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The A. Owen Aldridge Prize Citations 2012

2012 Prize Winner:

The 2012 Aldridge Prize for Best Comparative Essay by a Graduate Student is awarded to Grace Lavery of the University of Pennsylvania for her essay “Counterarchiving Ruskin.”

Lavery’s essay focuses on a site of memory of the Japanese reception of the English art critic and essayist John Ruskin (1819-1900). It explores the relationship between Japanese modernization and Victorian cultural theory in a very intimate setting: the Ruskin collection amassed over two decades by Mikimoto Ryuzo, the eldest son of a pearl magnate. Lavery conceives the origin story of the Mikimoto Ruskin Library as an epic narrative of love, loss, and labor, situated, like any good inter-war epic, between the aesthetic ambitions and militarist violence of two empires, Britain and Japan. Ryuzo’s love of Ruskin, which he figures in terms which are, at different times, both highly erotic and intimately concerned with the possibility of Mikimoto’s imagining in Ruskin an alternative to his industrialist father, comes to signify the possibility of an aesthetic unification of East and West. Lavery brilliantly reads Mikimoto’s collection as a study-example of the “counterarchive,” i.e. as a preservation of counterhistories, a repository of illegible feelings and a site of memory.

Judges praised this article in particular for its original topic, its tenacious exploration of the archive, its keen insight, and the exquisite detail with which the author carries out her investigation of an intercultural relationship. The essay demonstrates great attention to the portability of cultural icons, while also interrogating the laws of mutability governing their translation and preservation.

A biannual East-West issue has been a feature of Comparative Literature Studies since its founding by A. Owen Aldridge, in honor of whom the Aldridge Prize is named. The sophistication of Grace Lavery’s approach to East-West comparison represents the very best in recent approaches in the field.

2012 Aldridge Prize Committee:
Salah D. Hassan (Chair - Michigan State University),
Taiwo Osinube (Univ. of Montreal),
Wendy Faris (University of Texas-Arlington).