2019-20 Robert K. Martin Prize Announcement
The Robert K. Martin prize is awarded to the best book published by a CAAS member in the previous calendar year.
WINNER FOR 2019-20:
Jason Demers for The American Politics of French Theory: Derrida, Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault in Translation (University of Toronto Press).
This year the committee is pleased to award the prize to Jason Demers for The American Politics of French Theory: Demers masterfully constructs a text which balances nuanced U. S. archival research with attentive discussions of French theory to produce a compelling and convincing argument for reading that theory through the lens of US social change and underground activism. Demers studies the cross-pollination between movements advocating for justice and social change in the US (such as the campus protests at Columbia University and the feminist collective behind RAT Subterranean News) and some of the most important French theorists of the 1960s and 1970s, notably Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault. As one committee member said, “I loved how it used the ideas of translation (as both a spatial movement and a linguistic transformation) and rhizomatic propagation to understand how ideas crossed the Atlantic and also to conceptualize its own project of explaining theory.” The committee agreed that this work has the potential to be transformative.
HONORABLE MENTIONS FOR 2019-20 (in alphabetical order):
Giorgio Bertellini for The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America (University of California Press).
Giorgio Bertellini’s The Divo and the Duce is an innovative examination of the intersection between political history and film. The committee commended its meticulous and exhaustive archival research in sources as diverse as presidential records, films, motion picture manuscripts, personal correspondence and immigration records. The result is a remarkable consideration of post-WWI celebrity culture. The innovative parallels and distinctions drawn between Mussolini and Valentino illustrate the racial politics of the interwar period and the surprising conversations about the limitations of US democracy (or, the advantages of fascism) that were taking place in the post-WWI period.
Laura R. Fisher for Reading for Reform: The Social Work of Literature in the Progressive Era (University of Minnesota Press).
Laura Fisher’s Reading for Reform: The Social Work of Literature in the Progressive Era is a thoroughly researched and theoretically considered contribution to literary scholarship in the years between 1890 and 1920. Situating literary production within a variety of social movements with reform elements—African American colleges, the settlement house movement, and working girls’ clubs—Fisher demonstrates the ways in which these institutions influenced literary theory more broadly. Centering what she calls a “politics of proximity,” which animates the literary patrons and elites who participate in this economy, as well as those who must contend with those elites, Fisher nuances our considerations of how literary production happens in relation to the ideological agendas of various historic institutions.