|levin and wellek prizes || aldridge prize || bernheimer prize || frenz prize|
The Rene Wellek Prize Citations
Kader Konuk, East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey (Stanford UP, 2010)
Through an edifying dual perspective on text and location, Kader Konuk's East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey tells a fascinating story about the development of modern Turkey just as much as it does about Auerbach's classic work. Immensely readable and engaging, her book is distinguished by extensive archival research into a pivotal phase of modern Turkish cultural history, yielding rich insights into how this period of transformation impacted Auerbach's groundbreaking work of modern comparatism. East West Mimesis deepens our understanding of how Turkey's project of strengthening its ties with Europe in the 1930s opened Turkish culture to its classical heritage, at the same time that its reclaiming of Western secular humanism as a shared legacy served to obscure the problematic histories of racial minorities in Turkish society. Simultaneously, Konuk significantly re-positions Auerbach as a critic who, far from absorbing Turkish transformations of secular life into his writing, decontexualized the cultural and religious environment in which he was located. She provocatively argues that Auerbach aimed to recover a lost humanist world rather than synthesize it from secular Turkish intellectual life. Konuk’s illuminating study of Auerbach's ambiguous relation to Turkey makes a valuable intervention in challenging the standard narrative about Auerbach's exile. Konuk offers a model of comparative literary scholarship that attends keenly to the locations in which major critical works are produced, restoring the histories of those places even as they are displaced by concerns that appear to be far removed from the tumultuous changes occurring at the scene of writing.
Karen Thornber, Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (Univ. of Michigan Press, 2012)
Karen Laura Thornber’s Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures presents a generously varied array of ecological works from the literatures of China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Joining a seasoned comparatist’s command of the original languages with a world literature advocate’s interest in bringing notable writing to a wider audience, she discusses telling intricacies of attitude, imagery, phrasing, and unfolding structure in her chosen texts, many of them previously untranslated. In the process Thornber introduces comparatists who work with cross-cultural issues in other geocultural regions to the richness of the East Asian archive, both in its own right and in its implications for the discipline overall. To enhance the book’s usefulness for readers unversed in the East Asian situation, she frames her nuanced accounts of specific literary works with a survey of the region’s different tempos and modes of industrialization and modernization and of the ecological problems that resulted. This body of writings, she contends, should dispel the lingering stereotype that associates East Asian culture with Buddhist ideals of harmony with nature. Above all, Ecoambiguity pinpoints the many ways that these works register intractable, even paradoxical encounters with humanity’s ever-present urge to instrumentalize the natural world. Holding that East Asia is distinct but not unique in this regard, Thornber brings comparative literature’s concern with studying the illuminating entanglements among the world’s literatures to bear on ecocriticism. She invites this emerging form of literary inquiry to give new richness and depth to its planetary concerns, to recognize in a fuller transregional sense that ecology and environmental crisis know no borders.
Subramanian Shankar, Flesh and Fish Blood: Postcolonialism, Translation, and the Vernacular (Univ. of California Press, 2012)
Flesh and Fish Blood: Postcolonialism, Translation, and the Vernacular by S. Shankar is a major contribution to comparative and postcolonial studies. The book develops a strong, well substantiated argument for the value of “vernacular knowledges” that have been overlooked in the current vogue for hybridity and the transnational. Taking such vernacular knowledges seriously, Shankar argues, allows us to more fully acknowledge the role of the local and the traditional in cultural self-understanding and political struggles for autonomy. Flesh and Fish Blood offers nuanced readings of a variety of Indian texts in Tamil, Hindi, and English, defending them against charges of provincialism or nostalgia by showing that attention to local concerns is entirely compatible with intellectual sophistication and aesthetic richness. Tamil literature, especially, emerges from this description as a major cultural site for the development of postcolonial theory and a worthy rival to the Anglophone canon. These readings are embedded in a judicious and wide-ranging discussion of such topics as nationalism, humanism, and translation, along with a powerful concluding defense of the methodology and practice of comparison. Over-all, Shankar’s book combines theoretical sophistication, deftness of interpretation and an impressive clarity and cogency of argument. It makes a compelling claim for rethinking postcolonialism within the framework of comparative vernacular literatures and makes a much needed case for a more capacious curriculum.
Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Duke UP, 2011)
Cruel optimism, Lauren Berlant proposes, "exists when something you desire is actually an object to your functioning." In this trenchant analysis of the affective dimensions of the precaritization of life under neoliberalism in the late 20th- and early 21st centuries, Berlant gives us the conceptual tools to understand how and why extended crisis becomes indistinguishable from the rhythms of daily survival. She argues eloquently that trauma is a genre for viewing the historical present. Her scrupulous readings of contemporary art, film, and literature render visible the slow time of undramatic attrition and absorption--the temporality of our perseverence in attachments that do us no good. This book unflinchingly illuminates "cruel optimism's double bind"--"even with an image of a better good life to sustain your optimism, it is awkward and threatening to detach from what is already not working"-- while remaining open to unanticipated political and affective futures.
Anne-Lise François, Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Stanford UP, 2007)
Anne-Lise François's Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience is an ambitious, beautifully written book, whose richly textured, original argument offers an important provocation to the current mores of literary studies. Enlightenment reason and especially literary criticism are dedicated to the idea that everything should count, and the most diverse schools of criticism train us to let nothing escape. But literature is full of moments that promote a different ethos: letting be. François explores works that summon what she calls the uncountable, or the unrecountable. Their open secrets ask to be treated lightly. They disarm our exegetical impulses by declaring there is nothing to hunt for or interpret. Open Secrets shows us affinities among critical traditions that would otherwise appear antagonistic. Its detailed, persuasive accounts are a pleasure to read and also a challenge, because the book often speaks with the "affirmative reticence" it describes. François's study thereby calls for a mode of theory that values what is visible and appreciable over what can be quantified and disclosed.
Barbara Johnson, Persons and Things (Harvard UP, 2008)
The jury wishes to single out for special praise Barbara Johnson's Persons and Things. Johnson's eighth book is a tour de force, a brilliant reflection on modes of animation, on the porous boundaries between persons and things, the contradictory roles of materiality, rhetoric, and desire in these relations, and the stakes of such pervasive rhetorical operations as apostrophe, personification, and prosopopoeia. Ranging widely over the most diverse cultural phenomena, from Supreme Court cases to literary works, Persons and Things explores such issues as how the dynamics of identification and personification are mediated by people's relations to things. This book epitomizes and offers a fitting memorial to Barbara Johnson's extraordinary talent.
Joseph Slaughter, Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (Fordham UP, 2007)
Joseph Slaughter's Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law is truly interdisciplinary, reading literature through law in a way that demonstrates a deep familiarity with both. At a time when Human Rights has become an important focus of interest in literary and cultural studies, Joseph Slaughter's magisterial book explores what he argues is the crucial role of the novel, and particularly the European Bildungsroman, in creating the subject of human rights, the subject on whom rights can be predicated. Reading European novels and their post-colonial successors, Slaughter shows how they have done crucial socio-cultural work in the absence of alternative international structures that might articulate and enforce human rights by naturalizing the subject of rights and rendering intelligible a conception of the individual to whom human rights law can then apply. Slaughter argues, and demonstrates, that the Bildungsroman can be read as the cultural correlative of Human rights, that both the Bildungsroman and human rights are globalized in our time by the widespread translation of the humanism they share as well as by a consumer-driven commodity economy. Human Rights, Inc. is theoretically sophisticated and historically informed, drawing on Jürgen Habermas's analysis of the rise and fall of the liberal public sphere in the eighteenth century and on accounts of the contemporaneous formation of the modern, rights-based national state. But he also examines the complicity of human rights law and the novel with globalization and multinational capitalism.
Human Rights, Inc. is enormously erudite and ambitious. Against the backdrop of the older European Bildungsroman, Slaughter treats a global range of contemporary postcolonial Bildungsromane by writers such as Calixthe Beyala (Cameroon), Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye (Kenya), Tunana Mercado (Argentina), Michael Ondaatje (Canada via Sri Lanka [at that time Ceylon]), Epeli Hau'ofa (Tonga), Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe [at that time Rhodesia]), and Christopher Hope (South Africa). Wide ranging in its literary reference and in its exploration of historical movements and theoretical discourses relevant to human rights, this is an original account of the role of the novel in our time that raises important ethical questions while keeping comparative literary study clearly in view.
