Spencer Lee-Lenfield wins Foltz Journalism Award

Spencer Lee-Lenfield
May 2, 2024

Spencer Lee-Lenfield is the winner of the MacMillan Center’s William J. Foltz Journalism Award for 2023. Their submission, “Mysterious Displays of Will: Nadine Hwang—a queer Chinese lawyer who joined the army, circulated in Paris salons, and survived Ravensbrück—never wrote a memoir, but her life itself became a work of art,” appeared in The New York Review of Books on January 4, 2023.

Lee-Lenfield, who graduates from Yale with a PhD in Comparative Literature this spring, will join Harvard University’s Department of Comparative Literature as a postdoctoral associate from July 2024 and as assistant professor beginning in fall 2025. Their dissertation in Yale’s Department of Comparative Literature, Beauty Born of Parting: Literary Translation between Korean and English via the Korean Diaspora, 1920–Present, will serve as the basis of their first book.

Lee-Lenfield’s research has been published or is forthcoming in PMLA, Criticism, MLQ, and Poetics Today; reportage, essays, and criticism have appeared in publications including The New York Review of Books, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Yale Review, Guernica, and The Dial; and literary writing, including poetry and translations, in Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, New England Review, Colorado Review, The Margins, and Asymptote.

Lee-Lenfield first came across Nadine Hwang’s name repeatedly while studying for oral exams in fall 2020. “I kept seeing references to a ‘Nadine Huong’ or ‘Wong’ pop up in the writings of (and about) queer woman writers of the era in Paris, and thought, Surely an Asian woman in 1930s France must have had an interesting background story! Digging further turned up exactly that: a life too varied to be believed even as fiction (aviatrix, dancer, diplomat, Holocaust survivor), sprawling across some six different languages,” Lee-Lenfield said. “I knew Nadine Hwang was too far afield from literature to fit into my dissertation—and that her life was likely too fragmentary for any academic research, even straight-up history. But when the release of a documentary on Hwang and her partner Nelly Mousset-Vos provided an opening to write about Hwang more fully for The New York Review of Books, I wanted to seize the chance to write the first rigorously fact-checked account of her whole life, where previous accounts tended to concentrate on individual highlights. I hope the piece provides the basis for even deeper research into Nadine Hwang’s singular, inspiring life in years to come.”

The Journalism Award is an annual prize named for William J. Foltz (1936-2013), the H. J. Heinz Professor Emeritus of African Studies and Political Science. Articles entered in the competition must be well-written, treat the subject with originality, and help the audience gain greater knowledge and understanding of international issues or regional issues outside of the US.

Learn more about the William J. Foltz Journalism Award.