The 2018-2019 Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies has been awarded to
Professor Catherine E. Clark, Associate Professor of History and French Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for her book Paris and the Cliché of History: The City and Photographs, 1860-1970 (Oxford University Press, 2018).
Selected from a pool of over fifty nominated books, Paris and the Cliché of History explores how the history of photography and the history of Paris in the popular imagination became deeply intertwined. As Catherine Clark so brilliantly shows, photography shaped the way people came to see their city, even as the continuous compulsion to photograph Paris shaped how photography as an art form and documentary method evolved. Originally dismissed by collectors and historians in the 1860s as “too scientific,” photography, she demonstrates, eventually came to play a central role in how Parisians gradually learned to see, and to value, Paris as a “museum city,” where the past continued to reside amid an ever-changing and modernizing metropolis. Anticipating the more recent “visual turn” in history, this way of seeing, and thinking about, the past did not come automatically from the city that was there; it came from the construction of collective imaginings that drew heavily from photographs, their preservation and display in museums and libraries, photobooks and photojournalism, popular photo contests and the creation of the Parisian vidéothèque. Ranging across the history of technology, the institutional and social history of photography, and the study of visual representation and reception, Paris and the Cliché of History is a methodological tour de force.
Honorable mentions were given to the following books:
Thomas Dodman, What Nostalgia Was: War, Empire, and the Time of a Deadly Emotion (University of Chicago Press, 2018)
Julie Kleinman, Adventure Capital: Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris (University of California Press, 2019)
Created in 1995 to honor the memory of Laurence Wylie, Professor of French Civilization at Harvard University, the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies is awarded every second year to an outstanding book in French social or cultural studies concerning any historical period. Strong preference is given to scholars in the early years of their career.
Since 2017, the Wylie Prize has been administered by the faculty of NYU’s Institute of French Studies. The members of this year’s Prize committee were Judith Coffin (University of Texas at Austin), Katherine Crawford (Vanderbilt University), Laura Kalba (University of Minnesota), and Herrick Chapman (NYU; non-voting chair).
The call for nominations for the next Laurence Wylie Prize will go out in late 2021. Books published in 2020 and 2021 will be eligible.