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Award Winners

Winner: Ruth Benedict Book Prize

Hijras, Lovers, Brothers

Vaibhav Saria

Winner, 2021 Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences
Winner, 2021 Ruth Benedict Prize, Association for Queer Anthropology

Hijras, one of India’s third gendered or trans populations, have been an enduring presence in the South Asian imagination—in myth, in ritual, and in everyday life, often associated in stigmatized forms with begging and sex work. In more recent years hijras have seen a degree of political emergence as a moral presence in Indian electoral politics, and with heightened vulnerability within global health terms as a high-risk population caught within the AIDS epidemic.

Hijras, Lovers, Brothers recounts two years living with a group of hijras in rural India. In this riveting ethnography, Vaibhav Saria reveals not just a group of stigmatized or marginalized others but a way of life composed of laughter, struggles, and desires that trouble how we read queerness, kinship, and the psyche.

Against easy framings of hijras that render them marginalized, Saria shows how hijras makes the normative Indian family possible. The book also shows that particular practices of hijras, such as refusing to use condoms or comply with retroviral regimes, reflect not ignorance, irresponsibility, or illiteracy but rather a specific idiom of erotic asceticism arising in both Hindu and Islamic traditions. This idiom suffuses the densely intertwined registers of erotics, economics, and kinship that inform the everyday lives of hijras and offer a repertoire of self-fashioning beyond the secular horizons of public health or queer theory.

Engrossingly written and full of keen insights, the book moves from the small pleasures of the everyday—laughter, flirting, teasing—to impossible longings, kinship, and economies of property and substance in order to give a fuller account of trans lives and of Indian society today.

Winner: African Literature Association First Book Award

The Tongue-Tied Imagination

Tobias Warner

Winner, 2021 African Literature Association First Book Award

Should a writer work in a former colonial language or in a vernacular? The language question was one of the great, intractable problems that haunted postcolonial literatures in the twentieth century, but it has since acquired a reputation as a dead end for narrow nationalism. This book returns to the language question from a fresh perspective. Instead of asking whether language matters, The Tongue-Tied Imagination explores how the language question itself came to matter.

Focusing on the case of Senegal, Warner investigates the intersection of French and Wolof. Drawing on extensive archival research and an under-studied corpus of novels, poetry, and films in both languages, as well as educational projects and popular periodicals, the book traces the emergence of a politics of language from colonization through independence to the era of neoliberal development. Warner reads the francophone works of well-known authors such as Léopold Senghor, Ousmane Sembène, Mariama Bâ, and Boubacar Boris Diop alongside the more overlooked Wolof-language works with which they are in dialogue.

Refusing to see the turn to vernacular languages only as a form of nativism, The Tongue-Tied Imagination argues that the language question opens up a fundamental struggle over the nature and limits of literature itself. Warner reveals how language debates tend to pull in two directions: first, they weave vernacular traditions into the normative patterns of world literature; but second, they create space to imagine how literary culture might be configured otherwise. Drawing on these insights, Warner brilliantly rethinks the terms of world literature and charts a renewed practice of literary comparison.

Winner: Winner of the French Voices Translation Award

Living in Death

Richard Rechtman, Lindsay Turner, Veena Das

Winner, French Voices Award for Excellence in Publication and Translation

When we speak of mass killers, we may speak of radicalized ideologues, mediocrities who only obey orders, or bloodthirsty monsters. Who are these men who kill on a mass scale? What is their consciousness? Do they not feel horror or compassion?

Richard Rechtman’s Living in Death offers new answers to a question that has haunted us at least since the Holocaust. For Rechtman, it is not ideologies that kill, but people. This book descends into the ordinary life of people who execute hundreds every day, the same way others go to the office. Bringing philosophical sophistication to the ordinary, the book constitutes an anthropology of mass killers.

Turning away from existing psychological and philosophical accounts of genocide’s perpetrators, Rechtman instead explores the conditions under which administering death becomes a job like any other. Considering Cambodia, Rwanda, and other mass killings, Living in Death draws on a vast array of archival research, psychological theory, and anecdotes from the author’s clinical work with refugees and former participants in genocide. Rechtman mounts a compelling case for reframing and refocusing our attempts to explain—and preempt—acts of mass torture, rape, killing, and extermination.

What we must see, Rechtman argues, is that for genocidaires (those who carry out acts that are or approach genocide), there is nothing extraordinary, unusual, or world-historical about their actions. On the contrary, they are preoccupied with the same mundane things that characterize any other job: interactions with colleagues, living conditions, a drink and a laugh at the end of the day. To understand this is to understand how things came to be the way they are—and how they might be different.

Winner: Winner of the French Voices Translation Award

Adapt!

Barbara Stiegler, Adam Hocker, Hélène Landemore

Winner, French Voices Award

This book, a crossover hit in France, offers a fresh genealogy of our neoliberal moment.

"We must adapt!" These words can be heard almost everywhere and in every aspect of our lives. Where does this widespread sense that we are lagging come from? How can we explain this progressive colonization of the economic, social, and political fields by this biological vocabulary of evolution? Offering a lucid account of sophisticated material, Barbara Stiegler’s book helps to explain today's ubiquitous rhetoric imploring us to adapt by showing its prehistories in Darwinism and American liberalism, as well as powerful resistances to the rhetoric of adaptation across the twentieth century.

Walter Lippmann, an American theorist of this new liberalism, believed democracy was not adapted to the needs of globalization. Only a government of experts could force society to evolve, he argued. Lippmann thus found himself confronted with John Dewey, the great figure of American Pragmatism. Both Lippmann and Dewey labored under the impression that the world had changed and society needed to adapt. However, Lippmann did not trust society to adapt on its own and insisted on the need for experts who would force the necessary adaptation. Dewey, by contrast, believed the necessary adaptation could only come "from below" and should proceed in a democratic fashion.

Focusing on the readings of Michel Foucault, Walter Lippmann, and John Dewey, Adapt! paves the way for renewed insights into neoliberalism's history, essence, characteristic forces, and impacts, as well as biopolitical theory. Barbara Stiegler presents an intriguing new genealogy for the development of neoliberalism, examining whether humans are by nature lagging and require biopolitical and disciplinary management to enforce adaptation. Stiegler also reorients Michel Foucault's genealogy of neoliberalism by emphasizing the Darwinian rhetoric of adaptation, as it arose in the Lippmann-Dewey debates, and deftly handles the theorization of human nature in a way that re-enlivens this traditional concept.

As the industrialization of our ways of life never stops destroying the environment and the health of organisms (climate disruption, the destruction of biodiversity, the growth of chronic diseases, the return of large pandemics), how can we think of a democratic government of life and the living? This is the question that this American debate between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey may help us confront.

Winner: American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize

Old Schools

Ramsey McGlazer

Winner: AAIS First Book Prize

Old Schools marks out a modernist countertradition. The book makes sense of an apparent anachronism in twentieth-century literature and cinema: a fascination with outmoded, paradigmatically pre-modern educational forms that persists long after they are displaced in progressive pedagogical theories.

Advocates of progressive education turned against Latin in particular. The dead language—taught through time-tested means including memorization, recitation, copying out, and other forms of repetition and recall—needed to be updated or eliminated, reformers argued, so that students could breathe free and become modern, achieving a break with convention and constraint.

Yet McGlazer’s remarkable book reminds us that progressive education was championed not only by political progressives, but also by Fascists in Italy, where it was an object of Gramsci’s critique. Building on Gramsci’s pages on the Latin class, McGlazer shows how figures in various cultural vanguards, from Victorian Britain to 1970s Brazil, returned to and reimagined the old school.

