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The A. Owen Aldridge Prize Citations 2009

2009 Prize Winner:

The 2009 Aldridge Prize for a Comparative Essay by a Graduate Student is awarded to John Patrick Leary of New York University for his essay "Havana Reads the Harlem Renaissance: Mistranslation and the Dialectics of Transnational American Literature.

In a well-balanced analysis of the mutual interests and investments that Langston Hughes and Nicolás Guillén had in each other's poetry and perceived identities (and by extension also those of the Harlem Renaissance and Afrocubanismo), John Patrick Leary offers a critique of the critical commonplace of Hughes as the most influential of the two figures which presents a series of readings showing the vectors of influence oriented in both directions. While depicting the historical circumstances of their interactions, John Patrick Leary moves easily between the languages of both poets and their cross-appropriations in translation to think about the ways in which black Cuban and black American cultural forms enter into each other's spaces even as they resist assimilation. The essay articulates a complex relationship of inter-American influence, anti-imperialist solidarity, and cultural and personal competition that complicates any notion of a flattened transnational racial modernity. In such instances as his/her discussion of how the eagerly adopted rendering of son as "blues" was seen as problematic by Cuban literati, John Patrick Leary uses translation and a careful consideration of differing cultural contexts as a catalyst for observations about language and literary history in a way that brings the strengths of comparative literature to New Americanist critical strategies.

2009 Aldridge Prize Committee:
Thomas Beebee, Pennsylvania State University (Chair)
Christopher P. Bush, Princeton University
Eric Hayot, University of Arizona
Corinne Scheiner, Colorado College