Amber Brian receives Honorable Mention for MLA's Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize

Brian's work is hailed as "sophisticated and probing"
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Associate Professor Amber Brian
Amber Brian

New York, NY – 5 December 2017 – The Modern Language Association of America today announced its 27th annual Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for an outstanding book published in English or Spanish in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures.

Associate Professor Amber Brian of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, who directs the UI's Latin American Studies Program, has received an honorable mention for Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Native Archive and the Circulation of Knowledge in Colonial Mexico, published by Vanderbilt University Press.

The committee’s citation for Brian’s book reads:

Amber Brian’s "Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Native Archive and the Circulation of Knowledge in Colonial Mexico" is a fundamental achievement in understanding how the history of the indigenous archive has shaped the archive. Sophisticated and probing, this strongly analytic book represents the next generation of nuanced thinking about the full scope of colonial experience and intellectualism of a multicultural population. Brian demonstrates—through careful, impressive archival and textual research—that intellectual relationships were a two-way street among criollos and indigenous mestizos, that they had far-reaching, multigenerational consequences, and yet that they were born of such everyday enterprises as the legal defense of claims to ancestral lands. This is an original contribution to interdisciplinary Hispanic studies.

Brian is editor and translator, with Bradley Benton and Pablo García Loaeza, of The Native Conquistador: Alva Ixtlilxochitl’s Account of the Conquest of Mexico. She is collaborating with Benton, García Loaeza, and Peter Villella on a major translation project, for which they received a Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2014–17). They are translating and annotating the Historia de la nación chichimeca, an important Spanish-language chronicle of pre-Hispanic central Mexico based on indigenous written and oral sources and authored by Alva Ixtlilxochitl.

The prize winner is Nancy J. Gates Madsen, of Luther College, for her book Trauma, Taboo, and Truth-Telling: Listening to Silences in Postdictatorship Argentina, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.  Paul A. Schroeder Rodríguez, of Amherst College, received an honorable mention for Latin American Cinema: A Comparative History, published by the University of California Press.

The Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize was established in 1990 by a gift from Joseph and Mimi B. Singer, parents of the late Katherine Singer Kovacs. The prize is one of 18 awards that will be presented on January 6, 2018, during the association’s annual convention, to be held in New York City. The members of the selection committee were Rolena Adorno (Yale Univ.); Bernardita P. Llanos (Brooklyn Coll., City Univ. of New York), chair; Kathleen McNerney (West Virginia Univ., Morgantown); Jesús R.Velasco (Columbia Univ.); and Lisa Vollendorf (San José State Univ.).

The Modern Language Association of America and its 24,000 members in 100 countries work to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literature. Founded in 1883, the MLA provides opportunities for its members to share their scholarly findings and teaching experiences with colleagues and to discuss trends in the academy. The MLA sustains one of the finest publication programs in the humanities, producing a variety of publications for language and literature professionals and for the general public. The association publishes the MLA International Bibliography, the only comprehensive bibliography in language and literature, available online. The MLA Annual Convention features meetings on a wide variety of subjects; this year’s convention in New York City is expected to draw 7,000 attendees. More information on MLA programs is available at

Recent winners of the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize include Rolena Adorno, Nicolás Wey Gómez, Lisa Beth Voigt, Stephanie Merrim, E. Michael Gerli, Joanne Rappaport and Tom Cummins, Mabel Moraña, Stephanie Sieburth, Enrique Fernandez, and Anne Lambright. The prize is presented under the auspices of the MLA’s Committee on Honors and Awards.

Katherine Singer Kovacs completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and her MA and PhD (in 1974) at Harvard University. She is the author of “Le Rêve et la Vie”: A Theatrical Experiment by Gustave Flaubert and articles and reviews on Latin American literature, culture, and film and on comparative literature. Kovacs was a specialist in Spanish and Latin American literature and film. She taught at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and Whittier College. She was associate editor and coeditor of Humanities in Society, a member of the executive committee of the Quarterly Review of Film Studies, and a consultant for Latin American Perspectives. Kovacs died in May 1989.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 68 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.