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November 21, 2003

Media Contact: Patricia Quill, (858) 822-0661


The American Studies Association has awarded University of California, San Diego Literature Professor Shelley Streeby the 2003 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize for American Sensations: Class, Empire and the Production of Popular Culture (UC Press, 2002). The Lora Romero Prize, presented annually, recognizes an author’s first published work in American Studies that highlights the intersections of race with class, gender, sexuality, and/or nation.

An innovative cultural history, American Sensations investigates an intriguing and often lurid assortment of sensational literature that was extremely popular in the United States in the 18th century. Through dime novels, cheap story paper literature, and journalism for working-class Americans, Streeby uncovers themes and images that reveal the profound influence that the U.S.-Mexican War and other nineteenth-century imperial ventures throughout the Americas had on U.S. politics and culture.

American Sensation is an “exemplary work of interdisciplinary scholarship,” says John F. Stephens, Ph.D. and Executive Director of the American Studies Association. It is described by José David Saldívar, author of Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies as “the finest book yet written on the U.S.-Mexican War, and how it was central to the making and unmaking of U.S. mass culture, class, and racial formation.”

American Sensations is an accessible, interdisciplinary book that brilliantly analyzes the sensational literature of George Lippard, A.J.H Duganne, Ned Buntline, Metta Victor, Mary Denison, John Rollin Ridge, Louisa May Alcott, and many other writers. Streeby’s analysis of this fascinating body of popular literature and mass culture broadens into a sweeping demonstration of the importance of the concept of empire in understanding U.S. history and literature.

“Professor Streeby’s well-deserved award for American Sensations highlights the innovative research of our faculty in the UCSD Literature Department,” says department Chair Todd Kontje. “Ours is a department of world literature devoted to the historical study of cultures and society in global context. Professor Streeby, a key member of our Literatures in English section, teaches a wide range of highly successful courses on U.S. literature from the Revolution to the present, combining studies of canonical texts with innovative courses on the West and the Western in American film, contemporary science fiction, and the literatures of and about California.”

American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture is Volume Nine of the American Crossroads series published by the University of California Press. The goal of the series is to expand and deepen the understanding of race and ethnicity in the United States through intellectually challenging, engagingly written books of substance and broad interest.

Shelley Streeby joined the faculty at UCSD in 1994. An Assistant Professor of Literature, Streeby is also a contributor to publications including American Literary History (Spring 2001); Post-Nationalist American Studies, edited by John Carlos Rowe (UC Press 2000); boundary 2 (Spring 1997); Criticism (Summer 1996); and the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Literature. She is also the recipient of numerous University of California grants including a Faculty Career Development Program Grant, Humanities Faculty Fellowship, Summer Faculty Fellowship and a Humanities Research Institute Grant; as well as two Hellman Fellowships and a Mellon Dissertation Year Fellowship.

The American Studies Association was founded in 1951 to promote the study of American culture – past and present. The Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize is one of eight awards presented each year by the Association. For more information about the American Studies Association, go to http://www.georgetown.edu/crossroads/asainfo.html.

For more information about the Literature Program at UC San Diego, go to http://literature.ucsd.edu/.

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