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The Charles Bernheimer Prize Citations 2007

2007 Prize Winner:

Karen Laura Thornber, "Cultures and Texts in Motion: Negotiating and Reconfiguring Japan and Japanese Literature in Polyintertextual East Asian Contact Zones (Japan, Semicolonial China, Colonial Korea, Colonial Taiwan)." (Harvard, 2006)

In this ambitious study, Thornber offers a detailed analysis of the intricate networks of dissemination, reception, exchange and creative response that informed literary production in Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea during the period of Japan's imperial expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her dissertation deals with an area that has been largely neglected in the domain of comparative literature, and it does so with theoretical sophistication, historical awareness, a keen sensitivity to cultural currents of exchange, and, perhaps most impressive of all, solid command of three East Asian languages that not only differ considerably from each other, but also operate in ways substantially different than Western languages. While previous scholarship in this field has typically approached such issues from a dyadic standpoint, Thornber ventures a step further by mapping the multiple sites and vectors of literary influence and transformation in four very different cultural contexts, while also showing the points of contact among them. This work attends to important differences among the political relationships between China, Taiwan and Korea to Japan, and it proceeds to read the deployment and transformation of Japanese literary precedents in these national and linguistic contexts in light of this history. For its sheer command of the languages and the history of literary and historical scholarship on the various East Asian traditions it addresses, this dissertation stands out as a remarkable achievement. Thornber's study is work of a very high order: broad in its scope, deep in its command of the scholarly tradition, and innovative in its development of a new theoretical model for considering the complexity of cultural flows and literary relations among nations that were (and remain) deeply intertwined.

2007 Bernheimer Prize Committee:
Ron Bogue, University of Georgia
Steven Yao, Hamilton College
Sandra Bermann, Princeton University