Congratulations to Paul Hurh for winning this year’s Hennig Cohen Prize from the Melville Society. The prize "honors the memory of Hennig Cohen with an annual award for the best article, book chapter, or essay in a book about Herman Melville.” It was awarded, at MLA, to Paul’s "Dread: Space, Time, and Automata in The Piazza Tales,” which is the fifth chapter of his 2015 book, American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville. Here’s what the prize committee had to say about this book chapter:
This year's Hennig Cohen Prize for the best article, book chapter, or essay on Herman Melville goes to Paul Hurh for "Dread: Space, Time, and Automata in The Piazza Tales," a chapter in his book American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville (Stanford UP, 2015). Hurh offers a powerful argument for reading The Piazza Tales as a work in its own right, while showing the importance of terror to Melville's conceptions of affective and intellectual experience. Carefully attending to the "motley nature" of The Piazza Tales, Hurh proposes a "unified reading" that reveals a book intensely concerned with moods, "deep undercurrents of melancholy, anxiety, and unease," that he describes as forms of terror. Hurh links Melville's terror to a concept of dread (Angest) developed by Kierkegaard to account for human freedom, and transformed in Heidegger's examination of the spatial and temporal nature of existence. Like the philosophers, Melville provides "affective descriptions of philosophical dilemmas." More particularly, Hurh shows, Melville's practices of "spatial deformation and temporal miscalibration" produce a startling "understanding of time and space as a function of terror." Hurh's chapter illuminates subtle connections among the tales of The Piazza Tales, while offering extended, revelatory readings of the relatively neglected "The Lightning-Rod Man" and "The Bell-Tower." Hurh reads Melville's book with an extraordinary balance of philosophical sophistication, historical acuity, and unabashed devotion to the "strange particulars" of Melville's writing. This chapter promises to change the way The Piazza Tales is read, while challenging readers to reconsider Melville's thinking about materiality, subjectivity, interpersonal relations, and philosophy.