Sunday, 09 March 2008

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Lowell Prize Winner Retracts Journal Article Rodrick Shapiro, who received the James Russell Lowell Prize for Pre/Post/Eros: Libidinal Economies in Utopian Literature, 1888 and Beyond, has retracted an article after other scholars failed to reproduce his original findings. Columbia University, where Shapiro worked when the article was published in American Literature in 2006, has begun a review of article to determine if there is any evidence of misconduct. In the article, Shapiro described how a neo-deconstructive reading of Thomas Dixon's The Clansman produced a work whose "deep 'negrophobia' signifies nothing less than the repressed homoerotic 'negrophilia' of Ben Cameron, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan." Shapiro had claimed that previous literary critics projected their own unconscious racism upon the characters in Dixon's romance. "The phrase 'under the doctor's rigid gaze,'" Shapiro wrote, "implicates Cameron and Gus in a system of sexually gratifying panoptic leering; furthermore, when Gus 'lifts his huge paws lamely, as if to ward off a blow,' he recuperates the dread logic of literal slavery from its debased place in the psychosexual drama of American history." "It's disappointing," Dr. Shapiro, who is now a full professor at the University of Florida, told the journal PMLA in a news article about the retraction. "I devoted my life to that study for nearly three weeks, but when I re-read it, I realized I was utterly full of shit." In a statement, Columbia University said it is "disappointed" by the retraction, but understands why Shapiro had asked for it. "There is a reason Dr. Shapiro's tenure review went as it did. My colleagues and I think no less ill of him after the retraction than we did before. We are confident he will produce work of a similar caliber in Florida and beyond."

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