Arabic Scholar’s First Book Wins Top Award

American Comparative Literature Association honors Jeffrey Sacks with Harry Levin Prize

Jeffrey Sacks

Jeffrey Sacks

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Jeffrey Sacks, associate professor and director of Arabic Studies at the University of California, Riverside, has been award the Harry Levin Prize for best first book in comparative literature by the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA).

His book, “Iterations of Loss: Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, al-Shidyaq to Darwish” (Fordham University Press, 2015), offers a series of sensitive, evocative readings of Arabic and Arab Jewish texts from the 19th century to the present day, the judges said.

“Each of these texts is part of the pre-history and history of the events of 1948 that the Palestinians call the ‘Calamity.’ Drawing on deconstruction and critical theory, Sacks builds a complicated image of the relations between language and temporality in the poetic marking of a series of devastating losses – ongoing violence and the displacement of peoples and cultures that is its result,” the prize committee wrote. “The consonance between the tonality of Sacks’s writing and that of his six authors marks this as an important work of Trauerarbeit – that work of mourning that characterizes so much of the literature and theory of the twentieth century – and thus opens a dialogue between the literatures of the West and the Middle East.”

The prize, established in 1985, is named for the late Harry T. Levin, an American literary critic and Harvard University scholar of modernism and comparative literature. Sacks is a co-winner of the 2016 prize with Brown University’s Tamara T. Chin, and accepted the award at the ACLA meeting in Boston March 17-20.

Members of the prize committee are: Michael Jennings of Princeton University, Nouri Gana of UCLA, and Gaurav Desai of Tulane University.

Sacks joined the UCR Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages in 2007. He earned a Ph.D. at Columbia University and teaches Arabic and comparative literature with a particular focus on poetics and literary comparison, colonialism and philology, institutions of literature and the problems of translation, and mourning and loss.

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