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World Historian Student Essay Competition

Louis Pelzer Memorial Award

DEADLINE: APPLICATIONS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY NOVEMBER 30, 2017

"The comments from the Pelzer committee really helped not only my essay published in the JAH but also the larger book. I wanted to express my gratitude to the JAH." [Hidetaka Hirota, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of History, The City College of New York, CUNY; 2012 OAH Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Recipient]

The Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Committee of the Organization of American Historians invites candidates for graduate degrees to submit essays for the Louis Pelzer Memorial Award competition. Essays may deal with any period or topic in the history of the United States. The winning essay will be published in the Journal of American History.

Essays, including footnotes, should not exceed 10,000 words. The electronic version of the essay should be sent to jahms@oah.org with “2018 Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Entry” noted in the subject line, and one hard copy should be submitted to the address below. Because manuscripts are judged anonymously, the author’s name and graduate program should appear only on a separate cover page.

The award will be presented at the 2018 OAH Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California, April 12–14.

The winning essay will be published in the Journal of American History.

Significance of the subject matter, literary craftsmanship, and competence in the handling of evidence are some of the factors that will be considered in judging the essays. The deadline for submitting an essay for consideration is November 30, 2017.

Manuscripts should be clearly labeled "2018 Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Entry," postmarked by November 30, 2017, and addressed to:

Benjamin H. Irvin, Executive Editor, OAH/Editor, Journal of American History
(Chair, 2018 Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Committee)
Journal of American History
1215 East Atwater Avenue
Bloomington IN 47401

The final decision will be made by the Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Committee by February 2018. The winner will be provided with details regarding the OAH Annual Meeting and awards presentation.

Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Committee

Benjamin H. Irvin, Executive Editor, OAH/Editor, Journal of American History (Chair)
Lauren Araiza, Denison University
Margot Minardi, Reed College
Christopher W. Wells, Macalester College

DEADLINE: APPLICATIONS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY NOVEMBER 30, 2017

List of Past Winners

The GSA Prize for the Best Essay in German Studies by a Graduate Student

This prize is awarded to the best unpublished, article-length manuscript written by a graduate student during the previous year. Manuscripts may be submitted in English or German, and must not have been published in any form or have been accepted for publication. The prize winner is recognized at the annual banquet of the GSA, and a revised version of the essay will be published in German Studies Review.

2018 Deadline Set

The prize for the Best Essay in German Studies by a Graduate Student will again be awarded in 2018. Thedeadline for nominations and submissions is 15 March 2018. Papers should be 6,000-9,000 words in length. The winner will be published in the German Studies Review.  Nominations and submissions should besent to the committee chair, Professor Margaret Lewis (History; University of Tennessee, Martin, mlewis47@utm.edu). The other members of the committee are Professor Holly Yanacek (German, James Madison University) and Peter Yoder (History, Independent Scholar).

2017 Winner Announced

Graduate Student Essay Prize for 2017

The winner is Claudia Kreklau (Emory University), for her essay on “Travel, Technology, and Theory: The Aesthetics of Ichthyology during the Second Scientific Revolution.” It will be published in a forthcoming issue of the German Studies Review.

Here is the prize committee’s laudatio:

On behalf of the GSA Committee charged with deciding the 2017 Graduate Student Essay Prize, we are delighted to present the Committee’s choice of the essay, “Travel, Technology, and Theory: The Aesthetics of Ichthyology during the Second Scientific Revolution, by Claudia Kreklau, Emory University. The decision was very easy, with all judges independently coming to the same verdict.

Most immediately, the essay stood out for its clear organization, its accessible, lucid writing, and its deep level of research. Each of the reviewers independently noted that they could understand this essay even though the topic was beyond their own area of expertise. I would like to highlight that this—understandability—was a key reason for the unanimous nomination, because presenting research such that a wide audience can follow and find it interesting is a skill that is sometimes underappreciated in the academic world. Yet Claudia Kreklau achieved just that, and we hope she will continue to nurture that skill as she advances in her career.

The essay posits that knowledge of the world was tied to three things—world travel, technology, and aesthetics—specifically using the example of fish/fishes, and how knowledge and appreciation of fish/fishes increased during the second scientific revolution around 1800. For the overwhelming majority of human existence, the sea was perceived as threatening, and creatures inhabiting that world below water were seen as ugly and horrid. Early naturalists encountered fish only in their dead form—slimy, pale, and smelly—and so it is not surprising that early representations of fish, in books, for instance, reflect that unpleasant perception. However, as this essay shows, between 1780 and 1840, perceptions of fish changed. Technological advances in printing with color plates contributed to that, as it became possible to depict fish in life-like colors. Advances in seafaring technology and underwater exploration, making travel safer and allowing more easily to observe fish alive in their natural surroundings surely were just as important for this shift in attitudes.

