Each year at the Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 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 George Grinnell, for his essay, “‘There is another story, there always is …’: Red Dog Red Dog and the Okanagan.”
This year’s Priestley Prize committee consisted of Steven Bruhm (Western), Candida Rifkind (Winnipeg), and Laura Robinson (RMC), as Chair. They write that in his article,
“Grinnell provides a captivating reassessment of the Okanagon, most frequently represented as a tourist paradise, through his analysis of Patrick Lane’s novel, Red Dog Red Dog. Elegantly structured, this article firmly and consistently remains outside sentimental and solipsistic visions of nature and instead focuses on the novel’s dual attention to looking and looking away, confrontation and avoidance. In doing so, Grinnell produces a convincing argument for the complicated mechanics of loss and the ethics of attachment to both people and places. This essay is a beautiful shuttling between theories of the ecological and readings of the novel, bridging several disciplines and fields (ecocriticism, memory studies, Canadian literature, Romanticism, trauma theory) and yet always coming back to Lane’s novel to show readers how it offers an alternative to seeing nature as either the real or the sublime “by evoking precisely both of these possibilities together” (124). Part of what makes this article stand out is the delicate way Grinnell uses his own living and teaching experiences in the Okanagan to frame his reading. As well, the specific textual analysis has implications beyond the novel by using Lane’s work to illustrate and expand upon the urgencies of the ecological in a manner that is eloquent and moving without being heavy-handed. While the article picks up on traditional themes in Canadian literature – hostile landscapes, dysfunctional families, untimely and violent deaths – Grinnell highlights Lane’s innovative treatment of those themes.”
Congratulations, George! And thanks to our committee for their excellent work. You can download a pdf of the award-winning essay at the link above. And don’t forget you can explore the range of ESC articles, including past Priestley winners, through Project Muse and through the University of Alberta libraries journals collection.