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René Wellek Prize

Note: Details about the 2019-2020 competition for the Wellek Prize will not be available until summer 2019. Contact for further information.

The René Wellek Prize recognizes an outstanding book in the discipline of comparative literature; fields may include literary or cultural theory or history, or any other field of comparative literature. The 2019 Wellek Prize will be awarded to a book published during the calendar years 2018 and 2019, and will be awarded at the ACLA Annual Meeting on March 7-10, 2019 at Georgetown University.  The prize carries complimentary registration for the Annual Meeting, as well as hotel and airfare accommodations** (not including food) to facilitate the recipient attending the 2020 ACLA Annual Meeting.  (**economy-class airfare roundtrip from wherever the prize winner is located the week before the conference, and hotel accommodation for up to 4 nights at the conference hotel rate, or rough equivalent thereof if the conference hotel is booked).

Congratulations to the 2018-2019 winner of the René Wellek Prize:

  • Richard Halpern, Eclipse of Action:  Tragedy and Political Economy (University of Chicago Press) (CITATION)



If you wish to nominate one or more titles for the 2018-2019 René Wellek Prize, please send a brief letter to that effect and a copy of the book to each member of the 2018-2019 René Wellek Prize Committee, including the ACLA Secretariat, Alexander Beecroft.  PLEASE NOTE that no book previously nominated for either the Levin or the Wellek Prize may be re-nominated for either prize; a book may be nominated in either of its years of eligibility, but not in both years.  Questions: email the Secretary-Treasurer, Alexander Beecroft.

You may mail submissions to the 2018-2019 René Wellek Prize Committee at the following addresses:

American Comparative Literature Association, University of South Carolina Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, 1620 College Street, Rm. 813A, Columbia SC 29208

The 2018-2019 René Wellek Prize Committee was:

Rebecca Comay (University of Toronto), 618 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto, ON M6H 2W6, Canada (2018-2019 committee chair)
Alberto Moreiras (Texas A&M University), 17001 Calumet Trail, College Station, TX 77845
Bruce Robbins (Columbia University), Department of English and Comparative Literature, Philosophy Hall, 1150 Amsterdam Avenue, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027


The deadline for submission is October 1st, 2018. The ACLA encourages the submission of titles as early as possible, as the committee usually receives a large number of submissions at the end of the year, and can devote proportionately less time to them than to those that arrive early.

A selective approach to nominations is also recommended, in order that a few books of superior quality may stand out.

Below is a list of previous René Wellek Prize winners.  Please click on the year of the prize to view further information about the prize winner and the book (including a link to Amazon's web page for the book).

Note: in 2012, the ACLA changed the structure of its book prizes, and now awards two different book prizes each year: the René Wellek Prize for the best book published in the field of comparative literature, and the Harry Levin Prize for the best first book published in the field of comparative literature. First books are also eligible for the Wellek Prize, but no book may be nominated for both prizes. Please note that only single-author books may be nominated for either prize. Publishers and authors are invited to submit nominations for both prizes.

  • 2018: Haun SaussyTranslation as Citation:  Zhuangzi Inside Out (University of Chicago Press) (CITATION)
  • 2017:  Jeffrey Jerome CohenStone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (University of Minnesota Press, 2015); and Viet Thanh NguyenNothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press, 2016)
  • 2016: Barry McCrea, Languages of the Night: Minor Languages and the Literary Imagination in Twentieth-Century Ireland and Europe (Yale University Press, 2015)
  • 2015: Michael Murrin, Trade and Romance (University of Chicago Press, 2014)
  • 2015 Honorable Mention: Rivkah Zim, The Consolations of Writing: Literary Strategies of Resistance from Boethius to Primo Levi (Princeton University Press, 2013)
  • 2014: Gaurav Desai. Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination (Columbia University Press, 2013).
  • 2014 Honorable Mention: Marie-Hélène Huet: Culture of Disaster (University of Chicago Press, 2012)
  • 2013: Kader Konuk. East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey. (Stanford University Press, 2010).
    2013 Honorable Mention: Karen Thornber. Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures. (University of Michigan Press, 2012).
    Subramanian Shankar. Flesh and Fish Blook. (University of California Press, 2012).
  • 2012: Lauren Berlant. Cruel Optimism. (Duke University Press, 2011).
  • 2010: Anne-Lise François, Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Stanford University Press, 2007).
    2010 Honorable Mention: Barbara Johnson, Persons and Things (Harvard University Press, 2008).
  • 2008: Joseph Slaughter, Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (Fordham University Press, 2007).
    2008 Honorable Mention: Natalie Melas, All the Difference in the World: Postcoloniality and the Ends of Comparison (Stanford University Press, 2007).
  • 2006: Peggy Kamuf, Book of Addresses (Stanford University Press, 2005).
  • 2004: Barrett Watten, The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics (Wesleyan University Press, 2003).
    2004 Honorable Mention: Margaret W. Ferguson, Dido's Daughters: Literacy, Gender and Empire in Early Modern England and France (University of Chicago P, 2003)
    Eric L. Santner, On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig (University of Chicago Press, 2001).
  • 2002: Rei Terada, Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the 'Death of the Subject' (Harvard University Press, 2001).
  • 2000: N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman (University of Chicago Press, 1998).
  • 1998: Geoffrey H. Hartman, The Fateful Question of Culture (Columbia University Press, 1997).
  • 1996: Haun Saussy, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic (Stanford University Press, 1993).
    Gary Saul Morson, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time (Yale University Press, 1994).
  • 1994: John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (University of Chicago Press, 1993).
  • 1992: Umberto Eco, The Limits of Interpretation (Indiana University Press, 1990)
    Thomas G. Pavel, The Feud of Language: A History of Structuralist Thought (Basil Blackwell Publishing, 1989).
  • 1988: Barbara A. Johnson, A World of Difference (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).
  • 1986: Suzanne Gearhart, The Open Boundary of History and Fiction (Princeton University Press, 1985).
  • 1984: Edward W. Said, The World, the Text, and the Critic (Harvard University Press, 1983).
  • 1981: Lawrence Manley, Convention, 1500-1700 (Harvard University Press, 1980).