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Julian Yates
Julian Yates

‘Of Sheep, Oranges, Yeast’

Photo Illustration by Lukas Emory

UD’s Yates wins national Kendrick Book Prize

The Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSA) has awarded its 2017 Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize to Julian Yates, professor of English at the University of Delaware, for Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast: A Multispecies Impression.

The Kendrick Prize is awarded annually for the best academic book on literature, science and the arts published during the last year. It was established in 2006 in memory of literature and science scholar Michelle Kendrick of Washington State University-Vancouver.

The Kendrick Prize Committee, chaired by Robert Markley of the University of Illinois, praised Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast for its success in bringing together animal studies, plant studies, eco-theory and bio-politics in new and fascinating ways.

Published by the University of Minnesota Press, the book imagines ways for literary and historical scholars to explore how humans exist in relation to other animal, plant, fungal, microbial, viral, mineral and chemical actors.

Yates asks the question: In what senses do animals, plants and minerals “write”? He then traces how the lives of sheep, oranges, gold and yeast mark the stories of those animals we call “human.”

The book opens and closes with a Shakespearean character talking through his painful encounter with the skin of a lamb, in the form of parchment. Yates calls this kind of encounter a “multispecies impression,” the way all acts of writing are saturated with the “writing” of other beings.

Of Sheep, Oranges, and Yeast promises—and delivers—everything,” wrote reviewer Karl Steel, of City University of New York’s Brooklyn College and Graduate Center. “At every turn, Yates surprised and delighted me.”

John Ernest, the Judge Hugh Morris Professor of English and chair of UD’s Department of English, called Yates’ work “distinctive and influential” and said the book’s selection for the Kendrick Prize was well deserved.

“This prestigious recognition of Julian’s innovative, rigorous and cutting-edge scholarship confirms what many of us in the English department, and many in literary studies, have long known,” he said.

Yates, who earned his doctorate in English literature at the University of California Los Angeles, specializes in Medieval and Renaissance British literature, literary theory, material culture studies and questions of ecology/environmental humanities.

He is the author of some 35 essays and author or editor of three previous books: Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance, which was a finalist for the Modern Language Association's Best First Book Prize in 2003; What's the Worst Thing You Can Do to Shakespeare? (co-authored with Richard Burt); and Object-Oriented Environs in Early Modern England (co-edited with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen).

His research has been supported by grants from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library and the American Philosophical Society.

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