Strikingly, the works that McGlazer considers valorize this school’s outmoded techniques even at their most cumbersome and conventional. Like the Latin class to which they return, these works produce constraints that feel limiting but that, by virtue of that limitation, invite valuable resistance. As they turn grammar drills into verse and repetitious lectures into voiceovers, they find unlikely resources for critique in the very practices that progressive reformers sought to clear away.

Registering the past’s persistence even while they respond to the mounting pressures of modernization, writers and filmmakers from Pater to Joyce to Pasolini retain what might look like retrograde attachments—to tradition, transmission, scholastic rites, and repetitive forms. But the counter-progressive pedagogies that they devise repeat the past to increasingly radical effect. Old Schools teaches us that this kind of repetition can enable the change that it might seem to impede.

Winner: Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences

Hijras, Lovers, Brothers

Vaibhav Saria

Winner, 2021 Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences
Winner, 2021 Ruth Benedict Prize, Association for Queer Anthropology

Hijras, one of India’s third gendered or trans populations, have been an enduring presence in the South Asian imagination—in myth, in ritual, and in everyday life, often associated in stigmatized forms with begging and sex work. In more recent years hijras have seen a degree of political emergence as a moral presence in Indian electoral politics, and with heightened vulnerability within global health terms as a high-risk population caught within the AIDS epidemic.

Hijras, Lovers, Brothers recounts two years living with a group of hijras in rural India. In this riveting ethnography, Vaibhav Saria reveals not just a group of stigmatized or marginalized others but a way of life composed of laughter, struggles, and desires that trouble how we read queerness, kinship, and the psyche.

Against easy framings of hijras that render them marginalized, Saria shows how hijras makes the normative Indian family possible. The book also shows that particular practices of hijras, such as refusing to use condoms or comply with retroviral regimes, reflect not ignorance, irresponsibility, or illiteracy but rather a specific idiom of erotic asceticism arising in both Hindu and Islamic traditions. This idiom suffuses the densely intertwined registers of erotics, economics, and kinship that inform the everyday lives of hijras and offer a repertoire of self-fashioning beyond the secular horizons of public health or queer theory.

Engrossingly written and full of keen insights, the book moves from the small pleasures of the everyday—laughter, flirting, teasing—to impossible longings, kinship, and economies of property and substance in order to give a fuller account of trans lives and of Indian society today.

Shortlisted: Publishing Triangle Awards

My Daily Actions, or The Meteorites

S. Brook Corfman, Cathy Park Hong

NAMED THE BEST POETRY OF 2020 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES

My Daily Actions, or The Meteorites is the result of a daily investigative writing practice, in which I was worried that a poem invested in the particulars of my life would be uninteresting—that the "ordinary" would be mundane. Instead memory, dreams, and the associative power of the imagination filled each moment with meaning, each tv show I watched or friend I spoke with, each outfit I wore or nail polish color I chose. In these poems, a combination of dread (for something approaching) and anxiety (for what might be approaching but isn't yet known) undid a sense of the present separate from climate change, global racial capitalism, whiteness, and gender-based violence, especially as I wrote as I tried to find out how my own gender fit into the world. The prose poem is the vehicle by which a recording practice ("journaling") meets the associative power of the poem.

Shortlisted: MSA First Book Award

The Fact of Resonance

Julie Beth Napolin

Shortlisted, 2021 Memory Studies Association First Book Award

The Fact of Resonance returns to the colonial and technological contexts in which theories of the novel developed, seeking in sound an alternative premise for theorizing modernist narrative form. Arguing that narrative theory has been founded on an exclusion of sound, the book poses a missing counterpart to modernism’s question “who speaks?” in the hidden acoustical questions “who hears?” and “who listens?”

For Napolin, the experience of reading is undergirded by the sonic. The book captures and enhances literature’s ambient sounds, sounds that are clues to heterogeneous experiences secreted within the acoustical unconscious of texts. The book invents an oblique ear, a subtle and lyrical prose style attuned to picking up sounds no longer hearable. “Resonance” opens upon a new genealogy of modernism, tracking from Joseph Conrad to his interlocutors—Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, W. E. B. Du Bois, William Faulkner, and Chantal Akerman—the racialized, gendered, and colonial implications of acoustical figures that “drift” through and are transformed by narrative worlds in writing, film, and music.

A major synthesis of resources gleaned from across the theoretical humanities, the book argues for “resonance” as the traversal of acoustical figures across the spaces of colonial and technological modernity, figures registering and transmitting transformations of “voice” and “sound” across languages, culture, and modalities of hearing. We have not yet sufficiently attended to relays between sound, narrative, and the unconscious that are crucial to the ideological entailments and figural strategies of transnational, transatlantic, and transpacific modernism. The breadth of the book’s engagements will make it of interest not only to students and scholars of modernist fiction and sound studies, but to anyone interested in contemporary critical theory.

Winner: Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies

The Literary Qur'an

Hoda El Shakry

Winner, 2020 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies, Modern Language Association

The novel, the literary adage has it, reflects a world abandoned by God. Yet the possibilities of novelistic form and literary exegesis exceed the secularizing tendencies of contemporary literary criticism. Showing how the Qurʾan itself invites and enacts critical reading, Hoda El Shakry’s Qurʾanic model of narratology enriches our understanding of literary sensibilities and practices in the Maghreb across Arabophone and Francophone traditions.

The Literary Qurʾan mobilizes the Qurʾan’s formal, narrative, and rhetorical qualities, alongside embodied and hermeneutical forms of Qurʾanic pedagogy, to theorize modern Maghrebi literature. Challenging the canonization of secular modes of reading that occlude religious epistemes, practices, and intertexts, it attends to literature as a site where the process of entextualization obscures ethical imperatives. Engaging with the Arab-Islamic tradition of adab—a concept demarcating the genre of belles lettres, as well as social and moral comportment—El Shakry demonstrates how the critical pursuit of knowledge is inseparable from the spiritual cultivation of the self.

Foregrounding form and praxis alike, The Literary Qurʾan stages a series of pairings that invite paratactic readings across texts, languages, and literary canons. The book places twentieth-century novels by canonical Francophone writers (Abdelwahab Meddeb, Assia Djebar, Driss Chraïbi) into conversation with lesser-known Arabophone ones (Maḥmūd al-Masʿadī, al-Ṭāhir Waṭṭār, Muḥammad Barrāda). Theorizing the Qurʾan as a literary object, process, and model, this interdisciplinary study blends literary and theological methodologies, conceptual vocabularies, and reading practices.

Winner: William Sanders Scarborough Prize

Thinking Through Crisis

James Edward Ford, III

Winner, 2020 William Sanders Scarborough Prize, Modern Language Association

In Thinking Through Crisis, James Edward Ford III examines the works of Richard Wright, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes during the 1930s in order to articulate a materialist theory of trauma. Ford highlights the dark proletariat’s emergence from the multitude apposite to white supremacist agendas. In these works, Ford argues, proletarian, modernist, and surrealist aesthetics transform fugitive slaves, sharecroppers, leased convicts, levee workers, and activist intellectuals into protagonists of anti-racist and anti-capitalist movements in the United States.

Thinking Through Crisis intervenes in debates on the 1930s, radical subjectivity, and states of emergency. It will be of interest to scholars of American literature, African American literature, proletarian literature, black studies, trauma theory, and political theory.

