Jenny Davidson Receives Mark Van Doren Award; Katharina Volk Receives Lionel Trilling Award

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jenny Davidson, associate professor of English and comparative literature, received the 49th annual Mark Van Doren Award, and Katharina Volk, associate professor of classics, received the 35th annual Lionel Trilling Award, at a ceremony to be held in the Faculty Room of Low Library on Wednesday, May 5.

The Van Doren Award honors a Columbia professor for his/her commitment to undergraduate instruction, as well as for “humanity, devotion to truth and inspiring leadership,” and is named for Mark Van Doren, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, novelist and literary critic. The Trilling Award honors a book by a Columbia author from the past year — in this instance Manilius and his Intellectual Background (Oxford 2009) — that best exhibits the standards of intellect and scholarship found in the work of Lionel Trilling ’27, the noted literary critic and author. Van Doren and Trilling both were longtime members of the Columbia faculty.

The Columbia College Academic Awards Committee, composed of students representing a cross-section of majors within the College, selects the award winners. Committee members spent much of the academic year auditing the classes of Van Doren award nominees to observe the quality of their instruction and reading books under consideration for the Trilling award. The committee met weekly to confer on the selection process and to evaluate nominated professors and titles before announcing the winners in April.

Davidson, who earned her Ph.D. from Yale in 1999, specializes in 18th-century literature, though she is also an expert on British cultural and intellectual history and English literature. She has taught at Columbia since 2000 and was cited by the committee for “her innovative assignments, her ability to facilitate student participation — even in lecture classes — and her genuine care for her students’ educational experience.”

Volk received her Ph.D. from Princeton in 1999 and has been teaching at Columbia since 2002. Volk is also the author of The Poetics of Latin Didactic: Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid, Manilius (Oxford 2002) and several other edited volumes. Manilius is the first English-language monograph on Marcus Manilius, a Roman poet of the first century A.D., and committee members found it “engaging and accessible, which is a testament to Volk’s ability to demonstrate the intellectual and cultural milieu of Manilius.”

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