This year’s Fulbright Prize in American Studies has been awarded to Dr. Marijana Mikić for her dissertation, entitled “Race, Space, and Emotion in Twenty-First-Century African American Literature,” which she developed during her time as PhD Researcher on the Narrative Encounters Project and completed in the English Department at the University of Klagenfurt in 2022. The dissertation combines insights from cognitive affective research, narrative theory, African American studies, and Black geographies to examine how African American storyworlds interrogate emotions as varied as fear, hope, shame, guilt, anger, and grief as bound up with racial ideologies and the geographic enforcement of these ideologies. Congratulations Marijana!
The Fulbright Prize in American Studies is based on an annual competition managed by the AAAS. It is a means of acknowledging the enduring importance of American studies and the role of innovative research by young academics in Austria in contributing to the fulfillment of the Fulbright Program’s mandate to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of Austria and the United States of America. The purpose of this award is to recognize superior academic achievement in the field of American studies (Amerikanistik) in the broadest sense of the word and hence includes all relevant ancillary disciplines and departments at Austrian universities.
Marijana Mikić has been awarded a Post-DocTrack Fellowship by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW). During the time of the fellowship, she will be working on her first monograph, based on her dissertation, “Race, Space, and Emotion in Twenty-First-Century African American Literature.”
The planned book project draws on and brings together insights from cognitive research on emotion, narrative theory, African American studies, and Black geographies to investigate the ways in which twenty-first-century African American storyworlds interrogate emotions as varied as fear, hope, shame, guilt, anger, and grief. Delving into the various formal means and narrative strategies that novels by Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Percival Everett, N.K. Jemisin, Edward P. Jones, Brit Bennett, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and Sherri L. Smith use to support their thematic interrogation of individual emotions as closely linked the social production of race and space, it argues that there is much we can learn about “emotions in context” from African American narrative.
Following the central goal of the Narrative Encounters project, the planned monograph seeks to illuminate the ways in which literary texts that grapple with questions of race, ethnicity, and identity force us to pay more attention to the social and systemic forces that produce emotions, while they also bring into focus the decidedly collective ways in which minoritized individuals and communities understand, grapple with, and address emotions.
In her 1997 essay “Home,” Toni Morrison poses several fundamental questions that guide her literary work: “How to be both free and situated; how to convert a racist house into a race-specific yet nonracist home. How to enunciate race while depriving it of its lethal cling? ” (5) . These questions are integral to Morrison’s own work, but she also entreats other authors to respond to them; a substantial number, including Brit Bennett, Bryan Washington, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Akwaeke Emezi, have done so. Like Morrison, these younger authors construct storyworlds that both depict and challenge the use of such social emotions as guilt and shame in constituting and perpetuating the arbitrary in- and out-group divisions that are fundamental to racial and spatial forms of constraint. In doing so, they show how resisting oppression provides Black characters, especially Black women, with important possibilities for community-building/home-creation.
Edited by Alexa Weik von Mossner, Marijana Mikić, and Mario Grill, Ethnic American Literatures and Critical Race Narratology explores the relationship between narrative, race, and ethnicity in the United States. Situated at the intersection of post-classical narratology and context-oriented approaches in race, ethnic, and cultural studies, the contributions to this edited volume interrogate the complex and varied ways in which ethnic American authors use narrative form to engage readers in issues related to race and ethnicity, along with other important identity markers such as class, religion, gender, and sexuality. Importantly, the book also explores how paying attention to the formal features of ethnic American literatures changes our under-standing of narrative theory and how narrative theories can help us to think about author functions and race. The international and diverse group of contributors includes top scholars in narrative theory and in race and ethnic studies, and the texts they analyze concern a wide variety of topics, from the representation of time and space to the narration of trauma and other deeply emotional memories to the importance of literary paratexts, genre structures, and author functions.
