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