Illuminating the postcolonial transformation of the humanistic values at the foundation of the classical Bildungsroman, the book has much to say about the globalized world we live in today. In other words, the study represents comparative literary theory and practice at their best.
Natalie Melas, All the Difference in the World: Postcoloniality and the Ends of Comparison (Stanford UP, 2007)
Beautifully written and precise in its engagements with the literature of the colonial and post-colonial condition, Natalie Melas's All the Difference in the World: Postcoloniality and the Ends of Comparison is a brilliant study of the idea of comparison and a exploration of the possibilities of comparative literature in the world that confronts us today and tomorrow. Rethinking the enterprise of comparative literature itself, All the Difference in the World examines examples of postcolonial comparison by focusing on forms of "incommensurability"-comparisons in which there exists a basis for comparison but no standard of equivalence. In this compelling study, she performs close, carefully wrought analyses of texts by Joseph Conrad, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, and Simone Schwarz-Bart, accentuating moments of temporal, spatial, gender-based, political, and economic slippage, dissimilation, and disproportionality and thereby complicating and enriching our understanding of postcolonialism. Melas elucidates her readings through theoretical writings of Jean-Luc Nancy, Edouard Glissant, especially in her juxtaposition of these cultural theorists to our ongoing discussion about the nature and focus of our disciplinary concerns in the field of comparative literature.
Peggy Kamuf, Book of Addresses (Stanford UP, 2005)
Peggy Kamuf's Book of Addresses is a book that enters in dialogue with the corpus and esprit of Derridean deconstruction, a book that shuns no Socratic or Derridean irony, to the point where, in its very opening pages, it is willing to question the “ontological status” of its own accomplishments as a book. Reflecting on the ambiguity of voice in the English word “address,” Kamuf avows that the act of addressing simultaneously invokes the active and the passive voice-signaled in the phrase “essays are (being) addressed”-meaning that every mode of theoretical address necessarily puts into play the relation to the other. Aware of the burden thus placed on the originator of the address, Kamuf's brilliantly argued and lucidly written book addresses the ethical and theoretical implications of Derridean deconstruction. As she acknowledges, the “move to comprehend some piece of writing by Derrida, appropriates it in a way,” an act of appropriation intrinsic to the act of addressing, insofar as “advocare” means “calling up the voice or speech of another.” Enacting the ethical imperative of deconstruction as loving dialogue and critique, Kamuf, as a scholar of literature, especially engages the field of literary theory, one of the few fields, she reminds us, that “takes fiction seriously.” Acknowledging that deconstruction always proceeds by means of a double gesture, that of reinscription and erasure, Kamuf compellingly rejects the reductive misconception that deconstruction is merely deconstructive in nature; instead, deconstruction's commitment to affirmation and love allows it to engage in a loving relation to the text without endangering its commitment to the Kantian labor of critique.
Moving through and also beyond dialogue with Derrida, Kamuf's Book of Addresses is written in a polylogic form that allows for continual self-interruption, reiteration, and interrogation, creating a space for multiple responses and even making room for an afterword written by Branka Arsic, “On Leaving No Address.” Rather than developing a singular argument, Kamuf pluralizes the possibilities of argumentation and interpretation by addressing a series of questions that remain open to many readers: How is it possible to love a text? How can feminism affirm the inappropriability of its subject? How can we take fiction seriously? How can deconstruction be experienced? How to read “deconstruction reading politics”? What are the rights of response and non-response in democracy? How to redefine the haunts of scholarship, and its future responsibilities?
Kamuf's Book of Addresses is an address book whose owner knows all those listed in her book have moved. Kamuf's call at each address is an attempt to construe these changes of habitation and the transformed habits of theory's itinerant inhabitants. Often “in the company of [their] thought,” Kamuf negotiates the byways of her subjects' displacements and their theory's translocations. Those called on by/through Kamuf Book of Addresses span the last five decades of theoretical reflection in the twentieth century. They range from household names such as René Wellek to those who left no address and no name, but whose traces continue to alter the theoretical landscape, nonetheless. An interlocutor as much as a de-coder of our theoretical legacy, Kamuf's book demonstrates that she is as consummate an interpreter of theory's intricacies as she has been a translator of some of theory's most Delphic voices. She communes with theory's haunting specters as much as with its palpable embodiments, gendered and trans-generic. Kamuf's Book of Addresses undresses the squeamish and books theory's congenital transgressors.
