The American Catholic Historical Association is honored to bestow the 2022 Distinguished Scholar Award to Dr. Caroline Walker Bynum for a lifetime of excellence in research and scholarship in the field of medieval history. Dr. Bynum is a groundbreaking scholar, whose work has profoundly transformed our understanding of the depth and complexity of religious ideas from antiquity to the sixteenth century.
Since the 1980s, Dr. Bynum’s scholarship has opened up new pathways of thought for scholars working in Catholic history, first turning our attention to issues of gender and embodiment in Holy Feast and Holy Fast, and later, Fragmentation and Redemption and The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christendom. Her scholarship has also helped us think through the complexity of symbols and materiality with books such as Jesus as Mother and Wonderful Blood (both classics), and her extraordinary essay on violence and the wound in Christ’s side in late medieval devotion.
So many are inspired by Dr. Bynum’s discussions of historical method in her essays such as “Wonder” and “Avoiding the Tyranny of Morphology.” Her autobiographical article, “Why Paradox?: The Contradictions of My Life as a Scholar” is particularly meaningful to members of our guild, published in our own journal, The Catholic Historical Review.
Over the past four decades, Dr. Bynum has inspired countless scholars to do history that is at once attentive to disparate, strange details and at the same time, unafraid to illuminate whole systems of thought and practice. Throughout her career, she has been awarded the highest honors for any scholar in the humanities here in the United States and around the world. It is our privilege to contribute to this chorus of admiration and gratitude, and honor Dr. Bynum with this award on behalf of the scholarly organization she served generously, as our President nearly thirty years ago, in 1993. We are in awe of her work and are thrilled to present this year’s Distinguished Scholar Award to Dr. Caroline Walker Bynum.