We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2018 Norman Foerster Prize, awarded to the best essay of the year in American Literature: “The Race of Machines: Blackness and Prosthetics in Early American Science Fiction” by Taylor Evans, published in volume 90, issue 3. Read the essay, freely available through the end of March, here.
The prize committee commented:
“Taylor Evans’s essay reveals an important—but previously unacknowledged—facet of the history and development of science fiction. To reveal the racialized nature of the figure of the ‘steam man,’ Evans draws parallels between the visual rhetoric of black caricatures (particularly minstrel tropes) and the development of the iconography of the ‘steam man.’ In so doing, Evans provides an important intervention in our understanding of the history of science fiction while broadening our understanding of the insidious means by which all facets of American popular culture are infected by racism. In addition to its contributions to the study of race, narrative, and popular culture, this essay should serve as a model for scholars looking to reveal the (seemingly) hidden cultural dimensions of fictional narratives, and particularly those that (like science fiction) are too easily dismissed as apolitical.”
Margaret Galvan’s “‘The Lesbian Norman Rockwell’: Alison Bechdel and Queer Grassroots Networks,” published in volume 90, issue 2, is the runner-up for the prize. The essay is freely available through the end of March. The committee remarked:
“Margaret Galvan’s essay engages in detailed archival research in order to demonstrate the impact of the large and vibrant queer community on the work of Alison Bechdel, one of the most celebrated comix artists of her generation. Focusing on Bechdel’s influential early series—work that was often published and distributed among grass-roots periodicals, and which has not received the scholarly attention given to her later work—Galvan identifies the various local, regional, and national influences that Bechdel drew from for her series. As such, the identification of Bechdel as ‘the lesbian Norman Rockwell’ is made to suggest not only her importance to the history of comix, but also to connect her to a heretofore unrecognized ‘folk’ community that engaged in vibrant and cooperative networks of support and influence. In addition to its contributions to our understanding of an important author in the contemporary canon, this essay should serve as a reminder of the importance of archival research for understanding the larger contexts of literary works, their influences, and their reception.”
Congratulations to Taylor Evans and Margaret Galvan for these exceptional essays!