Celebrating Literary Achievement at UIP

Angela Burton is the Rights & Permissions/Awards Manager at the University of Illinois Press.

I am the awards manager at the University of Illinois Press, and it is always a good day at work when I can inform my colleagues that one of our books has won an award. Editors and other press staff are always very excited for the authors who have worked for years on their books, and it is gratifying to find that a book has not only reached its audience of scholars but also been recognized as exceptional in its field.

Nearly 120 UIP titles have won awards since 2011 from numerous organizations–including the American Folklore Society, Association of Black Women Historians, Association for Recorded Sound Collections, Modern Language Association, National Communication Association, Organization of American Historians, and Working-Class History Association. Over the last year, about 20 of our books have won awards, and a handful of titles have been recognized by more than one organization.

Daisy Turner’s Kin: An African American Family Saga by Jane Beck is one of those titles. It won the Chicago Folklore Prize from the American Folklore Association (AFA) and the Wayland D. Hand Prize from the History and Folklore Section of the AFA and was named a Choice 9780252080791Outstanding Academic Title.

Daisy Turner was born in 1883, the daughter of freed slaves. She was the caretaker of her family history, which she had learned from her father, Alexander Turner. He was born in 1845 as a slave in Virginia, escaped slavery during the Civil War, and moved to Vermont, becoming a farmer and marrying and raising a family. Alexander Turner had learned of his family’s story from his father, who had been born in Africa, and Alexander was adamant that his children know this history.

Daisy Turner became the family chronicler, with a narrative of her family going back four generations. Jane Beck, a folklorist for the Vermont State Arts Council, interviewed and filmed Turner in the mid-1980s. Daisy Turner died in 1988, and Beck spent the next thirty years writing a history of the family. A review in the Oral History Review stated, “If you are interested in how oral history can lead to discovery and help chronicle a family legacy, then you will find [this book] a necessary guidebook.” Beck researched the Turner family’s history, using written documents and archival sources, skillfully interweaving Daisy’s narrative with her own research. Describing the importance of the Turner family history, Beck states, “Seldom is an oral family narrative transmitted so fully across the generations. While memory is considered unreliable, it is always meaningful. This book considers how memory and fine storytelling can serve as a signpost to recorded events and enrich historical documents by offering emotional content from an individual perspective.”


Cara Finnegan’s Making Photography Matter: A Viewer’s History from the Civil War to the Great Depression, explores the rhetorical practices of viewers of photography, as it became the primary visual medium in the late nineteenth century. To explore this history, Finnegan provides four fascinating case studies: reactions of Americans to photography during the Civil War (including “spirit photography”); responses to an Abraham Lincoln portrait in the decades after his death; use of photography by opponents of child labor amid a changing view of childhood; and responses of viewers to the Farm Security Administration photography exhibition during the Great Depression.

Finnegan finds rhetorical traces of reactions to photography in the written evidence of the time period, including articles, court testimony, speeches, and comment cards, to show how engagement with photography in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries helped viewers negotiate and address anxieties and crises of U.S. public life, including war, grief, national identity, poverty, and the economy.

Viewers, she concludes, were not passive observers of this medium; they were rhetorically conscious and created sophisticated arguments about photographs. They engaged in discourse using a repertoire of “presence, character, appropriation, and magnitude,” and Finnegan determines that viewership was not identical or fixed but was contextually located in time and place within interpretive communities that helped guide the responses. Making Photography Matter won Outstanding Book of the Year from the Visual Communication Division of the National Communication Association in 2015 and the James A. Winans and Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address from the NCA in 2016.

Another multiple award winner is Funk the Erotic: Transaesthetics and Black Sexual Cultures by 9780252081101.jpgL. H. Stallings. Describing Funk the Erotic as “part critical theory, part philosophy, and part cultural manifesto,” Stallings argues that scholars should regard funk, a multisensory and multidimensional philosophy, as an alternative methodological tool to Western philosophies for the study of black sexual labor, sexual expressivity, and sexual culture. The book maintains that the use of explicit sexual expression in black literature and culture was a rejection of the Western will to truth, a literary tradition that Stallings terms funky erotixxx. Stallings argues that those who produced in this genre were proposing “a notably different understanding of sexual and erotic labor because they are also exploring new sensoriums and ways of being that cannot and do not align with Western traditions of humanism.”

Stallings uses the idea of transing, drawn from queer theory, to explore black sexuality and culture without the moralizing judgment and stigmatization of Western culture and to show how the use of funk by black communities provides alternative knowledge about imagination and sexuality. She embarks on an enthralling transdisciplinary study of black sexuality within multiple texts and media, incorporating literary theory, affect theory, legal scholarship, dance studies, music and performance criticism and theory, feminist theory, and queer of color critique.

Thoroughly engaging and thought provoking, Funk the Erotic won the Emily Toth Award for Best Single Work in Women’s Studies from the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) and the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award from the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association. The book was also a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards in LGBT studies.

More information about award-winning titles from the University of Illinois Press can be found here: http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/awards.html.


About iprh

The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was established in 1997 to promote interdisciplinary study in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
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