativity.” In addition to her brilliant teaching, Sonja has developed a significant manuscript collection that her colleagues note “she has built seemingly out of thin air”. In collaboration with the librarians and archivists at Special Collections and the University Archives, she has assembled manuscripts and manuscript reproductions for faculty use with students in courses on early book history, medieval and late antique manuscripts, and textual transmission. She has created a “top-notch teaching collection” which makes possible a new kind of teaching at UMass. Bringing to bear her “capacious and elastic mind,” Professor Drimmer has fostered a form of teaching that is collaborative, generous, and exhilarating.

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