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  • Richard Beale Davis Prize, 2014Oana Godeanu-Kenworthy
  • Sarah Rivett, Monique Allewaert, and Matt Cohen

Dissociating the term Creole from “its racial connotations,” troubling traditional paradigms of “nation” and “period” in American literary studies, and interrogating narratives of authenticity in antebellum fiction, “Creole Frontiers: Imperial Ambiguities in John Richardson’s and James Fenimore Cooper’s Fiction” invites readers to rethink the parameters of early American literature. One of many superb essays published in Early American Literature in 2014, Oana Godeanu-Kenworthy’s “Creole Frontiers” was awarded the Richard Beale Davis Prize for the best essay printed in Early American Literature in that year. “Creole Frontiers” provides a fresh interpretation of the much-written-about early Leatherstocking Tales, seeing The Pioneers in particular as a novel about the constructed nature of both national and white identity. In the process, Godeanu-Kenworthy situates indigenous studies at the forefront rather than the margins of the field.

Yet Godeanu-Kenworthy pushes her reading a step further by inviting readers to reexamine the critical lens that we bring to the body of works perhaps too neatly labeled early American literature. Godeanu-Kenworthy reads Cooper alongside the Canadian writer John Richardson. While not an unfamiliar pairing, this juxtaposition, in Godeanu-Kenworthy’s hands, allows for a reexamination of the frontier not as the place where Euro-Americans and American Indians meet, but as the place where Europeans become Americans. For each novelist, “concurrent” but distinct “political regimes” inform the contours of the frontier, one “colonial” and one “national.” This conceptual frame provides an analytic tool for investigating how a European becomes an American, and how land engenders a claim to national authenticity even while problematizing that authenticity through the presence of American Indians and the politics of land disputes. “Whiteness” emerges in Godeanu-Kenworthy’s study as the “link [End Page 643] between the two contradictory dimensions of settler identity as colonized and colonizer.” The subtle movement from close textual analysis to analysis of the conceptual state of the field will appeal to readers from a variety of perspectives and specializations. [End Page 644]

Sarah Rivett, Monique Allewaert, and Matt Cohen
Richard Beale Davis Prize Committee


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pp. 643-644
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