The late Cheryl Wall, Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English, was selected as this year’s winner of the American Literature Society’s highest honor, the Jay B. Hubbell Medal for Lifetime Achievement in American Literary Studies. The medal is sponsored by the American Literature Society, an allied organization of the Modern Language Association, and is awarded annually to one “scholar whose lifetime of scholarly work has significantly advanced the study of American literature.”
Professor Wall, a groundbreaking Black feminist critic, was editor of the landmark volume, Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women (1989), and published extensively on Black women’s writing, Zora Neale Hurston in particular. Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage, and Literary Tradition (2005) is a brilliant and foundational account of 20c African American literary criticism, and On Freedom and the Will to Adorn: The Art of the African American Essay (2019) provides an essential account of the African American essay. Her writing, teaching, and mentoring helped shape generations of scholars. She is survived by her daughter, Camara Epps.
Hubbell awardees are selected by a five-person committee, and this year’s committee—Professors Jay Watson, Elizabeth Dillon, Rodrigo Lazo, Herman Beavers, and Leslie Bow—considered it most fitting to recognize Professor Wall's long-term contributions to American literary study.
Professor Herman Beavers will present the award in honor of Professor Wall to Camara Epps during our “American Literature at One Hundred” Panel, Thursday, 7 January 2021, 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM. The award will also be announced during the MLA Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 9 January 2021 at 7:00 p.m.