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The Charles Bernheimer Prize Citations 2015

2015 Prize Winners:

This year's Bernheimer Prize Award for Best Dissertation by a Graduate Student in Comparative Literature is shared by John H. Kim of Harvard University, for his dissertation, "The Poetics of Diagram," and Tristram Wolff of the University of California, Berkeley, for his dissertation "Romantic Etymology and Language Ecology."

Modest in tone but encyclopedic in its ambitions, John Hyong Kim's "The Poetics of Diagram" not only analyzes the uses of the diagram and diagrammatic thinking over several millennia and in no fewer than six literary languages, eastern as well as western.  It also locates in the very structure of the diagram--"suspended between the linguistic, the cosmological, and the numerical"--the possibilities and limits of comparison itself.  Universal and particular while neither simply the one nor the other, the diagram in Kim's nuanced close readings and theoretical reflections is a fitting image of this dissertation as a whole: "mobile, interrogative, heuristic, synthetic, and speculative."

Tristam Nash Wolff in his learned “Romantic Etymology and Language Ecology” explores a historical model of reading between perception of the linguistic sign as organic on the one hand and on the other, as wholly arbitrary. Ecology is his metaphor for language as a system, one which make ebb and flow both natural and ever-changing.  Herder and Humboldt help him organize his system; later he discusses Proust as philosopher of language and Saussure.  The writers whose work comes in for close reading are Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, then Emerson and Thoreau.

2015 Bernheimer Prize Committee:
Susan Z. Andrade, University of Pittsburgh (Chair)
Andrew Parker, Rutgers University
Michael Wood, Princeton University