Announcing the 2020 American Literature Society Awards

Hubbell Medal for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies

Cheryl Wall (1948-2020), Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English, Rutgers University. Professor Wall, a groundbreaking Black feminist critic, was editor of the landmark volume, Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women (1989), and published extensively on Black women’s writing, Zora Neale Hurston in particular. Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage, and Literary Tradition (2005) is a brilliant and foundational account of 20c African American literary criticism, and On Freedom and the Will to Adorn: The Art of the African American Essay (2019) provides an essential account of the African American essay.Her writing, teaching, and mentoring helped shape generations of scholars. Professor Wall taught at Rutgers for nearly 50 years. She is survived by her daughter, Camara Epps.

Professor Herman Beavers will present the award in honor of Professor Wall to Camara Epps during our “American Literature at One Hundred” Panel, Thursday, 7 January 2021, 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM. The award will also be announced during the MLA Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 9 January 2021 at 7:00 p.m.

Hubbell Medal Committee (2020):
Jay Watson (chair), University of Mississippi
Elizabeth Dillon, Northeastern University
Rodrigo Lazo, University of California, Irvine
Herman Beavers, University of Pennsylvania
Leslie Bow, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Previous Hubbell Medal Winners

1921 Award for Best Essay(s) in American Literature for essays published in 2020

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:


Sarah E. Chinn, “Enslavement and the Temporality of Childhood.” American Literature 1 March 2020; 92 (1): 33–59. doi:

The 1921 Award Committee 
Helane Androne, Miami University, Regionals (chair)
Brigitte Fielder, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Gordon Fraser, University of Manchester
Mark Jerng, University of California, Davis
Claudia Stokes, Trinity University

Previous 1921 Award Winners

2019 Winners of the 1921 Prize in American Literature

On behalf of the 1921 Prize Committee (Helane Androne [chair], Tara Bynum, Cristina Herrera, Christopher Pexa, Jane Thrailkill), we are pleased to announce the winners of the 1921 Prizes in American Literature. Congratulations!

Graduate Students, Scholars in Contingent Positions, and Untenured Category:

  • 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.
  • Fraser is Presidential Academic Fellow and Lecturer in English, American Studies, and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester

Tenured Category:

  • Gregory Laski, “Reconstructing Revenge: Race and Justice after the Civil War.” American Literature vol. 91, no. 4, 2019.
  • Laski is Associate Professor of English at the United States Airforce Academy

Lauren Berlant is the Recipient of the 2019 Hubbell Award

2019 Hubbell Medal: 

The winner of the 2019 Hubbell Medal for Lifetime Achievement is Lauren Berlant, George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor, Department of English, University of Chicago.

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We will recognize Professor Berlant during the MLA Awards Ceremony on Saturday, January 11, 2020, from 7-8 pm in the Sheraton, Grand A. Thanks to the Hubbell Committee, chaired by Susan Griffin (with Jay Watson, Elizabeth Dillon, Rodrigo Lazo, and Herman Beavers), for your work this year. Of Berlant, Griffin writes:

“What takes place in her thinking and writing is NOT the performance of the powerful critic who condescends to uncover the unwitting ideologies of subjects and texts. Citizens, as Berlant sees them, are not the helpless and unknowing victims of an all-powerful, uniform, enforced normativity. Instead of such—I want to say ‘professional’—disdain, what Berlant expresses, again and again is respect for and curiosity about our multiple, varied attachments and aspirations. [….] This is a pedagogy of curiosity—her students’ and her own. For curiosity is, I would venture, precisely what drives Berlant’s more-than-considerable body of work: how do citizens and lovers feel? Why do they feel that way? How else might they feel?”

Congratulations to the 2018 Winners of the 1921 Prize

In the tenured category:
Claudia Stokes, “Novel Commonplaces: Quotation, Epigraphs, and Literary Authority”
American Literary History 30. 2 (2018): 201-221.

In the untenured category:
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.

Hortense Spillers is the Recipient of the 2018 Hubbell Award

Hortense Spillers is the recipient of the 2018 Hubbell Award, which will be presented at the MLA Awards Ceremony in Chicago, Illinois during the MLA January 3-6, 2019.