In the final analysis, the committee was above all impressed by Kamuf's elucidating and incisive dialogue with Derridean deconstruction, her ability to put deconstructie theory in the context of other significant theoretical thinkers (such as Wellek and Warren, Freud, Heidegger, Raymond Williams, and Cixous, to name but a few) and, above all, to reinvigorate the debate about what deconstruction can mean for literary theory.
Barrett Watten, The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics (Wesleyan UP, 2003)
In his study of Constructivism, Barrett Watten examines the place occupied by the experimental imperative of radical literature and art within the broader context of a cultural poetics. From this study, the avant-garde emerges as a vitally necessary element in the exchange between social forces and the aesthetic activity. Watten discovers this vitality in a negativity that constitutes the aesthetics of the material text. Through this negativity, Constructivism not only finds a place for its productions but at the same time offers, more generally, an incisive analysis of how the avant-garde constitutes itself as an experience of language at its limit. While remaining astutely aware of the important differences to which negativity has been submitted by Hegel, Heidegger, and Zizek, to name a few, Watten elaborates a theory of art that directly relates its openness to the work of the negative. This theorization of the avant-garde as art speaks importantly to the current critical situation in which theory, cultural study, and materialistic poetics are unavoidably engaged with one another.
Margaret W. Ferguson, Dido's Daughters: Literacy, Gender and Empire in Early Modern England and France (U of Chicago P, 2003)
In her study of Western conceptions of literacy and literature, Margaret Ferguson surveys a vast territory that combines theoretical, historical and cultural concerns. Her focus is on the gendered construction of literacy and the concomitant gendering of literature and literary education, beginning in the early modern period in England and France and continuing today in U.S. and European institutional structures. Ferguson's analysis leads surely to related discussions of social value that will illuminate cultural contexts far beyond those explicitly invoked in her study. Dido's Daughters combines theoretical speculation with assiduous historical, cultural and textual analysis in ways that assure its relevance not only to scholars of the early modern period but also all scholars engaged in the on-going disciplinary and pedagogical practice of comparative literature and literary studies more generally.
Eric L. Santner, On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig (U of Chicago P, 2001)
Eric Santer’s On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life is an eloquent excursus on the phantasmic and deadening psychic defenses that are part and parcel of the overwhelming experience of wonder in this world even as they seek to ward against this experience. Bringing Freud and Rosenzweig together by identifying a chiastic connection between them – the presence of profoundly theological thinking in the author of the analytic concepts of the psychic defense and death drive, and the identification, by the theological thinker, of an excessive experience of the Other, the very symptoms of which compose the mechanisms of the psyche – Santner offers a new way of conceiving our being in the world that speaks directly to the best of both the psychoanalytic and theological traditions. In so doing he reconfirms the centrality of theoretical reflection in general to any understanding of self and other and the intimate and ineluctable relation that creates them.
Hartman, The Fateful Question of Culture (Columbia UP, 1997)
At the heart of the matter is the contrast and sometimes conflict between a set of values that may be broadly characterized as aesthetic and textual, on the one hand and social, ideological and political, on the other. The term "culture" has come to have many meanings. There is, of course, the elitist statement by Matthew Arnold that culture is "the best that has been said or thought" (p.10), with its clear evangelism and even "coercive" didacticism. There are the famous and almost interminable discussions primarily within the German intellectual tradition on the distinctions between "culture" and "civilization," Kultur und Zivilisation, the Germans appropriating "culture" as their own property, the organic, pastoral, and holistic harmonies of the Volk contrasting with the more decadent, superficial, urbane qualities of the merely civilized. The merely civilized, we hardly need add, are the French.
The first, theorists of culture in Germany--writers and intellectuals like Fichte and Schiller-changed it from "denoting something antithetical to nature, or its radical improvement, to what could restore us to nature" (p.205). Hartman deftly summarizes how this apparently innocent formulation develops ideologically into the Blut und Boden strategies of thought and practice that informed National Socialism and facilitated, even demanded, the Holocaust. In Hartman's own words, "Culture is said to keep alive, psychologically and socially, the possibility of a unified mode of being. That so humane an ideal was co-opted by the perverse Nazi concept of Kultur compels us to scrutinize it even in its benign and universalistic form. And that some who criticize what today is labeled 'high culture' do it by applying arguments for ethnic solidarity uncomfortably close to völkisch notions creates all even more troubling situation " (p.127).