Foreword: Ethnoracial Encounters: From Myopic to Polyscopic Planetary Narratologies — Frederick Luis Aldama
Introduction: Narrative Encounters with Ethnic American Literatures — Alexa Weik von Mossner
PART 1: Narrating Race and Ethnicity across Time and Space
Indigenous Time / Indigenous Narratives: The Political Implications of Non-Linear Time in Contemporary Native Fiction — James J. Donahue
Time(s) of Race: Narrative Temporalities, Epistemic Storytelling, and the Human Species in Ted Chiang — Matthias Klestil
Polychronic Narration, Trauma, Disenfranchised Grief, and Mario Alberto Zambrano’s Lotería — Mario Grill
Whole New Worlds: An Exploration of Narrative Strategies Used in Afrodiasporic Speculative Fiction — Marlene Allen Ahmed
PART 2: Haunting Memories: Narrative, Race, and Emotion
Emotions that Haunt: Attachment Relations in Lan Samantha Chang’s Fiction — W. Michelle Wang
Race, Trauma, and the Emotional Legacies of Slavery in Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing — Marijana Mikić
“There Were Strands of Darker Stories”: Reading Third-Generation Holocaust Literature as Midrash — Stella Setka
Stories, Love, and Baklava: Narrating Food in Diana Abu-Jaber’s Culinary Memoirs — Alexa Weik von Mossner
PART 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Paratexts: Genre Structures and Author Functions
Healing Narratives: Historical Representations in Latinx Young Adult Literature — Elizabeth Garcia
Blood and Soil: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony — Patrick Colm Hogan
Metaparatextual Satire in Percival Everett’s The Book of Training and Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice — Derek Maus
Author Functions, Literary Functions, and Racial Representations or What We Talk about When We Talk about Diversifying Narrative Studies — Jennifer Ho
The book is part of Routledge’s Narrative Theory and Culture series, edited by Christopher González, and is available here.
George S. Schuyler’s Black No More (1931) invites readers to embark on a journey to an alternative future world in which scientific progress promises to eliminate race. The utopian premise of a Black-free world, however, only sets the scene for Schuyler’s deeply satirical Afrofuturist imagination. The essay argues that we come to understand the novel’s critique of race as a signifier of difference through the presence of racialized emotions in the lives of virtually all of the novel’s characters. The critical and satirical gaze of Schuyler’s omniscient narrator alerts readers to the fact that there is no such thing as race, but that a racialized environment—even in the absence of skin color differences—inevitably shapes characters’ individual emotions. Not only does Black No More invite readers to understand feelings of fear, anxiety, hope, anger, shame, and disgust as shaped by processes of racialization, but it also depicts these emotions as constitutive of race and racism.
Working at the intersection of cognitive and critical race narratology, the essay examines the relationship between the embodied mind and the social construction of race in Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral (1928/2011). The essay argues that Fauset’s African American passing novel rejects the notion of a solely ‘inward turn’, which is commonly associated with modernist literature, in favor of a more dynamic understanding of embodied cognition that acknowledges the shaping force of race and racialization. Using a seemingly traditional omniscient narrator, Fauset not only draws attention to the failure of U. S. American racial hierarchies, but she also lays bare how race impacts both individual consciousness and social cognition.
The article uses a cognitive narratological approach to analyze how Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man (2019) negotiates Arab American patriarchal culture through the lens of shame. By narrating the emotional experiences of Arab American women who bear the pain of shame while they also engage in shaming others, Rum gives readers the opportunity to understand better the complex relationship between the psychology of shame and the “shame of gender” in patriarchal Arab American culture. Not only does A Woman Is No Man articulate the lived experiences of one of the most “forgotten” and silenced ethnic groups within American literature and culture, it also draws attention to how gender-based shaming is shaped by, and contributes to shaping, a culture of patriarchy and male power. The novel uncovers the different ways in which shame impacts the minds and bodies of Arab American women across three generations, while also laying bare the psychological, gendered, and socio-culturally embedded aspects that shape the elicitation, experience, expression, and regulation of shame.
Within the framework of the one-year fellowship, which is sponsored by the University of Klagenfurt’s Faculty of Humanities, PhD researcher Marijana Mikić will work towards the completion of her dissertation project with the working title “Black Storyworlds: Race, Space, and Emotion in Contemporary African American Literature.”
In her dissertation, Marijana explores how twenty-first century African American storyworlds interrogate the emotional violence of racial and spatial oppression, while also envisioning affectively liberating ways of self- and space-making.
These contributions cover a wide range of primary texts — from historical novels and memoirs to speculative fiction, graphic novels, television and film — that belong to the literary traditions of Latinx, African American, Native American, Asian American, Jewish American, and Arab American communities. They interrogate the complex and varied ways in which ethnic American authors use narrative form to engage readers in issues related to race and ethnicity, along with other important identity markers such as class, religion, gender, and sexuality. The book also explores how paying attention to the formal features of ethnic American literatures changes our understanding of narrative theory and how narrative theories can help us to think about the representation of time and space, the narration of trauma and other deeply emotional memories, and the importance of literary paratexts, genre structures, and author functions.
We’re very excited that we were able to attract such a fantastic group of scholars to our edited volume and can’t wait to see it in print!