Luther's Nancy Gates Madsen wins MLA's Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize

The Modern Language Association awarded the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for an outstanding book published in English or Spanish in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures to Luther College's Nancy J. Gates Madsen for her book "Trauma, Taboo, and Truth-Telling: Listening to Silences in Postdictatorship Argentina," published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

Gates Madsen, Luther associate professor of Spanish, accepted the award on Jan. 6, during the association's annual convention in New York City.

"I'm delighted the book is receiving such recognition. The topic is a difficult one as the book addresses the legacy of systematic human rights violations in Argentina, in particular the lingering taboos that surround representations of torture and disappearance," said Gates Madsen.

The book was praised as presenting new ways to look at central questions of suffering in authoritarian and postauthoritarian societies and as a fresh approach to historical memory and cultural trauma. The committee's citation read, "The work weaves together the silences that surround the Argentine dictatorship while giving voice to their several meanings, revealing silence as an expressive phenomenon rather than oblivion or absence. The book also revisits complicity and betrayal as well as the use of memory for political gain and explores the boundaries of fiction and nonfiction by using imaginative works as testimonials, combining a sophisticated critical framework on memory accounts of past political violence in Argentina."

Gates Madsen described her work as a demonstration of how an exploration of cultural production—ranging from novels and plays to telenovelas—help reveal the limits that govern which tales of dictatorship can be told and which remain silenced. Praise from the committee continued with, "This is an original, well-written, and important contribution to the body of research on memory and trauma studies in Latin America."

Proud of her work, Gates Madsen is also humbled by the company of the other Prize winners, "The list of past winners of the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize represents some of the finest works published on Latin American and Spanish cultural production, and I'm honored that my book appears in such good company."

Gates Madsen has been a professor in the department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Linguistics since 2006. Her specialization is Latin American literature and culture, with particular emphasis on Argentina and the Southern Cone. Her research interests include dictatorship literature, memory studies, women's writing, and environmental issues. Her current research looks at the intersections of ecological issues and human rights. In addition to teaching the Spanish language, she teaches varied courses on Latin American literature and culture including Memory and Political Violence in Latin American Literature, and Nature and the Environment in Latin America.

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.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://luther.edu.

Nancy Gates Madsen receiving the Modern Language Association's Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize from Anne Ruggles Gere, MLA first vice president. (Photo by Edward Savaria, Jr.)
Nancy Gates Madsen