Statements like these, however subdued in their effect by the urbanity and erudition of the prose surrounding them issue a warning: the cultural theorizing of the Nazis and their antecedents is related to certain totalizing strategies in the field of "cultural studies" today. Though that relationship is not one of paternity or causality but rather, to use Goethe's term, affinity, that affinity alone should give us pause. Hartman asks us, in essence, to reflect on the consequences of adopting a "cultural studies" model of humanistic study both for the academy and for the society at large.
To turn the aesthetic into the social is to assume as given what the totalizing ideologies of this century would utter only as a wish -the wish to undermine the autonomy of art by weaving it, as "culture," into the ideological and social fabric of the nation. The questioning of the status of literature as "aesthetic" leads to its transformation into the ideological, the political--in sum, the merely cultural.
How can we counter the effects and implications of the transformation of the aesthetic into the cultural? By turning, Hartman maintains, to a tradition which had a different sense of culture than the German. Here Hartman appeals to England and in particular to the figure of Wordsworth. it is Wordsworth's "widening of sensibility" (p.141), exemplified by his choice of rural subjects and sometimes halting diction that is emblematic of the creation in English-speaking countries of a culture protected from the more brutal nostalgias of fascism. The best defense, finally, against such hegemonies is an aesthetic education that grants us freedom from compulsion through the play of humor as well as an nuclei-standing of the multivocal indeterminacy of art and I he fragility of texts.
It is fitting that Hartman's important, nuanced and timely meditation on culture should have first seen the light of day in 1992 as "The René Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory at the University of California, Irvine." The doubling of the honor of the name suggested by the ACLA's own award compels us to look back in gratitude at the stunning and massive achievement of the scholar, teacher and humanist who was once Hartman's colleague at Yale.
Palencia-Roth, Chair, The University of Illinois
Saul Morson, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, (Yale
University Press, 1994)
Morson offers an original account of the relationship among conceptions of temporality, schemas of narrating and "making sense" of experience, and ideological explanations of human nature and historical possibilities. What much of Western literature and criticism for the past two hundred years has seen as the telos of imaginative production, the ideal of wholeness and structured perfection, is shown by Morson to be deeply complicit with a dangerously utopian, because inherently totalitarian, eradication of contingency.
Uniting close readings from a wide range of authors, but particularly the great Russian masters of the realist novel, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, with a careful elaboration of his own theoretical models of how time can be imagined and represented, Morson fashions his new temporal ethics of narrative through a continuing dialogue with other disciplines, especially with the rapidly accelerating debate within both philosophy and science on the relationships between time and value.
Morson carefully distinguishes between the ways in which narrative strategies either restrict or enlarge the possibility of human choice. The most common of the restrictive modes is "foreshadowing," with its tendency to present events as inevitably leading towards fixed, pre-ordained futures. In the inverted causality of foreshadowing, where beginnings are determined by their ends, "events are not only pushed, but pulled."
At its extreme, foreshadowing implies a closed universe in which all choices have already been made, in which human free will can exist only in the paradoxical sense of choosing to accept or willfully and vainly rebelling against what is inevitable. This is the case whether the foreshadowing takes place at the theological, historical, or psychological level.
Against foreshadowing, Morson coins the notion of "sideshadowing." Sideshadowing champions the incommensurability of the concrete moment and refuses the tyranny of all synthetic master-schemes; it rejects the conviction that a particular code, law, or pattern exists, waiting to be uncovered beneath the heterogeneity of human existence.
Instead of the global regularities that so many intellectual and spiritual movements claim to reveal, sideshadowing stresses the significance of random, haphazard, and unassimilable contingencies, and instead of the power of a system to uncover an otherwise unfathomable truth, it expresses the ever-changing nature of that truth and the absence of any predictive certainties in human affairs. Sideshadowing, whether expressed in the openness of novels like War and Peace, in political theories committed to prosaic, anti-utopian principles, or in the ways we narrate our own lives to ourselves, is shown to be at the core of an open, contingent, and pluralistic sense of human possibility and freedom.
