Presented by H. Sullivan, Vice President of the Goethe Society of North America, with special thanks to our wonderful Directors-at-Large, Vance Byrd and Eleanor Ter Horst.
We are delighted to bestow two of the annual GSNA essay prizes this year for work published in 2018, one honorable mention, and one prize for the Richard Sussman Award for an essay on Goethe’s science.
Bettina Brandt, “Taming Foreign Speech: Language Politics in Shadow Plays around 1800,” German Studies Review 41.2 (2018): 355-372.
Brandt’s essay focuses on the intersection of popular visual and performance culture and German literature in the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic period. She explores questions of cross-cultural transmission, changing circumstances of performance, and politics surrounding the shift from early modern multilingualism to Romantic monolingualism, reinforced by a growing emphasis on nationalism. Brandt examines the international circulation of shadow plays while questioning the standard ethnonational paradigms of writing media history with her transnational perspective on trends in the performance of Turkish and European plays. The German writers and philologists featured in this article—she analyzes primarily three shadow plays by Achim von Arnim, Christian Brentano, and Ludwig Tieck—were engaging with a rapidly evolving global media culture in which the movement of multilingual people and mixed-media performances could be harnessed for political ends. Her valuable contribution to media history and theory before the advent of photography and cinema inspire us to conduct research that takes seriously how literature around 1800 operated in broader global media ecologies.
Heidi Schlipphacke, “Kinship and Aesthetic Depth: The Tableau Vivant in Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften,” Publications of the English Goethe Society 87.3 (2018): 147-165.
Schlipphacke beautifully elucidates the feature of Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften that has inspired so many debates among Goethe’s readers and critics: the extensive descriptions of performances of tableaux vivants. Schlipphacke convincingly links the hybrid aesthetics of the tableau vivant with the simultaneous presence of premodern and modern genres in Goethe’s novel, and with the coexistence of two models of kinship: the premodern extended family and the modern bourgeois nuclear family. Building on the work of Hegel, she describes these performances as a “coming together or collision of heterogeneous elements” which bring our attention to provocative questions of “natural” and material. Her essay is a truly excellent intervention in literary and philosophical reflections as well as visual and performance culture debates on the novel, particularly with its clarity regarding the importance of evolving and competing notions of kinship and subjectivity in this period.
Honorable Mention: Jessica C. Resvick, “Repetition and Textual Transmission: The Gothic Motif in Goethe’s Faust and “Von deutscher Baukunst,” Goethe Yearbook XXV (2018): 133-160.
Resvick’s essay provides yet another example of how scholarship on the Goethezeit benefits from interdisciplinary approaches and sustained attention to literary form. Her essay examines the role of the Gothic, both as an architectural feature and as a more general aesthetic motif, in Goethe’s writings. Linking two of Goethe’s essays on Gothic architcture with the repetition or reappearance of Gothic motifs in Faust, Resvick skillfully draws out the implications of the Gothic for Goethe’s ideas about cultural transmission. She successfully brings together the intersections of architectural theory, print and visual culture, as well as close readings of Goethe to provide exciting new ways to think about aesthetic production and cultural transmission.
Claudia Kreklau, “Travel, Technology, and Theory: The Aesthetics of Ichthyology during the Second Scientific Revolution,” German Studies Review 41.3 (2018): 589-610.
Kreklau’s fascinating article asks us to consider how natural scientists collected, drew, and disseminated knowledge about foreign fish species transformed in the long nineteenth century. Highly innovative and beautifully illustrated, her interdisciplinary essay paints a picture of global scientific trade in fish specimens that expands our understanding of observation and collection, philosophical thought on beauty, epistemological challenges of studying the seemingly threatening life in the deep sea, as well as the print culture and illustration processes. Ichthyology, in her persuasive account, provides new ways of thinking about nature and truth in the period. Moving from Kant’s declaration of the “horrible” ocean to the slow development of ichthyology, Kreklau’s links the fields of scientific inquiry, aesthetics and the development of aquariums throughout Europe, demonstrating closely artistic representation and the invention of new technologies for reproducing art were tied to the development of scientific ideas.