Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize Honorable Mention

One of the highlights of last week's meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America's annual conference in Boston occurred at the association's luncheon, the event where everyone gathers in a huge ballroom to chat with old friends, eat hotel chicken, and hear some updates about association business. Huge, in this case, means huge: there were about 800 formal participants in this year's conference, and that does not include scholars (of whom there were quite a few) who attended the conference without giving a presentation themselves.

So you can picture the scene at the luncheon: acres and acres of tables, scholars gathered from universities all over the world, and in the distance, an association president or vice president saying things about new trustees and prizes and so on. Ho hum. And then comes the announcement of those lucky few newly-minted PhDs whose dissertations were being recognized for the J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize, three in total, two of whom are honorable mentions and...wait...what's that? One of the honorees is Tara Lyons, from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign! Yes! Not having been told to expect this, I almost fell out of my chair--quite a nice moment, with so many hundreds of scholars present. A feather in the cap not only for Tara but for our graduate program's visibility and reputation in the area of early modern literary studies.

To make the same point in a less dramatic manner: Tara Lyons, who defended her dissertation here last Spring (under the direction of Carol Neely and Zachary Lesser, and with Lori Newcomb and myself as committee members), and who is currently an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, was named an honorable mention for the SAA's prestigious J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize this past weekend. In front of everybody!

It was an exciting moment for me, as you can probably tell. And also for the other recent and current early modern PhD students in attendance, who know Tara as a classmate or (for those now embarking on their own dissertations) as one of the scarily accomplished older PhD students running the show in our department's Early Modern Workshop. Having read the dissertation, I can say that this is a well-deserved recognition for a brilliant and hard-working scholar. Congrats, Tara, if you happen to look at this blog from your new home in the verdant northeast!

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