1921 Prize in American Literature

The 1921 Prize in American Literature

The American Literature Society is pleased to invite submissions for the 1921 prize, which is awarded annually for the best article in any field of American literature. The prize is named for the year the organization was initially founded “to promote and diversify the study of American Literature.” Judged by a panel comprised of members of the American Literature Society Advisory Board and other scholars in the field, the competition will be divided in two categories: one for tenured faculty and one for graduate students, scholars in contingent positions, and untenured faculty members. The winner will be announced at the 2020 MLA awards ceremony.

Rules for competition:

  • Submissions must be published during the calendar year of 2019.  For submissions that have not yet appeared in print by the September 1 deadline, authors are requested to provide verification that their essay will be published within the calendar year.
  • No person may nominate more than one essay in a given year.
  • Articles must appear in one of the following journals: African American Review; American Literary History; American Literary Realism; American LiteratureAmerican Periodicals; American Quarterly; Callaloo; Early American Literature; ESQ; J19; Journal of Ethnic American Literature; Legacy; MELUS; Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS); Resources for American Literary Study; Studies in American Fiction; and Studies in American Indian Literatures. Essays that appear elsewhere will not be considered.
  • Authors must be members of the American Literature Society. If you haven’t already, please join! Membership is free—just go to:  http://www.als-mla.org/als/membership/
  • Please send an electronic copy of the nominated essay (PDF preferred) to the Prize Committee by September 1, 2019 at 1921prize2019@gmail.com.

If you have any questions, please contact Laura Mielke, American Literature Society Chair, lmielke@ku.edu

2020 Winners

Graduate Students, Scholars in Contingent Positions, and Untenured Category

Winner: Ajay Kumar Batra,”Reading with Conviction: Abraham Johnstone and the Poetics of the Dead End.” Early American Literature, vol. 55 no. 2, 2020, p. 331-354. doi:10.1353/eal.2020.0052.

Honorable Mention: Mike Taylor and Terence Wride, “‘Indian Kids Can’t Write Sonnets’: Re-membering the Poetry of Henry Tinhorn from the Intermountain Indian School.” American Quarterly, vol. 72 no. 1, 2020, p. 25-53. doi:10.1353/aq.2020.0002. 

Tenured Category

Winner: Sari Altschuler, Associate Professor of English at Northeastern University “Touching the Scarlet Letter: What Disability History Can Teach Us About Literature.” American Literature 1 March 2020; 92 (1): 91–122. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-8056602


Sarah E. Chinn, “Enslavement and the Temporality of Childhood.” American Literature 1 March 2020; 92 (1): 33–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-8056588

2019 Winners

Graduate Students, Scholars in Contingent Positions, and Untenured Category

Winner: Gordon Fraser, “Distributed Agency: David Walker’s Appeal, Black Readership, and the Politics of Self-Deportation.” ESQ vol. 65, no. 2, 2019, pp. 221-256.

Tenured Category

Winner: Gregory Laski, “Reconstructing Revenge: Race and Justice after the Civil War.” American Literature vol. 91, no. 4, 2019.

2018 Winners

Graduate Students, Scholars in Contingent Positions, and Untenured Category

Winner: Christopher Pexa, “Futurity Foreclosed: Jonestown, Settler Colonialism, and the Ending of Time in Fred D’Aguiar’s Bill of Rights.” MELUS 43.1 (Spring 2018): 2-20.

Tenured Category

Winner: Claudia Stokes, “Novel Commonplaces: Quotation, Epigraphs, and Literary Authority.” American Literary History 30.2 (2018): 201-221.

2017 Winners

Graduate Students, Scholars in Contingent Positions, and Untenured Category

Honorable mention: Hurley, Jessica. “Impossible Futures: Fictions of Risk in the Longue Dureé.” American Literature (89.4), 761-789.

Winner: Bronstein, Michaela. “The Princess among the Polemicists: Aesthetics and Protest at Midcentury,” American Literary History (29.1), 26-49.

Tenured Category

Winner: Burrows, Stuart, “Rethinking Regionalism: Sarah Orne Jewett’s Mental Landscapes,” J19 (5.2), 341-359.

2016 Winners

Tenured Category

Wilson, Sarah. “Black Folk by the Numbers: Quantification in Du Bois.” American Literary History 28:1 (2016), 27-45.

Untenured Category

Forbes, Erin. “Do Black Ghosts Matter? Harriet Jacobs’ Spiritualism.” ESQ 62:3 (2016).