By Nicole Wexler
Congratulations are due to Marianne DeKoven for receiving the 2005 Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research, the highest honor given at Rutgers for outstanding scholarly distinction. During her twenty-seven years at Rutgers English, Professor DeKoven has become an internationally respected scholar for her work in the fields of modernism, postmodernism, feminist criticism, and the study of Gertrude Stein.
Her latest book, though just recently published, is already generating praise. Entitled Utopia Limited: The Sixties and the Emergence of Postmodernism, the book details the end of modernism and the beginnings of postmodernism in the 1960s. By tracing the modernist concept of utopia, she shows how postmodernism “assumes and incorporates” older ideas. Her scholarly approach pays detailed attention to her chosen texts, interpreting a wide range of culture from the period: from popular journalists Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson to philosopher Herbert Marcuse, from experimental theater to political protest manifestos, and beyond to a critique of Las Vegas as the “capital of postmodernity.” The book also presents a bit of scholarly autobiography, as Professor DeKoven describes how her own intellectual passions – particularly her interest in feminism – developed throughout this period and in response to many of these texts.
In this way, the new book continues the scholarly project begun in her other works. Her first book, A Different Language: Gertrude Stein’s Experimental Writing, studies the notoriously difficult modernist poet and demonstrates a new way to understand her language, once thought to be apolitical, as both political and feminist. This book has become a classic of Stein criticism and of modernist feminist studies in general. Professor DeKoven’s next book, Rich and Strange: Gender, History, Modernism, accomplished something similar for a wider group of authors, examining the supposedly masculine bias of modernist literature and finding instead complex tensions around the issue of gender. Like A Different Language, Rich and Strange is considered an important study by other scholars of modernism and feminism.
Professor DeKoven’s distinction as a critic and theorist outside of Rutgers English is matched by her reputation here as a wonderful teacher and colleague. In 2003, she won the Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching, making her the only Rutgers English professor ever to have won the University’s highest awards for both teaching and research. Congratulations to Professor DeKoven on her remarkable achievements.
Marianne DeKoven wins Teaching Award
More about Utopia Limited
Faculty Awards and Recognition