Ato Quayson receives 2021 Robert Penn Warren-Cleanth Brooks Award for Literary Scholarship and Criticism
Stanford English Professor Ato Quayson receives 2021 Robert Penn Warren-Cleanth Brooks Award for his book Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature
Ato Quayson, the Jean G. and Morris M. Doyle Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies and chair of the Department of English in the School of Humanities and Sciences (H&S), has been named the recipient of the 2021 Robert Penn Warren-Cleanth Brooks Award for his book Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2021).
The Warren-Brooks Award is presented each year by the Robert Penn Warren Center at Western Kentucky University. The award honors outstanding works of literary scholarship or criticism that exemplify the spirit, scope, and standards represented by the critical tradition established by Warren and Brooks.
Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature examines tragedy and tragic philosophy from the Greeks through Shakespeare to the present day, Quayson explained. Using postcolonial literature, it explores key themes in the links between suffering and ethics to provide a singular and fertile rubric of tragedy and reconceive how we think about world literature. The book draws upon examples from literary works including Chinua Achebe, William Shakespeare, Wole Soyinka, Tayeb Salih, Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison, Samuel Beckett, and J.M. Coetzee.
The award citation highlighted Quayson's “study of the ways postcolonial tragedies engage and transform the traditional concerns of tragedy. … The chapter on Beloved is particularly striking, challenging how we read Morrison and the role of ‘ethical choice’ as a bedrock of tragedy. Methodologically, we found Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature to be a study in how scholarship in literary studies is best undertaken.”
Previous recipients of the Robert Penn Warren-Cleanth Brooks Award include Sir Frank Kermode, Lawrence Buell, and Marjorie Perloff, the Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities in H&S, Emerita.
A video of Ato Quayson discussing his book for the British Academy’s online series “10-Minute Talks” is available here.