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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Center for Writing and Rhetoric Director Receives Coveted MLA Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize

A University of Mississippi English professor will receive one of the Modern Language Association of America’s most prestigious honors at its national convention next month.

Robert E. Cummings has been awarded MLA’s Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize for his book “Lazy Virtues: Teaching Writing in the Age of Wikipedia” (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009). The prize is given for an outstanding work in the fields of language, culture, literacy or literature with strong application to the teaching of English.

“To know that the prize committee of the MLA not only read the book, but found it worthy of this award, is truly humbling,” said Cummings, director of UM’s Center for Writing and Rhetoric. “I hope that this acknowledgment will bring more attention to the work we need to do to incorporate electronic environments into the college writing classroom.”

Cummings is among 17 honorees to be recognized Jan. 7 during the MLA annual meeting in Los Angeles.

The selection committee’s citation for the winning book reads: “With ‘Lazy Virtues’ … Robert Cummings ventures critically, open-mindedly and thoughtfully into a new frontier. (He) provides a sophisticated and original grounding of Commons-Based Peer Production in economic theory, rhetoric and information technology before offering it as a practice and model for writing classrooms.”

“In taking a non-market-based perspective on the notion of laziness and defining it instead in terms of CBPP and networked writing, Cummings presents a new way of thinking about textual ownership, production, collaboration and assessment,” the citation also reads. “(He) provides authentic ways of using Wikipedia to make student writing matter to them and others.”

The author’s latest literary achievement is being hailed on the UM campus.


“The Shaughnessy Prize is a tremendously high honor and brings great recognition to Dr. Cummings, to the university and to the Center for Writing and Rhetoric,” Provost Morris Stocks said. “Dr. Cummings has been a great asset to the University of Mississippi and is leading our efforts to strengthen the emphasis on writing across the curriculum. This award is external validation of his noteworthy accomplishments.”

Cummings earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia, with a focus on the connections between rhetoric, composition and digital technology. He earned his master’s from Ole Miss and his bachelor’s from the University of Tennessee. Cummings is co-editor, with Matt Barton, of “Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom.”

“Bringing electronic audiences into the writing classroom is exactly the kind of work we are undertaking at the Center for Writing and Rhetoric,” Cummings said. “By selecting writing as a focus for our QEP, Ole Miss has shown once again that we are special place dedicated to student learning, not afraid of taking on the toughest challenges in academia. I am proud to be part of such a community.”