The 2018 SRS book prize was awarded to Katherine Ibbett for her Compassion’s Edge: Fellow-Feeling and its limits in Early Modern France (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). One further book was highly commended, Susanna Berger, The Art of Philosophy: Visual Thinking in Europe from the late Renaissance to the early Enlightenment (Princeton University Press, 2017).
As ever, the judges were impressed by the high standard of the books entered for the prize and choosing a winner was extremely difficult. The judges are very grateful to all the publishers who sent in their books to the committee.
Dr Berger’s book was singled out by all three judges as a visually stunning volume, which considers the interplay between philosophy, ways of thinking and visual representation with lucidity and ambition. Susanna Berger draws attention to the engraved plural images and tableaux which illustrated philosophical works as expressions of key concepts, as well as the role played by art in the development of ideas, both of which constituted ‘visual thinking’. A wide range of source material is used to great effect – including student lecture notebooks, friendship albums, printed books and broadsides.
Professor Ibbett’s book was, however, the unanimous winner because of its brilliant interdisciplinary range and relevance. Katherine Ibbett provides an illuminating and sophisticated discussion of the meaning and limits of compassion in France between the Edict of Nantes in 1589 and its Revocation in 1685. She traces the divisions and separations which were invoked by compassion in this original work, which is both reflective and rigorous. She illustrates vividly that compassion was one way in which social dynamics of inclusion and exclusion could be expressed and reinforced. Through a focus on the feeling, rather than on charitable activities presumed to be motivated by such a sentiment, she provides a new interpretation of how early modern communities negotiated the difficult terrain of toleration and co-existence in the aftermath of Europe’s Reformations. Looking in particular through the lens of gender, she provides a fresh interpretation of a wide variety of texts (including plays, pamphlets, novels, dictionaries and moral philosophy). This book promises to inspire fresh scholarship in early modern French history, the history of emotions and Renaissance Studies.