Commended: Choice: Outstanding Academic Title

The Princeton Fugitive Slave

Lolita Buckner Inniss

James Collins Johnson made his name by escaping slavery in Maryland and fleeing to Princeton, New Jersey, where he built a life in a bustling community of African Americans working at what is now Princeton University. After only four years, he was recognized by a student from Maryland, arrested, and subjected to a trial for extradition under the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act. On the eve of his rendition, after attempts to free Johnson by force had failed, a local aristocratic white woman purchased Johnson’s freedom, allowing him to avoid re-enslavement. The Princeton Fugitive Slave reconstructs James Collins Johnson’s life, from birth and enslaved life in Maryland to his daring escape, sensational trial for re-enslavement, and last-minute change of fortune, and through to the end of his life in Princeton, where he remained a figure of local fascination.

Stories of Johnson’s life in Princeton often describe him as a contented, jovial soul, beloved on campus and memorialized on his gravestone as “The Students Friend.” But these familiar accounts come from student writings and sentimental recollections in alumni reports—stories from elite, predominantly white, often southern sources whose relationships with Johnson were hopelessly distorted by differences in race and social standing. In interrogating these stories against archival records, newspaper accounts, courtroom narratives, photographs, and family histories, author Lolita Buckner Inniss builds a picture of Johnson on his own terms, piecing together the sparse evidence and disaggregating him from the other black vendors with whom he was sometimes confused.

By telling Johnson’s story and examining the relationship between antebellum Princeton’s black residents and the economic engine that supported their community, the book questions the distinction between employment and servitude that shrinks and threatens to disappear when an individual’s freedom is circumscribed by immobility, lack of opportunity, and contingency on local interpretations of a hotly contested body of law.

Commended: Choice: Outstanding Academic Title

At Wit's End

Louis Kaplan

CHOICE: OUTSTANDING ACADEMIC TITLE

A scholarly and thought-provoking work that places Jewish humor at the center of a discourse about Jewish and German relations through most of the twentieth century.

At Wit’s End explores the fascinating discourse on Jewish wit in the twentieth century when the Jewish joke became the subject of serious humanistic inquiry and inserted itself into the cultural and political debates among Germans and Jews against the ideologically charged backdrop of anti-Semitism, the Jewish question, and the Holocaust.

The first in-depth study to explore the Jewish joke as a crucial rhetorical figure in larger cultural debates in Germany, author Louis Kaplan presents an engrossing and lucid work of scholarship that examines how “der jüdische Witz” (referring to both Jewish wit and jokes) was utilized differently in a number of texts, from the Weimar Republic to the rise of National Socialism, and how it was re-introduced into the public sphere after the Holocaust with the controversial publication of Salcia Landmann’s collection of Jewish jokes in the reparations era (Wiedergutmachung). Kaplan reviews the claims made about the Jewish joke and its provocative laughter by notable writers from a variety of ideological perspectives, demonstrating how their reflections on this complex cultural trope enable a better understanding of German–Jewish intercultural relations and their eventual breakdown in the Third Reich. He also illustrates how selfcritical and self-ironic Jewish Witz maintained a fraught and ambivalent relationship with anti-Semitism.
In reviewing this critical and traumatic moment in modern German–Jewish history through the deadly discourse on the Jewish joke, At Wit’s End includes chapters on the virulent Austrian anti-Semitic racial theorist Arthur Trebitsch, the Nazi racial propagandist Siegfried Kadner, the German Marxist cultural historian Eduard Fuchs, the Jewish diasporic historian Erich Kahler, and the Jewish cabaret impresario Kurt Robitschek, among others. Shedding new light on anti-Semitism and on the Jewish question leading up to the Holocaust, At Wit’s End provides readers with a unique perspective by which to gain important insights about this crucial historical period that reverberates into the present day, when potentially offensive humor coupled with a toxic political climate and xenophobia can have deadly consequences.

Commended: Choice: Outstanding Academic Title

Buying Reality

Danilo Yanich

From a certain perspective, the biggest political story of 2016 was how the candidate who bought three-quarters of the political ads lost to the one whose every provocative Tweet set the agenda for the day’s news coverage. With the arrival of bot farms, microtargeted Facebook ads, and Cambridge Analytica, isn’t the age of political ads on local TV coming to a close?

You might think. But you’d be wrong to the tune of $4.4 billion just in 2016. In U.S. elections, there’s a lot more at stake than the presidency. TV spending has gone up dramatically since 2006, for both presidential and down-ballot races for congressional seats, governorships, and state legislatures—and the 2020 campaign shows no signs of bucking this trend. When candidates don’t enjoy the name recognition and celebrity of the presidential contenders, it’s very much business as usual. They rely on the local TV newscasts, watched by 30 million people every day—not Tweets—to convey their messages to an audience more fragmented than ever.

At the same time, the nationalization of news and consolidation of local stations under juggernauts like Nexstar Media and Sinclair Broadcasting mean a decreasing share of time devoted to down-ballot politics—almost 90 percent of 2016’s local political stories focused on the presidential race. Without coverage of local issues and races, ad buys are the only chance most candidates have to get their messages in front of a broadcast audience.

On local TV news, political ads create the reality of local races—a reality that is not meant to inform voters but to persuade them. Voters are left to their own devices to fill in the space between what the ads say—the bought reality—and what political stories used to cover.

Shortlisted: Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present Book Prize

The Disposition of Nature

Jennifer Wenzel

Shortlisted, 2020 ASAP Book Prize

How do literature and other cultural forms shape how we imagine the planet, for better or worse? In this rich, original, and long awaited book, Jennifer Wenzel tackles the formal innovations, rhetorical appeals, and sociological imbrications of world literature that might help us confront unevenly distributed environmental crises, including global warming.

The Disposition of Nature argues that assumptions about what nature is are at stake in conflicts over how it is inhabited or used. Both environmental discourse and world literature scholarship tend to confuse parts and wholes. Working with writing and film from Africa, South Asia, and beyond, Wenzel takes a contrapuntal approach to sites and subjects dispersed across space and time. Reading for the planet, Wenzel shows, means reading from near to there: across experiential divides, between specific sites, at more than one scale.

Impressive in its disciplinary breadth, Wenzel’s book fuses insights from political ecology, geography, anthropology, history, and law, while drawing on active debates between postcolonial theory and world literature, as well as scholarship on the Anthropocene and the material turn. In doing so, the book shows the importance of the literary to environmental thought and practice, elaborating how a supple understanding of cultural imagination and narrative logics can foster more robust accounts of global inequality and energize movements for justice and livable futures.

Winner: SFTS Book Prize

Radical Botany

Natania Meeker, Antónia Szabari

Winner, 2019 Science Fiction & Technoculture Studies Book Prize

Radical Botany excavates a tradition in which plants participate in the effort to imagine new worlds and envision new futures. Modernity, the book claims, is defined by the idea of all life as vegetal. Meeker and Szabari argue that the recognition of plants’ liveliness and animation, as a result of scientific discoveries from the seventeenth century to today, has mobilized speculative creation in fiction, cinema, and art.

Plants complement and challenge notions of human life. Radical Botany traces the implications of the speculative mobilization of plants for feminism, queer studies, and posthumanist thought. If, as Michael Foucault has argued, the notion of the human was born at a particular historical moment and is now nearing its end, Radical Botany reveals that this origin and endpoint are deeply informed by vegetality as a form of pre- and posthuman subjectivity.

The trajectory of speculative fiction which this book traces offers insights into the human relationship to animate matter and the technological mediations through which we enter into contact with the material world. Plants profoundly shape human experience, from early modern absolutist societies to late capitalism’s manipulations of life and the onset of climate change and attendant mass extinction.

