The JLS is pleased to announce that this year’s winner of the essay prize
jointly awarded with the British Society for Literature and Science is Maria
Avxentevskaya’s essay titled ‘The Spiritual Optics of Narrative: John Wilkins’s
Popularization of Copernicanism’.
We offer our many congratulations to Maria.
The judging panel wrote: “This a thoroughly convincing and exceptionally
well-argued essay that is a deserving winner of the 2015 prize. The reading of
Wilkins’s Discovery is consistently illuminating as an account of the logic of
early modern scientific argument and its appeal to probability according to
moral rather than empirical authority. The analysis is meticulous and builds up
to an impressively coherent picture. The move at the end of the essay to show
how Wilkins remains concerned to establish the truth of the physical world, and
not simply to win the rhetorical argument, is an important and salutary reminder
that we have to avoid imposing our own standards on early modern modes of
argument, as well as grounding Wilkins’s own shift to the position of a
founder of the Royal Society. The essay combines these acutely historicized
arguments with fine close reading to produce a work of real intellectual
As in previous years the level of competition was high, with some extremely good
essays on a range of literature and science topics submitted for consideration.
The judges were impressed by the vitality of the work and by the obvious
strength of the field.
Maria’s essay will appear in one of the next issues of the journal.