Professor J.C. Cloutier’s book Shadow Archives: The Lifecycles of African American Literature wins the MLA’s Matei Calinescu Prize for a distinguished work of scholarship in twentieth- or twenty-first-century literature and thought.
December 15, 2020
Professor Jean-Christophe Cloutier was awarded the Matei Calinescu Prize by the Modern Language Association (MLA) for his book Shadow Archives: the Lifecycles of African American Literature (Columbia University Press, 2019). The prize, for a distinguished work of scholarship in twentieth- or twenty-first-century literature and thought in any geographical context, was first established in 2015 in honor of Matei Calinescu, a Romanian poet and scholar who taught at Indiana University, Bloomington.
The committee’s citation for the book reads: “An essential and elegantly written continuation of the archival turn that has dominated literary studies since the mid-1990s, Jean-Christophe Cloutier’s Shadow Archives: The Lifecycles of African American Literature redefines our understanding of archives by analyzing how African American lives and literature have struggled to find their way into accessible collections. With remarkable attention to evolving archival practices, Cloutier illuminates the lives of Claude McKay, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Ann Petry to make those lives synonymous with the notes, journals, letters, photographs, comics, and unpublished manuscripts they read, produced, and revised. Based in part on his groundbreaking discovery of McKay’s novel Amiable with Big Teeth—published seventy-six years after its completion—Cloutier’s painstaking research “retrieves the sunken record” in each subject’s oeuvre, revealing how these authors both resisted and encouraged the archival imperative. Cloutier compels us to reconsider in the twenty-first century how African American lives matter.”
Link to commendation: