2016 Essay Prize

This year, we were again in the fortunate position to be able to award two prizes for the Goethe Society Prize. Here are our two best essays on Goethe or the Goethezeit published in 2016, with congratulations to both authors! (See a list of previous award winners here.).

Gabrielle Bersier, “‘Hamiltonian-Hendelian’ Mimoplastics and Tableau of the Underworld: The Visual Aesthetics of Goethe’s 1815 Proserpina Production.” Goethe Yearbook 23 (2016): 171-94.

This essay pays fascinating and innovative attention to the visual aspects of the underworld monologue in the rather understudied play Proserpina. Bersier elegantly illuminates the transformation in the play from static pantomime (à la Emma Hamilton and her attitudes) to dance, and its overturning of former collaborator Böttiger’s Christian priorities for the art, thus providing a move into what she calls the proto-cinematic development of pantomime. She thereby also sheds new light on Goethe’s theater productions through his ongoing interest in mimoplastics and tableaux vivants.

Bryan Klausmeyer, “Fragmenting Fragments: Jean Paul’s Poetics of the Small in “Meine Miszellen.” Monatshefte 108.4 (Winter 2016): 485-509.

Bryan Klausmeyer’s scintillating article on Jean Paul and the genre of the miscellany convinced us that genre here is not a fixed genre but rather inherently a genre of non-genre producing monstrous or hybrid possibilities that exceed even the Romantic tendency to Gesamtkunstwerke as fragments. We also appreciated the careful attention this article paid both to the materiality of writing and to small or minor forms (countering Jean Paul’s reputation as an author of excruciatingly long novels). Minor forms are often underappreciated because they defy canon, yet as Bryan shows, anticipate modern tendencies such as serialization.

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