Department of English

Glasscock Center Awards Twelfth Book Prize to Associate Professor Matt Cohen

Thu, November 4, 2010
Glasscock Center Awards Twelfth Book Prize to Associate Professor Matt Cohen

The Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research has awarded the twelfth annual Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship to Matt Cohen, associate professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, for The Networked Wilderness: Communicating in Early New England, published by the University of Minnesota Press. Professor Cohen, who earned his doctorate in American Studies from The College of William and Mary in 2002, taught at Duke University from 2002-2009 and since then at the University of Texas at Austin. He has published widely in the fields of early American literature, digital humanities, and the history of the book, and edited Brother Men: The Correspondence of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert T. Weston (Duke UP, 2005). Cohen has received fellowships and grants from the Huntington Library, the American Council for Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In The Networked Wilderness: Communications in Early New England, Cohen invites readers to understand anew the systems of communication in play in seventeenth-century New England, to understand encounters between Native Americans and colonists in terms of communications technologies beyond the oral-literate divide that has shaped much of our sense of early American history. Cohen insists that we see in New England’s early history multiple contests for control over communication networks. These networks, he argues, involved various forms of communicative practice, including traps, paths, monuments, and medical rituals, for both Natives and English. Overturning the argument that Europeans arrived with advantages inherent to a literate society, Cohen shows us that individuals struggled over all forms of communication. His study surprises and delights the reader with its juxtapositions of method and evidence: English settlers meet native peoples as bibliography meets geography, and the concept of reading expands to embrace media of the page, the human body, and the land itself. Cohen takes us to a place that we thought we knew, the world of seventeenth-century New England, and makes it newly strange, but also compellingly relevant to our own media-saturated moment. He argues convincingly that when we frame current contests over self-determination in terms of sovereignty (and use archival sources to do so), we unwittingly perpetuate a misreading of early communication networks in ways that weaken indigenous efforts at self-determination in the present.

Professor Cohen will receive the award and present a lecture on Wednesday, 9 February 2011, at 4 p.m. in the Glasscock Center Library, Room 311 of the Glasscock Building on the campus of Texas A&M University. More information about the Glasscock Book Prize, previous recipients, and the date of the award presentation can be found here.

The Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship was endowed in December 2000 by Melbern G. Glasscock, Texas A&M University Class of ’59, in honor of his wife. Together, among many other generous gifts to Texas A&M University, they provided a naming endowment for the Center in 2002.

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