We’re pleased to announce the winner of the 2021 Norman Foerster Prize, awarded to the best essay of the year in American Literature: “Colonial Relations in Miniature: Affective Networks, Race, and the Portrait in Victor Séjour’s ‘Le Mulâtre’” by Madeline Zehnder, published in volume 93, issue 2. Read the essay, freely available through the end of April, here.
The prize committee offered this praise for the winning essay: “Zehnder’s ‘Colonial Relations in Miniature: Affective Networks, Race, and the Portrait in Victor Séjour’s “Le Mulâtre”’ sheds new light on Séjour’s 1837 sketch by placing it in conversation with the material world of the era. Discussing the circulation of ivory, magazines, miniatures, and gris-gris, Zehnder’s attention to both the smallest literary detail and to the broadest historical sweep demonstrates how Séjour’s short story skewers white colonial family formations that rely on affective and material violence against, especially, enslaved Black people. Methodically researched and compellingly written, this essay offers a view of American literature that is expansively global, imaginatively critical, and intensely focused on the nuances of literary form.”
The honorable mention for this year’s Foerster Prize was Michelle N. Huang’s “Racial Disintegration: Biomedical Futurity at the Environmental Limit” (vol. 93, no. 3; find the essay here). The committee had this to say about the honorable mention: “Huang’s ‘Racial Disintegration: Biomedical Futurity at the Environmental Limit’ innovatively places Asian American literary studies in conversation with discussions about antiblackness. It does so by focusing on Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea (2014) and other Asian American dystopian narratives and their deracialized visions of public health. Huang calls for a reading strategy that sees through the ostensible erasure of race to the reading practices, and their underlying conditions, that abet the ‘offloading’ of racism onto infrastructures of public health. In so doing, this impressive essay shows how Asian American literature can be a window into discussions of the so-called postracial promise.”
Congratulations to Madeline Zehnder and Michelle N. Huang!