Hortense J. Spillers is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Since receiving her Ph.D. from Brandeis, she has taught at Wellesley College, Haverford College, Emory, and Cornell Universities. She has also served as a guest professor in the Program in Literature at Duke University during academic year 2002-03 and for two consecutive years during tri-semester terms at the John F. Kennedy Center for North American Studies at the Free University in Berlin, Germany, 2000 and 2001. A recipient of numerous honors and awards, among them, grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, she has been a fellow at both the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle, and the Center for the Study of the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto. While at Haverford, she was chair of the English Department for two years before moving to Cornell where she joined the Norton projects by serving as one of the period editors of the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. At Vanderbilt, where she joined the English faculty there in AY 2006-07, she founded The A-Line Journal, an independent online magazine devoted to examination of national and world events through a theoretical lens.

Her collection of scholarly essays, Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2003. With Marjorie Pryse, she co-edited Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, published by Indiana University Press; Spillers also edited for the English Institute series a collection of essays entitled Comparative American Identities: Race, Sex, and Nationality in the Modern Text, published by Routledge. Spillers serves on a number of editorial boards, among them, the Editorial Collective of boundary 2, and is a former member of the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association. Some of her more recent essays have appeared in The New Centennial Review, das argument, and boundary 2. She co-founded with Tamura Lomax The Feminist Wire, an online magazine dedicated to feminist issues and critique. Currently, she is at work on two new projects, the idea of black culture and black women and early state formations. She teaches courses in American and African-American literature, Faulkner, and feminist theory. She travels extensively, lectures widely both at home and abroad, most recently delivering the 2010 Sidney Warhaft Distinguished Memorial lecture at the University of Manitoba, and will give the DuBois Lectures at Harvard in the fall of 2014. She lives in Nashville.

CFP: American Literature Association Conference 2019

The American Literature Society invites contributions for a panel at the upcoming American Literature Association Conference in Boston, May 23-26, 2019.

Growing up and Growing Old: Age, Race and Gender in American Literature

From the Revolutionary War era, when the U.S. considered itself an “infant nation” through the nineteenth century’s fascination with urchins, orphans and other deserving cherubs, childhood has been a central organizing metaphor for American authors. As recent work in Critical Age Studies and Childhood Studies have shown, narratives of progress, development, and eventual mastery are cast as seemingly universal American stories, even as the option to “grow up American” is systematically refused on the basis of race, ethnicity gender, sexuality and ability. This panel seeks to explore how the concepts of age and aging are constructed in conversation with–and often in opposition to–other forms of identity in American literature.

Some possible topics include, but are not restricted to:

Childhoods of color

How do we think about age without falling into narratives of growth and decline?

Growing up gender fluid and/or other modes of queering childhood

Institutions (prisons, schools, hospitals) and the process of growing up/old

Rethinking the bildungsroman

Who gets to grow up?

Racial temporalities and the aging process

Colonizing childhoods

Metaphors of infantilization

Rethinking the parameters of children’s literature

Childhood in the literature of social justice

Children as political actors

Please send a 200 word abstract and c.v. to Anna Mae Duane at by December 20th, 2018.


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 2019 MLA Conference. For any questions, please contact ALS chair Anna Mae Duane at

Rules for competition:
• Submissions must be published during the calendar year of 2018. 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.
•Articles must appear in one of the following journals: African American Review; American Literary History; American Literature; American Periodicals; Callaloo; Early American Literature; ESQ; J19; Legacy; MELUS; Studies in American Fiction; and Studies in American Indian Literatures. Essays that appear elsewhere will not be considered.
•Please send an electronic copy of the nominated essay (PDF preferred) to the Prize Committee by September 1, 2018 at
•Authors must be members of the American Literature Society to be eligible for consideration. Membership is free of charge. To join the society, please visit
•No person may nominate more than one essay in a given year.

