The ProQuest/RSAP Article Prize is awarded for the best article on American periodicals published in a peer-reviewed journal during 2013 by a pre-tenure or independent scholar. The prize was awarded on Friday, May 23, 2014, at the American Literature Association conference.
Winner: Ryan Cordell (Assistant Professor, English, Northeastern University), for “‘Taken Possession of’: The Reprinting and Reauthorship of Hawthorne’s ‘Celestial Railroad’ in the Antebellum Religious Press,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 7.1 (2013).
The committee praised the article’s stunningly lucid and accessible prose. The essay was valued not only for its use of periodicals as sources, but its contribution of a new model of how to read periodicals. Mining the archive of reprinted versions of Hawthorne’s “The Celestial Railroad” gives readers new insights into the popularity of this text and its circulation among and reception by nineteenth-century readers. The use of digital collation tools to uncover Hawthorne’s “social text” provides a fresh perspective, an innovative methodology, and, ultimately, a fascinating untold story.
Honorable Mention: Melissa Renn (Senior Curatorial Research Associate, Harvard Art Museums), for “Beyond the ‘Shingle Factory’: The Armory Show in the Popular Press after 1913,” Journal of Curatorial Studies 2.3 (2013): 384-404.
This essay is noteworthy for its fresh take on a well-known story. In historicizing the reception of the 1913 Armory Show in the popular press over several decades, this article is able to question the predominant notions about Marcel Duchamp being the central artist of the show. It also deftly charts how the narratives within popular periodicals about the initial reaction to, and “meaning” of, the artwork shifted over time. The article too makes an important contribution to periodical studies by reminding us to consider not just how texts and events are discussed in their immediate aftermath, but to consider how the reception of major events such as the Armory Show unfolds over the course of decades.
Honorable Mention: Charlton Yingling (PhD Candidate, History, University of South Carolina), for “No One Who Reads the History of Hayti Can Doubt the Capacity of Colored Men: Racial Formation and Atlantic Rehabilitation in New York City’s Early Black Press, 1827–1841,” Early American Studies (11.2) 2013: 314-348.
The committee commented that, in tracing out the strategic and symbolic use of Haiti within the African American press, this essay offers a model of the way that periodical research can help expand our understanding of the complex dynamics of race and representation as they are shaped over time. The article identifies an important (and understudied) shift from racial formations that drew on rhetorics of Pan-African or Negro identity to one framed as “colored,” a shift the author links to New York City’s early black press. In so doing, it makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the role played by the African American press in nineteenth-century American culture.
The finalists also participated in a roundtable discussion at ALA earlier in the day.