Bechdel to receive Washington University International Humanities Prize

$25,000 prize is largest U.S. award for the humanities; ceremony Nov. 9

Cartoonist Alison Bechdel, known for her groundbreaking, richly layered depictions of queer life and family relationships, will receive the 2022 International Humanities Prize from Washington University in St. Louis.

Awarded by the university’s Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences, the biennial prize honors the lifetime work of a noted scholar, writer or artist who has made a significant and sustained contribution to the world of arts and letters. Bechdel will receive the prize, which is accompanied by a $25,000 award, during a public ceremony Nov. 9 in the Clark-Fox Forum in WashU’s Hillman Hall.

Alison Bechdel. (Photo: Elena Seibert)

“Alison Bechdel is one of the preeminent cartoonists of the 21st century,” said Rebecca Wanzo, professor and chair of women, gender and sexuality studies in Arts & Sciences. “Her work invites conversations about sexuality, trauma, medium and genre, women in the academy, place and childhood. How many creators effortlessly move between Ulysses and Donald Winnicott?”

Wanzo also noted that “Fun Home” — Bechdel’s celebrated 2006 memoir about her relationship with her closeted father, later adapted into a Tony Award-winning musical — “is a gateway for literary scholars to teach the medium and one of the key texts resulting in the ‘ninth art’ being taken seriously as an art form.

“Its instant status as a classic speaks to the number of fields it touches — art, queer studies, literary studies, theater and, of course, comics studies,” Wanzo added. “We are thrilled to welcome her to campus.”

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Headline image: Bechdel speaks at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City in 2016. (Photo: William J. Adams)