A major intervention in critical plant studies, Radical Botany reveals the centuries-long history by which science and the arts have combined to posit plants as the model for all animate life and thereby envision a different future for the cosmos.

Winner: Nautilus Award

When God Was a Bird

Mark I. Wallace

2019 NAUTILUS GOLD WINNER

In a time of rapid climate change and species extinction, what role have the world’s religions played in ameliorating—or causing—the crisis we now face? Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, appears to bear a disproportionate burden for creating humankind’s exploitative attitudes toward nature through unearthly theologies that divorce human beings and their spiritual yearnings from their natural origins. In this regard, Christianity has become an otherworldly religion that views the natural world as “fallen,” as empty of signs of God’s presence.

And yet, buried deep within the Christian tradition are startling portrayals of God as the beaked and feathered Holy Spirit – the “animal God,” as it were, of historic Christian witness. Through biblical readings, historical theology, continental philosophy, and personal stories of sacred nature, this book recovers the model of God in Christianity as a creaturely, avian being who signals the presence of spirit in everything, human and more-than-human alike.

Mark Wallace’s recovery of the bird-God of the Bible signals a deep grounding of faith in the natural world. The moral implications of nature-based Christianity are profound. All life is deserving of humans’ care and protection insofar as the world is envisioned as alive with sacred animals, plants, and landscapes. From the perspective of Christian animism, the Earth is the holy place that God made and that humankind is enjoined to watch over and cherish in like manner. Saving the environment, then, is not a political issue on the left or the right of the ideological spectrum, but, rather, an innermost passion shared by all people of faith and good will in a world damaged by anthropogenic warming, massive species extinction, and the loss of arable land, potable water, and breathable air. To Wallace, this passion is inviolable and flows directly from the heart of Christian teaching that God is a carnal, fleshy reality who is promiscuously incarnated within all things, making the whole world a sacred embodiment of God’s presence, and worthy of our affectionate concern.

This beautifully and accessibly written book shows that “Christian animism” is not a strange oxymoron, but Christianity’s natural habitat. Challenging traditional Christianity’s self-definition as an other-worldly religion, Wallace paves the way for a new Earth-loving spirituality grounded in the ancient image of an animal God.

Commended: American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize

Allied Encounters

Marisa Escolar

Honorable Mention for the 2019 American Association for Italian American Book Prize (20-21st Centuries)

Allied Encounters uniquely explores Anglo-American and Italian literary, cinematic, and military representations of World War II Italy in order to trace, critique, and move beyond the gendered paradigm of redemption that has conditioned understandings of the Allied–Italian encounter.

The arrival of the Allies’ global forces in an Italy torn by civil war brought together populations that had long mythologized one another, yet “liberation” did not prove to be the happy ending touted by official rhetoric. Instead of a “honeymoon,” the Allied–Italian encounter in cities such as Naples and Rome appeared to be a lurid affair, where the black market reigned supreme and prostitution was the norm.

Informed by the historical context as well as by their respective traditions, these texts become more than mirrors of the encounter or generic allegories. Instead, they are sites in which to explore repressed traumas that inform how the occupation unfolded and is remembered, including the Holocaust, the American Civil War, and European colonialism, as well as individual traumatic events like the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine and the mass civilian rape near Rome by colonial soldiers

Winner: Immigration and Ethnic History Society First Book Award

Whom We Shall Welcome

Danielle Battisti

Winner, Immigration and Ethnic History Society First Book Award

Whom We Shall Welcome examines World War II immigration of Italians to the United States, an under-studied period in Italian immigration history. Danielle Battisti looks at efforts by Italian American organizations to foster Italian immigration along with the lobbying efforts of Italian Americans to change the quota laws. While Italian Americans (and other white ethnics) had attained virtual political and social equality with many other groups of older-stock Americans by the end of the war, Italians continued to be classified as undesirable immigrants. Her work is an important contribution toward understanding the construction of Italian American racial/ethnic identity in this period, the role of ethnic groups in U.S. foreign policy in the Cold War era, and the history of the liberal immigration reform movement that led to the 1965 Immigration Act.

Whom We Shall Welcome makes significant contributions to histories of migration and ethnicity, post-World War II liberalism, and immigration policy.

Shortlisted: Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Studies

Reading Sideways

Dana Seitler

Reading Sideways explores the pivotal role that various art forms played in American literary fiction in direct relation to the politics of gender and sexuality in works of modern American literature. It tracks the crosswise circulation of aesthetic ideas in fiction and argues that at stake in the aesthetic turn of these works was not only the theorization of aesthetic experience but also an engagement with political arguments and debates about available modes of sociability and sexual expression. To track these engagements, its author, Dana Seitler, performs a method she calls “lateral reading,” a mode of interpretation that moves horizontally through various historical entanglements and across the fields of the arts to make sense of—and see in a new light—their connections, challenges, and productive frictions.

Each chapter takes a different art form as its object: sculpture, portraiture, homecraft, and opera. These art forms appear in some of the major works of literature of the period central to negotiations of gender, race, and sexuality, including those by Henry James, Davis, Willa Cather, Du Bois, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Mary Wilkins Freeman. But the literary texts that each chapter of this book takes as its motivation not only include a specific art form or object as central to its politics, they also build an alternative aesthetic vocabulary through which they seek to alter, challenge, or participate in the making of social and sexual life. By cultivating a counter-aesthetics of the unfinished, the uncertain, the small, the low, and the allusive, these fictions recognize other ways of knowing and being than those oriented toward reductively gendered accounts of beauty, classed imperatives established by the norms of taste, or apolitical treatises of sexual disinterestedness. And within them—and through “reading sideways”—we can witness the coming-into-legibility of a set of diffuse practices that provide a pivot point for engaging the political methods of minoritized subjects at the turn of the twentieth century.

Winner: The French-American Foundation Translation Prize

Murderous Consent

Marc Crépon, Michael Loriaux, Jacob Levi, James Martel

Winner, 2002 French Translation Prize for Nonfiction

Murderous Consent details our implication in violence we do not directly inflict but in which we are structurally complicit: famines, civil wars, political repression in far-away places, and war, as it’s classically understood. Marc Crépon insists on a bond between ethics and politics and attributes violence to our treatment of the two as separate spheres. We repeatedly resist the call to responsibility, as expressed by the appeal—by peoples across the world—for the care and attention that their vulnerability enjoins.

But Crépon argues that this resistance is not ineluctable, and the book searches for ways that enable us to mitigate it, through rebellion, kindness, irony, critique, and shame. In the process, he engages with a range of writers, from Camus, Sartre, and Freud, to Stefan Zweig and Karl Kraus, to Kenzaburo Oe, Emmanuel Levinas and Judith Butler. The resulting exchange between philosophy and literature enables Crépon to delineate the contours of a possible/impossible ethicosmopolitics—an ethicosmopolitics to come.

Pushing against the limits of liberal rationalism, Crépon calls for a more radical understanding of interpersonal responsibility. Not just a work of philosophy but an engagement with life as it’s lived, Murderous Consent works to redefine our global obligations, articulating anew what humanitarianism demands and what an ethically grounded political resistance might mean.

