2019 Foerster Prize Winner Announced

We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Norman Foerster Prize, awarded to the best essay of the year in American Literature: “Reconstructing Revenge: Race and Justice after the Civil War” by Gregory Laski, published in volume 91, issue 4. Read the essay, freely available through the end of March, here.

The prize committee had this to say about the winning essay:

“Gregory Laski presents an ambitious, thorough, and wide-ranging discussion of the vexed rhetoric of revenge and forgiveness in the postbellum South. His reading of diverse historical and legal documents concerned with vengeance demonstrates both the risks and utility of vengeance during this period; it also deftly sets up his persuasive reading of Pauline Hopkins’s understudied 1902 novel Winona. Laski dismantles the false distinction between justice and revenge through the notion of “righteous revenge” in paradigm-shifting ways. That this idea engages with larger ethical questions about the redress of (ongoing) wrongs perpetrated against African Americans is made explicit in the elegant coda.”

There were two runners-up for this year’s Foerster Prize: Sara Marcus’s “‘Time Enough, but None to Spare’: The Indispensable Temporalities of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition” (volume 91, issue 1) and Julius B. Fleming Jr.’s “Transforming Geographies of Black Time: How the Free Southern Theater Used the Plantation for Civil Rights Activism” (volume 91, issue 3). Both essays are freely available through March. The committee had these comments to share about the two runners-up:

“Sara Marcus’s essay challenges the prevailing tendency to associate linear time with heteronormativity, capital, racism, and imperialism and—correspondingly—nonlinear time with queerness, resistance, refusal, and escape.  Although this association has been useful in some ways, Marcus argues that it sets up a simplistic binary. In an insightful reading of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, Marcus shows that both normative and nonnormative temporalities are utilized by white supremacists to maintain and assert power. Conversely, teleological concepts for time can be embraced by black characters in the name of progress, while blackness can also interrupt the violence of racism by suspending time. Marcus strongly and convincingly makes the case that neither linear nor nonlinear temporalities are inherently oppressive or liberatory and therefore that scholars working on time abandon these cut-and-dried associations.

“Julius B. Fleming Jr. assembles a wide-ranging and unique archive to theorize what he terms ‘black patience,’ a concept whose contours, uses, and misuses he traces with meticulous care and bold insight. In the process, he advances a methodological approach to black patience (and to other useful notions, including time and timing more generally) that should deeply inform scholarship in African American culture, political organizing, and performance. This essay is a feat of original research, syncretic analysis, and inventive theorization.”

Congratulations to Gregory Laski, Sara Marcus, and Julius B. Fleming Jr.!

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