Each year at Congress, ACCUTE announces the winner of the F.E.L. Priestley Prize, which recognizes and acknowledges the best essay published in our scholarly journal English Studies in Canada over the past year. This year’s winner is Steven Bruhm (Western) for his essay “The Counterfeit Child,” which appeared in the special issue of English Studies in Canada entitled Childhood and Its Discontents (December 2012), edited by Nat Hurley.
The Priestley Prize adjudication committee – Judith Herz (Concordia); Lisa Surridge (Victoria) – Chair; and Rob Zacharias (Waterloo) – writes the following:
With the lightest touch (“let me tell you about my kids”) but the most serious intentions, Steven Bruhm’s essay is a carefully argued exploration of the function of childhood as an ideologically loaded but ontologically “empty” concept. Moving easily between early 20th Century children’s literature and contemporary film, Bruhm pairs J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan with his memoir of his mother Margaret Ogilvie, and then with Jaume Collet-Serra’s film Orphan, to identify a broad creative investment in the semiotic emptiness of childhood. To that most gothic of psychoanalytical questions, how do you kill the dead?, the essay offers as answer the counterfeit child, the figure against whom “we can safely direct our murderous impulses.”
The essay exemplifies ESC‘s generalist mandate, offering compelling and accessible scholarship that introduces readers to a vibrant area of literary studies while making an important contribution to its field. Impressive in its range and significant in its implications, Bruhm’s essay stood out as the best in a strong year for the journal.
Congratulations Steven! And thanks Judith, Lisa and Rob for their fabulous work on the Priestley adjudication committee!
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