Prof. Jagoe's Essay Wins F. E. L. Priestley Prize

Toronto - June 6, 2018 - Professor Eva-Lynn Jagoe's essay, “Depersonalized Intimacy: The Cases of Sherry Turkle and Spike Jonze,” in English Studies in Canada vol. 42, no. 1-2, has been awarded this year's F. E. L. Priestley Prize for the best essay published in the previous year's volume of ESC

The Priestley Prize Committee, this year constituted by Ann Gagné (George Brown College), Nat Hurley (University of Alberta), and Chair Mark A. McCutcheon (Athabasca University), noted:

Dr Jagoe’s article stands out for its originality, its generative capacity, its critical acumen, and its accessible style. Dr Jagoe compares and critiques two popular articulations of today’s digitally immersed Zeitgeist—Sherry Turkle’s 2011 book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other and Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her—in order to propose “an ethics of depersonalized intimacy.” Against the grain of capitalism’s production of an agentic, authentic, and coherent self, Jagoe argues for “a different form of relationality” that challenges how we imagine intimacy and how both humanism and neoliberalism demand selves to be produced. Turkle’s writing and Jonze’s film illustrate Jagoe’s argument in that their representations of human-machine couplings broach the premise of depersonalized intimacy—but fail to push those premises and instead fall back on moralistic and clichéd tropes of and arguments for genuine selfhood and human communication. In the process, their humanist recuperations of organic-machinic interaction “hamper more emancipatory projects of intimacy, community, political action, and social change” that, in contrast, Jagoe’s theory of depersonalized intimacy opens up.

The committee commends Jagoe’s article for advancing an ethical concept that is original, methodologically generative, and bracingly counter-discursive—and, moreover, for advancing such a challenging argument (perhaps more ahumanist than antihumanist) in such accessible, eloquent writing. The committee also applauds Jagoe’s critical acumen: she discusses Turkle’s and Jonze’s works neither to celebrate them nor to merely illustrate her idea, but to criticize them for their contradictions and aesthetic shortcomings. The committee notes that Jagoe’s argument not only draws on lots of theoretical premises—e.g. materialism, Haraway’s cyborg theory—but synthesizes them towards a novel concept that is timely, that engages with popular texts and public discourse, and that holds intriguing promise as an emergent methodology.

Congratulations to Professor Jagoe!

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