Early American Literature Announces Winners of Inaugural Book Prize

The editors of the journal Early American Literature are pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural EAL book prize: Anna Brickhouse for The Unsettlement of America: Translation, Interpretation, and the Story of Don Luis de Velasco, 1560-1945 (Oxford University Press); and Wil Verhoeven for Americomania and the French Revolution Debate in Britain, 1789-1802 (Cambridge University Press).

This year, in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, EAL launched an annual book prize to call attention to inventive and substantial scholarship about American literature in the period spanning the colonial era through the early republic. The books by Brickhouse and Verhoeven rose to the top of an impressive field of work by established scholars, and in some important ways they complement one another.

Brickhouse's The Unsettlement of America explores the phenomenon of motivated mistranslation to construct a speculative history of indigenous resistance to European colonization. Brickhouse argues that an Algonquian Indian captured by the Spanish in 1561 and christened Don Luis de Velasco deliberately unsettled the attempted Spanish colonization of his native Ajacán (now known as the Chesapeake Bay region) through his role as a translator. Spanning Spanish colonial writings from the sixteenth century through their reception in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this book offers a fascinating account of indigenous networks of resistance, conceptualized as a form of authorship. Unsettlement is both a tale of one man and his legacy across four centuries and a challenge to the field of hemispheric American studies.

Verhoeven's Americomania looks at the flip side of the settler colonial scene--that is, he explores the construction of an ideology of available land and shows how it affected political writing and imaginative literature in the age of revolution. The fruit of research that is at once capacious and meticulous, each to a rare degree, this literary history of the revolutionary Atlantic world shows how Jacobin and anti-Jacobin fiction of the late eighteenth century responded to a utopian discourse about America. Encompassing political philosophy, political and legal history, literature, economic history, print history, visual culture, popular culture, migration, demography, and more, Verhoeven's book traces how the fact and figure of American land--both as a material commodity and as a utopian ideal--operated at the center of a British debate over political identity ignited by the French Revolution.

In announcing the joint award, EAL editor Sandra M. Gustafson observed that "both Brickhouse's and Verhoeven's books demonstrate stunning research, creative methods, and compelling narrative arcs. The Unsettlement of America and Americomania will appeal to literary scholars and historians specializing in such fields as early modern and eighteenth-century literature, transatlantic, hemispheric, and colonial and postcolonial studies, and beyond."

Next year's prize will be awarded to a first book, with monographs published in 2014 and 2015 being eligible. The prize will then alternate between books by established scholars in odd calendar years and first books in even years. The prize is accompanied by a $2,000 cash award. Watch the journal's website for announcements, and contact editor Sandra M. Gustafson (Gustafson.6@nd.edu) with questions.

Early American Literature is published by the University of North Carolina Press. Founded in 1922, UNC Press is the oldest university press in the South and one of the oldest in the United States.