Winner: The French-American Foundation Translation Prize

Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem

Hélène Cixous, Peggy Kamuf, Eva Hoffman

An inventive literary account of Cixous’s remarkable journey to her mother’s birthplace

Winner, French Voices Award for Excellence in Publication and Translation

For about eighty years, the Jonas family of Osnabrück were part of a small but vibrant Jewish community in this mid-size city of Lower Saxony. After the war, Osnabrück counted not a single Jew. Most had been deported and murdered in the camps, others emigrated if they could and if they managed to overcome their own inertia. It is this inertia and failure to escape that Hélène Cixous seeks to account for in Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem.

Vicious anti-Semitism hounded all of Osnabrück’s Jews long before the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933. So why did people wait to leave when the threat was so patent, so in-their-face? Drawn from the stories told to Cixous by her mother, Ève, and grandmother, Rosalie (Rosi), this literary work reimagines fragments of Ève’s and Rosi’s stories, including the death of Ève’s uncle, Onkel André. Piecing together the story of Andreas Jonas from what she was told and from what she envisages, Cixous recounts the tragedy of the one she calls the King Lear of Osnabrück, who followed his daughter to Jerusalem only to be sent away by her and to return to Osnabrück in time to be deported to a death camp.

Cixous wanders the streets of the city she had heard about all her life in her mother’s and grandmother’s stories, digs into its archives, meets city officials, all the while wondering if she should have come. These hesitations and reflections in the present, often voiced in dialogues staged with her own son or daughter, are woven with scenes from her childhood in Algeria and the half-remembered, half-invented stories of the Jonas family, making Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem one of the author’s most intensely engaging books.

This work received the French Voices Award for excellence in publication and translation. French Voices is a program created and funded by the French Embassy in the United States and FACE (French American Cultural Exchange).

Winner: The French-American Foundation Translation Prize

Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem

Hélène Cixous, Peggy Kamuf, Eva Hoffman

An inventive literary account of Cixous’s remarkable journey to her mother’s birthplace

Winner, French Voices Award for Excellence in Publication and Translation

For about eighty years, the Jonas family of Osnabrück were part of a small but vibrant Jewish community in this mid-size city of Lower Saxony. After the war, Osnabrück counted not a single Jew. Most had been deported and murdered in the camps, others emigrated if they could and if they managed to overcome their own inertia. It is this inertia and failure to escape that Hélène Cixous seeks to account for in Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem.

Vicious anti-Semitism hounded all of Osnabrück’s Jews long before the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933. So why did people wait to leave when the threat was so patent, so in-their-face? Drawn from the stories told to Cixous by her mother, Ève, and grandmother, Rosalie (Rosi), this literary work reimagines fragments of Ève’s and Rosi’s stories, including the death of Ève’s uncle, Onkel André. Piecing together the story of Andreas Jonas from what she was told and from what she envisages, Cixous recounts the tragedy of the one she calls the King Lear of Osnabrück, who followed his daughter to Jerusalem only to be sent away by her and to return to Osnabrück in time to be deported to a death camp.

Cixous wanders the streets of the city she had heard about all her life in her mother’s and grandmother’s stories, digs into its archives, meets city officials, all the while wondering if she should have come. These hesitations and reflections in the present, often voiced in dialogues staged with her own son or daughter, are woven with scenes from her childhood in Algeria and the half-remembered, half-invented stories of the Jonas family, making Osnabrück Station to Jerusalem one of the author’s most intensely engaging books.

This work received the French Voices Award for excellence in publication and translation. French Voices is a program created and funded by the French Embassy in the United States and FACE (French American Cultural Exchange).

Winner: Choice: Outstanding Academic Title

Napoli/New York/Hollywood

Giuliana Muscio

Napoli/New York/Hollywood is an absorbing investigation of the significant impact that Italian immigrant actors, musicians, and directors—and the southern Italian stage traditions they embodied—have had on the history of Hollywood cinema and American media, from 1895 to the present day. In a unique exploration of the transnational communication between American and Italian film industries, media or performing arts as practiced in Naples, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, this groundbreaking book looks at the historical context and institutional film history from the illuminating perspective of the performers themselves—the workers who lend their bodies and their performance culture to screen representations. In doing so, the author brings to light the cultural work of families and generations of artists that have contributed not only to American film culture, but also to the cultural construction and evolution of “Italian-ness” over the past century.

Napoli/New York/Hollywood offers a major contribution to our understanding of the role of southern Italian culture in American cinema, from the silent era to contemporary film. Using a provocative interdisciplinary approach, the author associates southern Italian culture with modernity and the immigrants’ preservation of cultural traditions with innovations in the mode of production and in the use of media technologies (theatrical venues, music records, radio, ethnic films). Each chapter synthesizes a wealth of previously under-studied material and displays the author’s exceptional ability to cover transnational cinematic issues within an historical context. For example, her analysis of the period from the end of World War I until the beginning of sound in film production in the end of the 1920s, delivers a meaningful revision of the relationship between Fascism and American cinema, and Italian emigration.

Napoli/New York/Hollywood examines the careers of those Italian performers who were Italian not only because of their origins but because their theatrical culture was Italian, a culture that embraced high and low, tragedy and comedy, music, dance and even acrobatics, naturalism, and improvisation. Their previously unexplored story—that of the Italian diaspora’s influence on American cinema—is here meticulously reconstructed through rich primary sources, deep archival research, extensive film analysis, and an enlightening series of interviews with heirs to these traditions, including Francis Coppola and his sister Talia Shire, John Turturro, Nancy Savoca, James Gandolfini, David Chase, Joe Dante, and Annabella Sciorra.

Winner: IASA Book Award

The House of Early Sorrows

Louise DeSalvo

WINNER OF THE IASA BOOK AWARD!
AMERICAN BOOK AWARD WINNER!

As the child of children of immigrants, Louise DeSalvo was at first reluctant to write about her truths. Her abusive father, her sister’s suicide, her illness. In this stunning collection of her captivating and frank essays on her life and her Italian-American culture, Louise DeSalvo centers on her beginnings, reframing and revising her acclaimed memoiristic essays, pieces that were the seeds of longer collections, to reveal her true power as a memoirist: the ability to dig ever deeper for personal and political truths that illuminate what it means to be a woman, a second-generation American, a writer, and a scholar.

Each essay is driven by a complex inquiry that examines the personal, familial, social, ethnic, and historical dimensions of identity. Collectively, they constitute a story significantly different from DeSalvo’s memoirs when they first published, where the starkness of their meaning became blunted by material surrounding them. DeSalvo has also restored material written and then deleted—experiences she was too reticent to reveal before, in writing about her sister’s suicide, her husband’s adultery, her own sexual assault. The essays also include new material to shift the ballast of an essay as her life has changed significantly through the years.

The House of Early Sorrows is a courageous exploration not only of the DeSalvo’s family life and times, but also of our own.

Winner: Frederick Streng Book Award for Excellence in Buddhist-Christian Studies

Crucified Wisdom

S. Mark Heim

Winner of the Frederick Streng Book Award for Excellence in Buddhist-Christian Studies

This work provides the first systematic discussion of the Bodhisattva path and its importance for constructive Christian theology. Crucified Wisdom examines specific Buddhist traditions, texts, and practices not as phenomena whose existence requires an apologetic justification but as wells of tested wisdom that invite theological insight. With the increasing participation of Christians in Buddhist practice, many are seeking a deeper understanding of the way the teachings of the two traditions might interface. Christ and the Bodhisattva are often compared superficially in Buddhist–Christian discussion. This text combines a rich exposition of the Bodhisattva path, using Śāntideva’s classic work the Bodicaryāvatāra and subsequent Tibetan commentators, with detailed reflection on its implications for Christian faith and practice.

