The Association’s Awards Jury for the best master’s thesis or dissertation in Inter-American Studies completed in 2013 or 2014 is proud to announce the winning entry:
Jeffrey T. Lawrence (Princeton University): “The Experiencer and the Reader in Twentieth-Century Literatures of the Americas.”
Congratulations to Jeffrey T. Lawrence and best wishes to all Association members who submitted their work for this competition.
For a brief abstract of Jeffrey T. Lawrence’s dissertation, see below:
My dissertation, “The Experiencer and the Reader in Twentieth-Century Literatures of the Americas,” studies the centrality of discourses about experience and reading in modern US and Latin American literature. Revisiting longstanding debates in the hemisphere about whether the source of authority for New World literature arises from the author’s first-hand contact with American places and peoples or through a creative (mis)reading of existing traditions, the thesis charts a widening gap in how writers in the US and Latin American fields defined their literary authority beginning in the early twentieth century. I trace the rise of an aesthetics of experience in the United States in the 1920′s and 1930′s across literary modernism and pragmatist philosophy, paying particular attention to how Latin America increasingly figured as a new “field of experience” for US writers such as Katherine Anne Porter, Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, and Waldo Frank. At the same time, I argue that a strong anti-experiential discourse of writing-as-reading emerged in the Latin American vanguardia movement in part as a means of challenging, undermining, and revising this dominant US literary strain. My thesis reconstructs the circuit of these discourses from their prehistory in the nineteenth century to their afterlife in the works of contemporary writers such as Roberto Bolaño, Ricardo Piglia, and Cristina Rivera Garza. Through close contextualized readings of a wide variety of genres and registers, including fiction, poetry, travel narratives, autobiography, and cultural criticism, I demonstrate that the disparate expectations of what I call the “US literature of experience” and the “Latin American literature of reading” gave rise to a series of encounters and “misencounters” across the North-South divide.