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Thursday, October 3, 2013

October 3, 2013: NEASA Conference Follow Ups: MacFarlane Prize Winners

[This past weekend, the New England American Studies Association held its annual conference. This week, I’ll follow up some of the most inspiring aspects of the conference and some of the many great talks I heard there. If you were part of it, or if you have your own thoughts on any of these topics, please chime in!]
On two undergraduates carrying the AmericanStudies torch for an impressive new generation.
Another inspiring part of my work for this year’s NEASA conference was as the chair of the MacFarlane Prize Committee. The MacFarlane Prize, created to honor Lisa MacFarlane, is awarded annually for outstanding undergraduate American Studies work; this year we awarded two, one for an essay and one for a senior thesis. The two winners exemplify two distinct but equally vital sides to the discipline:
1)      The thesis winner, Julia Falkowski of Connecticut’s Trinity College, wrote about a historical and traditional Americanist topic: the interconnections and influences between 19th century authors Sarah Josepha Hale and Edgar Allan Poe. In so doing, and in bringing a number of different disciplinary approaches and lenses to bear on these two complex figures, she demonstrated just how much there remains to say about our literary, cultural, and national history, particularly when American Studies helps us to say it.
2)      The essay winner, Sara Gilford of New York’s Barnard College, focused on a much more contemporary topic: the use and abuse of post-9/11 narratives in both American culture and educational curricula. But her essay was informed by ongoing American narratives and histories, making it just as contextualized and rich in its analyses as Julia’s was in the other direction. The best AmericanStudies scholarship can of course inform present debates and issues, and Sara’s essay exemplified that potential.
Give me hope for the future, these folks and their many great fellow submitters do. Next follow up tomorrow,
PS. What do you think?

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