Author S. Mark Heim lays out root tensions constituted by basic Buddhist teachings on the one hand, and Christian teachings on the other, and the ways in which the Bodhisattva or Christ embody and resolve the resulting paradoxes in their respective traditions. An important contribution to the field of comparative theology in general and to the area of Buddhist–Christian studies in particular, Crucified Wisdom proposes that Christian theology can take direct instruction from Mahāyāna Buddhism in two respects: deepening its understanding of our creaturely nature through no-self insights, and revising its vision of divine immanence in dialogue with teachings of emptiness. Heim argues that Christians may affirm the importance of novelty in history, the enduring significance of human persons, and the Trinitarian reality of God, even as they learn to value less familiar, nondual dimensions of Christ’s incarnation, human redemption, and the divine life.

Crucified Wisdom focuses on questions of reconciliation and atonement in Christian theology and explores the varying interpretations of the crucifixion of Jesus in Buddhist–Christian discussion. The Bodhisattva path is central for major contemporary Buddhist voices such as the Dalai Lama and Thích Nhât Hanh, who figure prominently as conversation partners in the text. This work will be of particular value for those interested in “dual belonging” in connection to these traditions.

Winner: American Book Awards

The House of Early Sorrows

Louise DeSalvo

WINNER OF THE IASA BOOK AWARD!
AMERICAN BOOK AWARD WINNER!

As the child of children of immigrants, Louise DeSalvo was at first reluctant to write about her truths. Her abusive father, her sister’s suicide, her illness. In this stunning collection of her captivating and frank essays on her life and her Italian-American culture, Louise DeSalvo centers on her beginnings, reframing and revising her acclaimed memoiristic essays, pieces that were the seeds of longer collections, to reveal her true power as a memoirist: the ability to dig ever deeper for personal and political truths that illuminate what it means to be a woman, a second-generation American, a writer, and a scholar.

Each essay is driven by a complex inquiry that examines the personal, familial, social, ethnic, and historical dimensions of identity. Collectively, they constitute a story significantly different from DeSalvo’s memoirs when they first published, where the starkness of their meaning became blunted by material surrounding them. DeSalvo has also restored material written and then deleted—experiences she was too reticent to reveal before, in writing about her sister’s suicide, her husband’s adultery, her own sexual assault. The essays also include new material to shift the ballast of an essay as her life has changed significantly through the years.

The House of Early Sorrows is a courageous exploration not only of the DeSalvo’s family life and times, but also of our own.

Runner-up: Edinburgh Gadda Prize

Pre-Occupied Spaces

Teresa Fiore

Runner Up Winner of the Edinburgh Gadda Prize - Established Scholars, Cultural Studies Category
Winner of the American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize (20th & 21st Centuries)
Honorable Mention for the Howard R. Marraro Prize

By linking Italy’s long history of emigration to all continents in the world, contemporary transnational migrations directed toward it, as well as the country’s colonial legacies, Fiore’s book poses Italy as a unique laboratory to rethink national belonging at large in our era of massive demographic mobility. Through an interdisciplinary cultural approach, the book finds traces of globalization in a past that may hold interesting lessons about inclusiveness for the present.

Fiore rethinks Italy’s formation and development on a transnational map through cultural analysis of travel, living, and work spaces as depicted in literary, filmic, and musical texts. By demonstrating how immigration in Italy today is preoccupied by its past emigration and colonialism, the book stresses commonalities and dispels preoccupations.

Shortlisted: Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism

Cathay

Ezra Pound, Timothy Billings, Christopher Bush, Haun Saussy

Finalist, Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism

Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915) is a masterpiece both of modernism and of world literature. The muscular precision of images that mark Pound’s translations helped establish a modern style for American literature, at the same time creating a thirst for classical Chinese poetry in English. Pound’s dynamic free-verse translations in a modern idiom formed the basis for T.S. Eliot’s famous claim that Pound was the “inventor of Chinese poetry for our time.” Yet Pound achieved this feat without knowing any Chinese, relying instead on word-for-word “cribs” left by the Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa, whose notebooks reveal a remarkable story of sustained cultural exchange.

This fully annotated critical edition focuses on Pound’s astonishing translations without forgetting that the original Chinese poems are masterpieces in their own right. On the one hand, the presentation of all that went into the final Cathay makes it possible for the first time to appreciate the magnitude and the nuances of Pound’s poetic art. At the same time, by bringing the final text together with the Chinese and Old English poems it claims to translate, as well as the manuscript traces of Pound's Japanese and American interlocutors, the volume also recovers practices of poetic circulation, resituating a Modernist classic as a work of world literature.

The Pound text and its intertexts are presented with care, clarity, and visual elegance. By providing the first accurate and unabridged transcriptions of Fenollosa’s notebooks, along with carefully edited Chinese texts, the volume makes it possible to trace the movements of poetic ideas and poetic expression as they veer toward and away from Pound’s creations. In supplying the full Fenollosa texts, the volume overturns decades of scholarship that has mystified Pound’s translation process as a kind of “clairvoyance,” displaying instead the impressive amount of sinological learning preserved in Fenollosa’s hard-to-read notebooks and by detailing every deviation from the probable sense of the originals. The edition also supplies exhaustive historical, critical, and textual notes, clarifying points that have sometimes lent obscurity to Pound’s poems and making the process of translation visible even for readers with no knowledge of Chinese.

Cathay: A Critical Edition includes the original fourteen Chinese translations as well as Pound’s unique version of “The Seafarer,” which is fully annotated alongside its Anglo-Saxon source. Also included are Pound’s fifteen additional Chinese translations from Lustra and other contemporary publications, his essay “Chinese Poetry” (1919), a substantial textual Introduction, and original essays by Christopher Bush and Haun Saussy on international modernism, the mediation of Japan, and translation.

The meticulous treatment and analysis of the texts for this landmark edition will forever change how readers view Pound’s “Chinese” poems. In addition to discoveries that permanently alter the scholarly record and force us to revise a number of critical commonplaces, the critical apparatus allows readers to make fresh discoveries by making available the specific networks through which poetic expression moved among hands, languages, and media.

Ultimately, this edition not only enables us more fully to appreciate a canonical work of Modernism but also resituates the art of Pound’s translations by recovering the historical circulations that went into the making of a multiply authored and intrinsically hybrid masterpiece.

Winner: Maine Literary Award

Midden

Julia Bouwsma, Afaa M. Weaver

WINNER OF THE MAINE LITERARY AWARD FOR POETRY!
FINALIST FOR THE JULIE SUK AWARD!
SELECTED AS ONE OF NPR'S 2018 GREAT READS!
ONE OF BOOK RIOT'S 50 MUST READ POETRY COLLECTIONS OF 2019!

In 1912 the State of Maine forcibly evicted an interracial community of roughly forty-five people from Malaga Island, a small island off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine. Though Malaga had been their home for generations, nine residents (including the entire Marks family) were committed to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded in Pownal, Maine. The others struggled to find homes on other islands or on the mainland, where they were often unwelcome. The Malaga school was dismantled and rebuilt as a chapel on another island. Seventeen graves were exhumed from the Malaga cemetery, consolidated into five caskets, and reburied at the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. Just one year after the start of the eviction proceedings, the Malaga community was erased.

Midden confronts the events and over one hundred years of silence that surround this shameful incident in Maine’s history. Utilizing a wide range of poetic styles—epistolary poems to ghosts, persona poems, erasure poems, interior poems, interviews and instructions, poems framed both in the past and in the present—Midden delves into the vital connections between land, identity, and narrative and asks how we can heal the generations and legacies of damage that result when all three of these are deliberately taken in an attempt to rob people of their very humanity. The book is a poetic excavation of loss, a carving of the landscape of memory, and a reckoning with and tribute to the ghosts we carry and step over, often without our even knowing it.

