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Laura Ackerman Smoller wins La Corónica International Book Award

May 23, 2016

Laura Ackerman Smoller

Book cover for The Saint and the Chopped Up BabyProfessor of history, Laura Ackerman Smoller, was awarded the La Corónica International Book Award at the International Congress of Medieval Studies annual conference earlier this month. The ICMS conference hosts the largest gathering of medievalist scholars in North America.

In her award-winning book, The Saint and the Chopped-Up Baby: The Cult of Vincent Ferrer in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, published by Cornell University Press, Smoller examines the canonization and cult of the Valencian friar Vincent Ferrer, a fiery apocalyptic preacher who died in 1419 and was canonized in 1455.

Smoller traces the long and sometimes contentious process of establishing a stable image of a new saint.  She analyzes tales about the holy friar as a means of exploring the religious lives of medieval and early modern Christians, discovering that canonization inquests, hagiography, liturgical sources, art, and devotional materials reveal as much about their creators—and their assertions of political, social, and spiritual status—as they do about Vincent Ferrer.

A central focus of the book is a bizarre tale in which a mother kills, chops up, and cooks her own baby, only to have the child restored to life by the saint’s intercession.  This miracle became a key symbol of the official portrayal of the saint promoted by the papal court and the Dominican order.

“My book began with witnesses’ stories, and in many ways my readings of those tales formed the heart of the project,” Smoller said. “I found that the questions of who Vincent Ferrer was and what his sanctity meant were both very much up for grabs in the years leading up to his canonization in 1455—and continued to be so well into the early modern period.”

Included with the award is an invitation for Smoller to preside over a special session next May dedicated to advancing the research themes of her book.

Smoller received her bachelor’s degree from the Dartmouth College, and a master’s and PhD from Harvard University.

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Category: Society & Culture