This year’s winner of the Norman Foerster Prize for the best essay published annually in American Literature has been selected. Congratulations to Meina Yates-Richard, winner of the 2016 Foerster Prize for her essay “‘WHAT IS YOUR MOTHER’S NAME?’: Maternal Disavowal and the Reverberating Aesthetic of Black Women’s Pain in Black Nationalist Literature,” featured in volume 88, issue 3. The selection committee, comprised of Michael Elliot, Nihad Farooq, Zita Cristina Nunes, Matthew Taylor, and Priscilla Wald, wrote of Yates-Richard’s winning essay:
In a field of distinguished work, Yates-Richard’s article stood out for us by tracing a compelling, provocative genealogy of black maternal sound and its relationship to black nationalism. By attending to the screams and songs of African-American women, Yates-Richard in this piece shows how black nationalism has both required and sacrificed the vocalizations of women. The result is an article that charts a textual tradition from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative to Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and that raises important questions about the political work of such figurations. We are truly pleased to be able to recognize this path-breaking scholarship.
Additionally, there were two honorable mentions for this year’s contest. Congratulations to Mary Grace Albanese and James Dawes!
The selection committee chose Mary Grace Albanese’s essay “Uncle Tom across the Sea (and Back),” from volume 88, issue 4, for its innovative and thoroughly researched reconsideration of Uncle Tom’s Cabin within the context of Haitian politics and its comprehensive, multilingual readings of American literary history. In constructing a genealogy of the Haitain appropriations of Stowe’s novel, Albanese reminds us of the unpredictability of literary translation across national boundaries and the significance of hemispheric literary histories.
They chose James Dawes’s essay “The Novel of Human Rights,” from volume 88, issue 1, for its vital, challenging, and open-ended readings about the political urgency of the novel, and how the representation of atrocity exerts pressure on the form itself. This is a significant, provocative intervention in American literary studies—a stimulating call for us to rethink the relationship of literary genre to the most pressing political questions of our time.
Congratulations to Meina Yates-Richard and both honorable mentions! Read all the articles above, made freely available.