Shortlisted: Julie Suk Award

Midden

Julia Bouwsma, Afaa M. Weaver

WINNER OF THE MAINE LITERARY AWARD FOR POETRY!
FINALIST FOR THE JULIE SUK AWARD!
SELECTED AS ONE OF NPR'S 2018 GREAT READS!
ONE OF BOOK RIOT'S 50 MUST READ POETRY COLLECTIONS OF 2019!

In 1912 the State of Maine forcibly evicted an interracial community of roughly forty-five people from Malaga Island, a small island off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine. Though Malaga had been their home for generations, nine residents (including the entire Marks family) were committed to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded in Pownal, Maine. The others struggled to find homes on other islands or on the mainland, where they were often unwelcome. The Malaga school was dismantled and rebuilt as a chapel on another island. Seventeen graves were exhumed from the Malaga cemetery, consolidated into five caskets, and reburied at the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. Just one year after the start of the eviction proceedings, the Malaga community was erased.

Midden confronts the events and over one hundred years of silence that surround this shameful incident in Maine’s history. Utilizing a wide range of poetic styles—epistolary poems to ghosts, persona poems, erasure poems, interior poems, interviews and instructions, poems framed both in the past and in the present—Midden delves into the vital connections between land, identity, and narrative and asks how we can heal the generations and legacies of damage that result when all three of these are deliberately taken in an attempt to rob people of their very humanity. The book is a poetic excavation of loss, a carving of the landscape of memory, and a reckoning with and tribute to the ghosts we carry and step over, often without our even knowing it.

Winner: The French Voices Translation Award

The Philosophers' Gift

Marcel Hénaff, Jean-Louis Morhange

Winner, French Voices Award for excellence in publication and translation.

When it comes to giving, philosophers love to be the most generous. For them, every form of reciprocity is tainted by commercial exchange. In recent decades, such thinkers as Derrida, Levinas, Henry, Marion, Ricoeur, Lefort, and Descombes, have made the gift central to their work, haunted by the requirement of disinterestedness.

As an anthropologist as well as a philosopher, Hénaff worries that philosophy has failed to distinguish among various types of giving. The Philosophers’ Gift returns to Mauss to reexamine these thinkers through the anthropological tradition. Reciprocity, rather than disinterestedness, he shows, is central to ceremonial giving and alliance, whereby the social bond specific to humans is proclaimed as a political bond. From the social fact of gift practices, Hénaff develops an original and profound theory of symbolism, the social, and the relationship between self and other, whether that other is an individual human being, the collective other of community and institution, or the impersonal other of the world.

Winner: Grand Prize Winner of the French Voices Translation Award

The Unconstructable Earth

Frédéric Neyrat, Drew S. Burk

Winner, Grand Prize, French Voices Award for Excellence in Publication and Translation

The Space Age is over? Not at all! A new planet has appeared: Earth. In the age of the Anthropocene, the Earth is a post-natural planet that can be remade at will, controlled and managed thanks to the prowess of geoengineering. This new imaginary is also accompanied by a new kind of power—geopower—that takes the entire Earth, in its social, biological and geophysical dimensions, as an object of knowledge, intervention, and governmentality. In short, our rising awareness that we have destroyed our planet has simultaneously provided us not with remorse or resolve but with a new fantasy: that the Anthropocene delivers an opportunity to remake our terrestrial environment thanks to the power of technology.

Such is the position we find ourselves in, when proposals for reengineering the earth’s ecosystems and geosystems are taken as the only politically feasible answer to ecological catastrophe. Yet far from being merely the fruit of geo-capitalism, this new grand narrative of geopower has also been activated by theorists of the constructivist turn—ecomodernist, postenvironmentalist, accelerationist—who have likewise called into question the great divide between nature and culture. With the collapse of this divide, a cyborg, hybrid, flexible nature has been built, an impoverished nature that does not exist without being performed by technologies that proliferate within the space of human needs and capitalist imperatives. Underneath this performative vision resides a hidden anaturalism denying all otherness to nature and the Earth, no longer by externalizing it as a thing to be dominated, but by radically internalizing it as something to be digested. Constructivist ecology thus finds itself in no position to confront the geoconstructivist project, with its claim that there is no nature and its aim to replace Earth with Earth 2.0.

Against both positions, Neyrat stakes out the importance of the unconstructable Earth. Against the fusional myth of technology over nature, but without returning to the division between nature and culture, he proposes an “ecology of separation” that acknowledges the wild, subtractive capacity of nature. Against the capitalist, technocratic delusion of earth as a constructible object, but equally against an organicism marked by unacknowledged traces of racism and sexism, Neyrat shows what it means to appreciate Earth as an unsubstitutable becoming: a traject that cannot be replicated in a laboratory. Underway for billions of years, withdrawing into the most distant past and the most inaccessible future, Earth escapes the hubris of all who would remake and master it.

This remarkable book, which will be of interest to those across the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, from theorists to shapers of policy, recasts the earth as a singular trajectory that invites humans to turn political ecology into a geopolitics.

Commended: Choice: Outstanding Academic Title

Expectation

Jean-Luc Nancy, Robert Bononno, Jean-Michel Rabaté

Expectation is a major volume of Jean-Luc Nancy’s writings on literature, written across three decades but, for the most part, previously unavailable in English.

More substantial than literary criticism, these essays collectively negotiate literature’s relation to philosophy. Nancy pursues such questions as literature’s claims to truth, the status of narrative, the relation of poetry and prose, and the unity of a book or of a text, and he addresses a number of major European writers, including Dante, Sterne, Rousseau, Hölderlin, Proust, Joyce, and Blanchot.

The final section offers a number of impressive pieces by Nancy that completely merge his concerns for philosophy and literature and philosophy-as-literature. These include a lengthy parody of Valéry’s “La Jeune Parque,” several original poems by Nancy, and a beautiful prose-poetic discourse on an installation by Italian artist Claudio Parmiggiani that incorporates the Faust theme.

Opening with a substantial Introduction by Jean-Michel Rabaté that elaborates Nancy’s importance as a literary thinker, this book constitutes the most substantial statement to date by one of today’s leading philosophers on a discipline that has been central to his work across his career.

Commended: MLA Howard R. Marraro Prize

Pre-Occupied Spaces

Teresa Fiore

Runner Up Winner of the Edinburgh Gadda Prize - Established Scholars, Cultural Studies Category
Winner of the American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize (20th & 21st Centuries)
Honorable Mention for the Howard R. Marraro Prize

By linking Italy’s long history of emigration to all continents in the world, contemporary transnational migrations directed toward it, as well as the country’s colonial legacies, Fiore’s book poses Italy as a unique laboratory to rethink national belonging at large in our era of massive demographic mobility. Through an interdisciplinary cultural approach, the book finds traces of globalization in a past that may hold interesting lessons about inclusiveness for the present.

Fiore rethinks Italy’s formation and development on a transnational map through cultural analysis of travel, living, and work spaces as depicted in literary, filmic, and musical texts. By demonstrating how immigration in Italy today is preoccupied by its past emigration and colonialism, the book stresses commonalities and dispels preoccupations.