Call for Papers MLA 2019

American Literature Pedagogies: The American Literature Society invites individual proposals for a panel on the theme of “American Literature Pedagogies” at the 2019 MLA convention in Chicago, Illinois (Jan 3-6, 2019). In her 1977 essay, African American feminist literary scholar Barbara Smith writes, “For books to be real and remembered they have to be talked about.” We seek submissions that draw on pedagogical approaches that interrogate, expand, and challenge the American literary canon across time, space, and place. Papers that offer innovative, visionary, and/or new ways for thinking about American survey courses, period courses, multi-ethnic literature courses, and/or incorporate digital humanities, experiential learning, community-engagement, or other methods are encouraged. Please submit via e-mail a 250-word abstract and a 1-page CV by 5 March 2018 to Marci R. McMahon, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (

New Diasporas: A Roundtable: Recent African migrations to the United States prompt a revision of conventional notions of diaspora based on the frame of Atlantic slavery.  This roundtable – a collaborative session of the Postcolonial Forum with the American Literature Society – invites reflections on contemporary African Diasporas and their relationship to race, migration, postcoloniality, the Global South and/or the Black Atlantic. Please send a 200 word abstract and brief bio to Sheri-Marie Harrison ( and Yogita Goyal ( by 12 March 2018.

American Literature without Authors: Can we have American literature without authors? F. O. Matthiessen’s American Renaissance (1941)—the book said to found the study of antebellum American literature—based its argument upon a Romantic idea of the author: the lone genius who single-handedly created original, “great art.”  What might American literature look like if we did not have a propensity to study writers who we tend to think created their writings alone and/or if we queried traditional notions of authorship?  How can we conceive of American literature as a series of “Textual Transactions” (MLA 2019 Presidential Theme), wherein we could think of textual production as a transactional process?  Papers topics could include collaboration, conventions and clubs, political collectives, anonymous writing, book histories that displace the author as the center of meaning-making, translation, amanuenses, editors, anthologies, seriality, and reprinting of texts. 250-word abstracts and CV by 5 March 2018; Katy Chiles (


William Andrews is the recipient of the 2017 Hubbell Award

William Andrews is the recipient of the 2017 Hubbell Award. John Ernest will present the award to Professor Andrews at the Americanist reception (cohosted with C19, SEA, AAS, and other groups) on Friday January 5, 4:00-6:00 pm in the Trustees Room of the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd and Fifth Avenue.

William L. Andrews

The E. Maynard Adams Professor of English & Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill, William Andrews is the author or editor of numerous books, including The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt, To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, and The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology, among countless others. He is general editor of Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography, a book series published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and he is series editor of North American Slave Narratives, Beginnings to 1920, a complete digitized library of autobiographies and biographies of North American slaves and ex-slaves, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ameritech, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Andrews’s influence on the field of African American studies has been immense, immeasurable. Through DocSouth (the digital archive), he has made hundreds of texts available that have not been accessible before, changing the field significantly in the process. And through his other work, he has done much to shape how we respond to that archive.

CFP: “Reading Confederate Monuments” at ALA San Francisco (May 24-27, 2018)

The American Literature Society seeks submissions to a panel at the annual American Literature Association Conference (ALA), which will be held at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco on May 24-27, 2018 (Thursday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend).

What do literary criticism, literary history, and critical theory offer to our reckoning with Confederate monuments? This panel seeks papers offering a broad array of responses to this question. Papers might provide, for instance, readings of actual monuments—their construction, their location, their design, their inscription, their typeface, their reception history. They also might feature literary histories of the those genres—such as white supremacist melodramas, reconciliation romances, and Lost Cause reminiscences—that continued working on behalf of the Confederacy long after either Appomattox or the Compromise of 1877; juxtapositions of Confederate monuments with those literary texts and films, like Gone with the Wind, that might be termed “Confederate monuments” in their own right; alternative periodizations of the Civil War and its role in organizing American literary history that take into account the recent upsurge in neo-Confederate activity in defense of Confederate monuments; or readings rethinking Confederate monuments by placing them into conversation with those literary texts, like Kevin Young’s For the Confederate Dead or Suzan-Lori Parks’s Father Comes Home from the Wars, that represent the ongoing role played by Confederate memory in American life.

Abstracts (between 200 and 300 words) and CVs should be submitted by December 30 to Travis Foster at