On September 19, 2013 the Center awarded its Kenshur Prize (for the best book in eighteenth-century studies published in 2012) to Srinivas Aravamudan's Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel (University of Chicago Press). The Prize Committee wrote of the book:
Srinivas Aravamudan’s Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel is a big book. It offers a deeply revisionist take on some of the most fundamental questions of eighteenth-century literature and indeed of eighteenth-century studies tout court. On the one hand, it undertakes a vast project of recovery, drawing and highlighting largely neglected lines of influence from eighteenth-century oriental tales to the heart of the canon that underpins the standard “rise of the novel” narrative for this period. At the same time, the outcome of this multi-strand recovery project is a fundamentally different take on the “rise of the novel” narrative itself: if Aravamudan is right, we will never tell that story in the same way again. Some of course might claim that he is not right, or not quite right, or only half-right: this in the end is the greatest tribute to a prize-winning book – that it unsettles a field to the point that its very conceptual appartus will never be the same as before the book appeared. Nor will our understanding of Orientalism be able to retain its monochrome tones (derived from the work of Edward Said and his followers), given Aravamudan’s emphasis on the different, anti-foundationalist orientalism of the eighteenth century. For these reasons of breadth, originality, big claims and far-reaching relevance, we are delighted to reward the Kenshur Prize for 2012 to Enlightenment Orientalism.
Papers presented at the symposium on Enlightenment Orientalism will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Center's publication, The Workshop.