Each year at the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences’ Congress, ACCUTE awards the F.E.L. Priestley Prize for the best essay to appear in the association’s scholarly journal English Studies in Canada (ESC) in the previous year. The Prize is adjudicated by a jury of three, chaired by a member of the ACCUTE Executive. The following is jury chair Jim Ellis’s (U Calgary) announcement and commendation. Congratulations Candida, and to all who published in ESC Volume 37!
“The Priestley Prize for the best essay appearing in Volume 37 of English Studies in Canada goes to Candida Rifkind (Associate Professor, University of Winnipeg) for her essay, “When Mounties were Modern Kitsch: The Serial Seductions of Renfrew of the Mounted,” which appeared in Issue 3-4.
“The jury was unanimous in singling out this fine essay from among the many strong contributions to volume 37. Professor Rifkind’s essay considers the “Northwesterns” and Mountie fictions that flourished from 1890 to 1940, looking in particular at Laurie York Erskine’s serially published Renfrew of the Mounties novels which appeared towards the end of the genre’s heyday. These popular fictions, Rifkind argues, are ‘thoroughly Canadian and intrinsically international’ both in their production and circulation, which partially accounts for their strained relation to the Canadian literary canon.
“This is a well-researched and engaging combination of cultural critique, historical scholarship and genre criticism. The essay offers a new perspective on Canadian writing and the production of national identity during the inter-war period, attending to the complicating influences of the previous century’s imperial adventure narratives and newer anxieties over modernity. The critical fate of late Mountie fiction, it further argues, registers the rise of realism and the devaluation of popular writing in the production of the emerging canon of Canadian writing. Rifkind’s essay thus cuts a broad swath through a range of theoretical and literary-historical problems, shedding new light not only on a popular set of novels but also on Canadian literary history itself. The essay is impressive in the scope of its research; rigorous and compelling in the presentation of its argument; and precise and stylish in its delivery.”
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