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  • Richard Beale Davis Prize, 2013Kathleen Donegan
  • Matt Cohen, Sarah Rivett, and Cristobal Silva

Kathleen Donegan, associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, is the winner of the Richard Beale Davis Prize for the best article published in Early American Literature in 2013. Donegan’s essay, “What Happened in Roanoke: Ralph Lane’s Narrative Incursion” (EAL 48.2), makes a compelling case for reconsidering the importance of Ralph Lane’s An Account of the Particularities of the Imployments of the English Men Left in Virginia to the literary history of early colonial America. Where Lane’s text has often been passed over in favor of Thomas Harriot’s Brief and True Report and John White’s watercolors because of its poor organization, its many omissions, and its formal idiosyncrasies, Donegan argues that the Account is not designed to answer questions about “what happened” in Roanoke—indeed those questions may in fact be beside the point. Instead, she abides by the “uncomfortable reading practices” (286) that the Account demands, and demonstrates that “learning to read [its] disorder as a valuable kind of evidence allows us to recognize how often incomprehension and crises of meaning interrupted the discourses of possession” (310). Beginning with a seemingly minor observation about a text’s obscurity, Donegan develops a counterintuitive approach to colonial history through a bracing model for reading narrative form as a historiographic artifact. Exemplifying the most exciting work in the field today, she highlights the importance of literary critical approaches to early American studies, brings the field into dialogue with literary studies‘ current concern with methods of reading and the role of the critic, and points to the vibrant possibilities that lie ahead. [End Page 627]

Matt Cohen, Sarah Rivett, and Cristobal Silva
richard beale davis prize committee


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