Dr Mathelinda Nabugodi has been awarded the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award for her non-fiction book The Trembling Hand: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive. Dr Mathelinda Nabugodi is a Postdoctoral Affiliate at Newnham, and a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of English, where she researches the literary archive of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Her new book explores what the material relics – Wordsworth’s teacup, Coleridge’s library cards, Shelley’s baby rattle – of the Romantic poets can tell us about their culture and our own. Alongside it, she tells “the story of [her] encounter with these objects”, from her first arrival in misty Edinburgh as an 18-year old student, to her life as a Cambridge scholar today. “Regardless of how much I might strive for impersonal objectivity in my critical analysis,” Dr Nabugodi explains, “a lifetime inhabiting my particular body will invariably leave a mark on my thinking: I might be an expert on dead white poets, but my experience as a woman of colour affects my reading of their work.”
“that voice made the reader become engaged both emotionally and intellectually”
The Award gives £10,000 to an unpublished writer with outstanding literary talent, to enable them to complete a first book, either fiction or non-fiction. Previous winners have gone on to win and be shortlisted for major literary prizes including The Edgars and The Women’s Prize.
Dr Nabugodi’s book was selected from nearly 1000 entries, by a panel chaired by Colm Tóibín.
Announcing the results , Colm Tóibín said, “The award went to Mathelinda Nabugodi for The Trembling Hand: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive because of its ambition and scope, but also because of the quality of the enquiring voice in the book, a voice sometimes tentative and searching, then sure of its scholarship, then puzzled by some large absence in the archive, then engrossed by a poem, an essay, a letter. All the time, that voice made the reader become engaged both emotionally and intellectually in the quest to re-see and re-imagine and re-read the past.”
“Winning the DRF Writers Award is such a wonderful validation of my work. I am so gratified to know that my attempt to stage a fresh and honest encounter with the Romantic archive has resonated with the judges and all the prize readers,” said Dr Nabugodi.