Twentieth-Century Literature's Andrew J. Kappel Prize in Literary Criticism, 2004

Article excerpt

The winner of this year's prize is Loretta M. Mijares's "Distancing the Proximate Other: Hybridity and Maud Diver's Candles in the Wind." The judge is Susan Stanford Friedman, Virginia Woolf Professor of English and Women's Studies and Sally Mead Hands Bascom Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Among her books is Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter. She is working on a new book called Transnational Modernism: Contact and Travel Zones in the New Modernist Studies.

Professor Friedman writes:

    Judging the Kappel Prize for Twentieth-Century Literature is a great
    honor that brought home to me forcefully the vital role that
    journals play on the landscape of literary criticism in the twenty-
    first century. As academic book publishing becomes ever more driven
    by the bottom line, university presses have been retreating from
    their responsibility to provide a home for topnotch studies of
    literature, especially studies that are directed at specialists. The
    shocking reduction of scholarly monographs in literary criticism is
    putting an enormous strain on the evaluative processes of promotion.
    Moreover, market forces are playing too great a role in determining
    the kinds of questions and methodologies in literary studies that
    scholars can pursue in book form. In this context, refereed journals
    like Twentieth-Century Literature have become even more important
    than they were in the past. Journals are increasingly sites of
    greater intellectual freedom to pursue very different modes of
    literary criticism. Intensely researched, thought about, and argued
    scholarship for specialists in literature still has a home in
    journals like Twentieth-Century Literature.
       The essays submitted to me for the Kappel Prize are a case in
    point. All are rigorous, challenging, and well-written, exhibiting
    the best of their very different modes of criticism. Since all of
    the essays are excellent at what they do, selecting one for the
    prize was difficult--all the more so because I found myself learning
    from, admiring, but also disagreeing at points with all of them.
    Each spawned interior debate, as the best scholarship should do. And
    yet I had to choose. Worried that there was no Archimedean point
    from which I could select the absolute "best," I sensed my selection
    would simply reflect what interested me most. And perhaps that is
    true. However, in my defense, I found "Distancing the Proximate
    Other" to be the most original and persuasive of the nominees, and
    perhaps more importantly, to be the most suggestive for other
    research. The essay examines the intersection of historical and
    cultural narratives with literary ones, assuming the importance of
    each to the other. It combines the historical record of Eurasians in
    India (mixed-race people of British and Indian heritage) during the
    raj with a close reading of a representative popular novel by Maud
    Diver to question how race and gender work in the context of empire.
       The originality of "Distancing the Proximate Other" lies in its
    focus on in-betweenness--in this case, the in-betweenness of
    mixed-race people in the context of the British empire in India. In
    my view, the author's blend of historical and narrative analysis
    disrupts the prevailing meanings of hybridity in interesting ways
    and is potentially illuminating for a wide audience both within and
    beyond literary studies. Much has been made in cultural and literary
    studies of hybridity, as the author notes. But the hybridity widely
    touted or angrily attacked is typically cultural hybridity produced
    by travel, migration, and intercultural contact zones. …