2023 UofM Alumni Association Distinguished Research Award

The Alumni Association may make up to five awards annually to faculty who have brought honor and recognition to the University through their research or creative activities. Candidates must have been employed full-time by the University of Memphis for at least five academic years prior to the semester of their application or nomination.

Distinguished Research in the Humanities

Cristina Maria Cervone, PhD, Associate Professor, Director of English Honors Program, Department of English

Dr. Cristina Maria Cervone is a medievalist working on the interrelations of metaphor, cognition, and poetics. She focuses primarily on late medieval English writing, thought, and culture, and secondarily on how language, broadly considered, conveys meaning. Her interests include how poetic form enacts or encodes thought; allegory and metaphor; the theological potential of language and poetics; signifying properties of material objects; vernacularity; collective subjectivity; and cultural networks of artistic and aesthetic influence. She is considered a leading expert on Middle English lyric and on poetics, particularly theological poetics or the metaphoricity of poetics.

A current project brings present-day cognitive theory to bear on Cristina Cervonemedieval texts and, conversely, sees value for metaphor theorists in medieval linguistic innovations and the poetic structures that fostered them. In the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, when English writers increasingly selected Middle English (as against Anglo-French and Latin) for their thought experiments, metaphor was an important element in — perhaps even vital to — the English language’s emerging qualities. Moreover, the project engages questions of broad interest today: how does thought work? Is metaphor fundamental to thought? Medieval practice, like psycholinguistic theory, suggests perhaps so.

Publications include Cervone’s monograph, Poetics of the Incarnation: Middle English Writing and the Leap of Love (University of Pennsylvania, 2013); a volume of essays co-edited with D. Vance Smith (Princeton University), Readings in Medieval Textuality: Essays in Honour of A. C. Spearing (D. S. Brewer, 2017); and a newly published large collaborative project co-edited with Nicholas Watson (Harvard University), What Kind of a Thing Is a Middle English Lyric? (University of Pennsylvania, 2022), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.

Cervone is a member of the Medieval Academy, the International Piers Plowman Society, the New Chaucer Society, and the Modern Language Association. Her work has been supported by fellowships and grant funding from the Stanford Humanities Center of Stanford University, Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Medieval Institute of the University of Notre Dame, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Huntington Library, the University of Virginia, the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, and the University of Memphis.