Commended: MLA Prize for a First BookMLA Prize for a First Book

Futile Pleasures

Corey McEleney

Against the defensive backdrop of countless apologetic justifications for the value of literature and the humanities, Futile Pleasures reframes the current conversation by returning to the literary culture of early modern England, a culture whose defensive posture toward literature rivals and shapes our own.

During the Renaissance, poets justified the value of their work on the basis of the notion that the purpose of poetry is to please and instruct, that it must be both delightful and useful. At the same time, many of these writers faced the possibility that the pleasures of literature may be in conflict with the demand to be useful and valuable. Analyzing the rhetoric of pleasure and the pleasure of rhetoric in texts by William Shakespeare, Roger Ascham, Thomas Nashe, Edmund Spenser, and John Milton, McEleney explores the ambivalence these writers display toward literature’s potential for useless, frivolous vanity.

Tracing that ambivalence forward to the modern era, this book also shows how contemporary critics have recapitulated Renaissance humanist ideals about aesthetic value. Against a longstanding tradition that defensively advocates for the redemptive utility of literature, Futile Pleasures both theorizes and performs the queer pleasures of futility. Without ever losing sight of the costs of those pleasures, McEleney argues that playing with futility may be one way of moving beyond the impasses that modern humanists, like their early modern counterparts, have always faced.

Winner: American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize

Pre-Occupied Spaces

Teresa Fiore

Runner Up Winner of the Edinburgh Gadda Prize - Established Scholars, Cultural Studies Category
Winner of the American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize (20th & 21st Centuries)
Honorable Mention for the Howard R. Marraro Prize

By linking Italy’s long history of emigration to all continents in the world, contemporary transnational migrations directed toward it, as well as the country’s colonial legacies, Fiore’s book poses Italy as a unique laboratory to rethink national belonging at large in our era of massive demographic mobility. Through an interdisciplinary cultural approach, the book finds traces of globalization in a past that may hold interesting lessons about inclusiveness for the present.

Fiore rethinks Italy’s formation and development on a transnational map through cultural analysis of travel, living, and work spaces as depicted in literary, filmic, and musical texts. By demonstrating how immigration in Italy today is preoccupied by its past emigration and colonialism, the book stresses commonalities and dispels preoccupations.

Winner: American Association for Italian Studies Book Prize

The Techne of Giving

Timothy C. Campbell

Over the last five years, corporations and individuals have given more money, more often, to charitable organizations than ever before. What could possibly be the downside to inhabiting a golden age of gift-giving? That question lies at the heart of Timothy Campbell’s account of contemporary giving and its social forms. In a milieu where gift-giving dominates, nearly everything given and received becomes the subject of a calculus—gifts from God, from benefactors, from those who have. Is there another way to conceive of generosity? What would giving and receiving without gifts look like?

A lucid and imaginative intervention in both European philosophy and film theory, The Techne of Giving investigates how we hold the objects of daily life—indeed, how we hold ourselves—in relation to neoliberal forms of gift-giving. Even as instrumentalism permeates giving, Campbell articulates a resistant techne locatable in forms of generosity that fail to coincide with biopower’s assertion that the only gifts that count are those given and received. Moving between visual studies, Winnicottian psychoanalysis, Foucauldian biopower, and apparatus theory, Campbell makes a case for how to give and receive without giving gifts. In the conversation between political philosophy and classic Italian films by Visconti, Rossellini, and Antonioni, the potential emerges of a generous form of life that can cross between the visible and invisible, the fated and the free.

Winner: J. Owen Grundy History Award

Left Bank of the Hudson

David J. Goodwin

In the late 1980s, a handful of artists priced out of Manhattan and desperately needing affordable studio space discovered 111 1st Street, a former P. Lorillard Tobacco Company warehouse. Over the next two decades, an eclectic collection of painters, sculptors, musicians, photographers, filmmakers, and writers dreamt and toiled within the building’s labyrinthine halls. The local arts scene flourished, igniting hope that Jersey City would emerge as the next grassroots center of the art world. However, a rising real estate market coupled with a provincial political establishment threatened the community at 111 1st Street. The artists found themselves entangled in a long, complicated, and vicious fight for their place in the building and for the physical survival of 111 1st Street itself, a site that held so much potential, so much promise for Jersey City.

Left Bank of the Hudson offers a window into the demographic, political, and socio-economic changes experienced by Jersey City during the last thirty years. Documenting the narrative of 111 1st Street as an act of cultural preservation, author David J. Goodwin’s well-researched and significant contribution addresses the question of the role of artists in economically improving cities. As a Jersey City resident, Goodwin applies his knowledge of the city’s rich history of political malfeasance and corruption, including how auspicious plans for a waterfront arts enclave were repeatedly bungled by a provincial-minded city administration. In writing this story, Goodwin interviewed thirteen artists and residents, two businesses, three government officials, and five non-profits, civic organizations, and community activists. The book chronologically explores the history and business of the P. Lorillard Tobacco Company, its evolution into a bustling arts community, the battle to preserve the warehouse as a historic structure, and the lessons to be drawn from the loss and ultimate demolition of the building in 2007, as well as the present state of the neighborhood.

Setting the facts straight for future generations, Left Bank of the Hudson provides an illustrative lesson to government officials, scholars, students, activists, and everyday citizens attempting to navigate the “rediscovery” of American cities.

Winner: ACP Excellence in Publishing Awards in the Biography Category

Pure Act

Michael N. McGregor

Excellence in Publishing Award, Association of Catholic Publishers
Honorable Mention, Catholic Press Association Book Award
Finalist, Washington State Book Award

Pure Act tells the story of poet Robert Lax, whose quest to live a true life as both an artist and a spiritual seeker inspired Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac, William Maxwell and a host of other writers, artists and ordinary people. Known in the U.S. primarily as Merton’s best friend and in Europe as a daringly original avant-garde poet, Lax left behind a promising New York writing career to travel with a circus, live among immigrants in post-war Marseilles and settle on a series of remote Greek islands where he learned and recorded the simple wisdom of the local people. Born a Jew, he became a Catholic and found the authentic community he sought in Greek Orthodox fishermen and sponge divers.

In his early life, as he alternated working at The New Yorker, writing screenplays in Hollywood and editing a Paris literary journal with studying philosophy, serving the poor in Harlem and living in a sanctuary high in the French Alps, Lax pursued an approach to life he called pure act―a way of living in the moment that was both spontaneous and practiced, God-inspired and self-chosen. By devoting himself to simplicity, poverty and prayer, he expanded his capacity for peace, joy and love while producing distinctive poetry of such stark beauty critics called him “one of America’s greatest experimental poets” and “one of the new ‘saints’ of the avant-garde.”

Written by a writer who met Lax in Greece when he was a young seeker himself and visited him regularly over fifteen years, Pure Act is an intimate look at an extraordinary but little-known life. Much more than just a biography, it’s a tale of adventure, an exploration of friendship, an anthology of wisdom, and a testament to the liberating power of living an uncommon life.

Winner: Winner of the French Voices Translation Award

The Rigor of Things

Jean-Luc Marion, Dan Arbib, Christina M. Gschwandtner, David Tracy

In a series of conversations, Jean-Luc Marion reconstructs the path of a career’s work in the history of philosophy, theology, and phenomenology. The conversation ranges from Marion’s engagement with Descartes, to phenomenology and theology, to Marion’s intellectual and biographical backgrounds, concluding with illuminating insights on the state of the Catholic Church today and on Judeo-Christian dialogue.

In these interviews, Marion’s language is more conversational than in his formal writing, but it remains serious and substantive. The book serves as an excellent and comprehensive introduction to Marion’s thought and work.

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