If Narrative and Freedom demonstrates the enormous gains of a genuinely comparative exploration comparative not only among languages but also among theoretical disciplines Haun Saussy's The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic brilliantly applies a deconstructive framework to question the very possibility of comparative East-West poetics. Saussy raises the most basic questions of our field with exemplary precision. Are fundamental tropes such as allegory, metaphor, and metonymy really translatable in any useful sense between Chinese and Western aesthetics?
His book centers on an illuminating interrogation of various traditional modes, both Eastern and Western, of reading the Confucian Book of Odes. But it is as skeptical of skepticism as it is of facile cultural relativism, and expertly untangles the importance of China in Western philosophical writings (especially in Leibnitz and Hegel) to illuminate theoretical issues of linguistic, cultural, and poetic comparisons among civilizations. If, on the one hand, many of the basic Western tropes seem not to fit the nature of Chinese poetry, it is equally true that even to claim one has recognized these fundamental differences presumes one "knows enough about 'Western civilization' to have seen around it and know its limits." Relativism, that is to say, "requires making even stronger epistemic claims than does naïveté."
Paradoxically, while making explicit the very gap between Eastern and Western aesthetics, and by forcing us to confront the evasions and simplifications of earlier attempts to bridge this gap, Saussy inaugurates not so much a silencing of the discourse, but rather a new, and altogether more lucid, awareness of its limiting conditions and real possibilities. In this sense, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic is a brilliant mirror in which the aporias of any aesthetic as such are reflected back to us as an instigation for still further reflections.
Eco, The Limits of Interpretation, (Indiana University Press,
Eco's book, The Limits of Interpretation, makes a powerful revisionist argument against deconstructionist hermeneutics. Whereas Eco's earlier work dealt chiefly with the reader's role in interpretation, he now cautions us to beware of "hermetic drift" or the "cancer of uncontrolled interpretation." "Unlimited semiosis," he argues, "is a form of 'epistemological fanaticism,' there being, after all, interpretations which are blatantly unacceptable. This means that the interpreted text imposes some constraints upon its interpreters." In its extreme form, Eco argues, deconstructionist theory is "unable to recognize that symbols, paradigmatically open to infinite meaning as they may be, are syntagmatically open only to the indefinite, but by any means infinite, interpretations allowed by the context." In making his case and exposing some of the more absurd interpretations to which Modernist writers like Joyce and Pirandello have been subjected, Eco draws upon a wide range of sources from Patristic literature and Renaissance Hermeticism to the work of Charles Pierce. The Limits of Interpretation is as witty as it is learned--a dense theoretical work that is also a real pleasure to read.
Like The Limits of Interpretation, Thomas G. Pavel's The Feud of Language challenges contemporary French theory, but this time from the perspective of linguistics rather than hermeneutics. Pavel's is an exceptionally intelligent and informed discussion of the ways in which the Saussurean model has been used (or rather misused) in French structuralist and poststructuralist thought, including anthropology, epistemology, the philosophy of language, literary theory, and poetics. Himself a linguist by training, Pavel offers us a fascinating and detailed critical history of what he calls the linguistic "mirage" or "illusion" or "mystique" in the human sciences, from Levi-Strausse's Procustean treatment of myths as phonological structures to Derrida's grammatology, and theory of purely differential meaning, based on partial Saussurean analogies, unilaterally interpreted. Linguistics, Pavel argues convincingly, can be a useful tool and source of insight in many analytical situations, but ceases to be so when exorbitant philosophical claims (be they metaphysical or antimetaphysical) are made in its name. Pavel's critique is consistently lucid, nuanced, and balanced; unlike most current critiques of deconstruction, it brings to its subject both a profound learning and genuine respect and sympathy.
Suzanne Gearhart, The Open Boundary of History and Fiction, (Princeton University Press, 1985)
The Prize Committee of the American Comparative Literature Association is pleased to present the 1986 René Wellek Prize for a study in literary theory to Suzanne Gearhart for The Open Boundary of History and Fiction. Professor Gearhart explores in a rich and illuminating way some of the essential tensions in the relations of history and fiction, comparing modern and contemporary views on these issues with earlier views in the French Enlightenment. In so doing she establishes an intricate interplay between those modes of writing, putting the necessary qualifications into our demarcations of these genres. The result is a salutary rethinking of questions which are especially significant to theorists of interdisciplinary studies. It is an important book for comparatists.