The essay is based on a wealth of records and sources from all across Europe, including publications, scientific cabinet collections, and travel accounts. Whether one comes from the angle of the historian, or literary scholar, or naturalist, this essay offers innovative and persuasive perspectives on the intersection of the natural world with technology and human intervention. As Keklau shows, the emerging perception of the natural world shows many parallels in different cultural settings. Characteristic for central Europe is that here, attitudes toward the natural world were shaped by aesthetics and romanticism more than elsewhere in Europe.

Prize Committee: Professors Almut Spalding (Illinois College, chair), Margaret Lewis (University of Tennessee, Martin), and Jeffrey Luppes (Indiana University, South Bend).

 

2016 Winner Announced

The GSA is proud to announce that this year's Graduate Student Paper Prize for the best paper in German Studies written in 2014-15 is awarded to Ariana Orozco, University of Michigan (now at Kalamazoo College): "The Objects of Remembrance: Jenny Erpenbeck’s Short Stories Alongside Contemporary Exhibitions of East German Material Culture." The essay will be published in a future issue of the German Studies Review. The GSA congratulates her for her excellent achievement and thanks the selection committee for its outstanding work.

Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:

Ariana Orozco's well-argued and well-formulated essay, “The Objects of Remembrance: Jenny Erpenbeck’s Short Stories Alongside Contemporary Exhibitions of East German Material Culture” compares memory practices and objects of everyday life in museum exhibits and literature. Contrasting the 2012 exhibit “Fokus DDR” at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin and the 2011 exhibit “aufgehobene Dinge” at the Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR in Eisenhüttenstadt, the essay also demonstrates how Jenny Erpenbeck's two short story collections Tand (2001) and Dinge, die verschwinden (2009) narrate everyday life in East Germany through material culture and the intrusion of personal memory.

2015 Winner Announced

The GSA is proud to announce that this year's Graduate Student Paper Prize for the best paper in German Studies written in 2013-14 is awarded to Katharina Isabel Schmidt (Yale University) for her paper “Unmasking ‘American Legal Exceptionalism’: German Free Lawyers, American Legal Realists, and the Transatlantic Turn to ‘Life’, 1903-33.” Ms. Randall's paper will be published in a future issue of the German Studies Review. The GSA congratulates her for her excellent achievement and thanks the selection committee for its outstanding work.

Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:

Katharina Isabel Schmidt’s paper “Unmasking ‘American Legal Exceptionalism”: German Free Lawyers, American Legal Realists and the Transatlantic Turn to ‘Life’, 1903-33,” employs a transnational methodology/transatlantic gaze to historicize the paradigm of American legal exceptionalism by way of comparing the American Legal Realist movement of the late 1920s, credited with fundamentally transforming American legal theory and practice, with the German Free Lawyers, a partially parallel reformist movement which failed to develop a comparable impact on the jurisprudential mainstream. The exploration of this configuration, and the factors contributing to it, is hugely impressive in its intellectual breadth and depth. Schmidt’s complex argumentation attends to political, socio-historical and institutional factors alike, and her sovereign presentation combines both broad historical strokes with attention to individual texts and transatlantic reception processes. With its transnational and transdisciplinary reach, this paper is exemplary for the kind of scholarship the German Studies Association aims to foster.

2014 Winner Announced

The GSA is proud to announce that this year's Graduate Student Paper Prize for the best paper in German Studies written in 2012-13 is awarded to Amanda Randall (University of Texas at Austin) for her paper "Austrian Trümmerfilm: What a Genre’s Absence Reveals about National Postwar Cinema and Film Studies." The prize selection committee was chaired by Professor Katherine Aaslestad (History, University of West Virginia). The other committee members are Professor Daniel Magilow (German Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville) and Professor Larry Ping (History, Southern Utah University). Ms. Randall's paper will be published in a future issue of the German Studies Review. The GSA congratulates her for her excellent achievement and thanks the selection committee for its outstanding work.

Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:

Amanda Randall's original, well-framed and comparative essay on post-war German and Austrian film “Austrian Trümmerfilm: What a Genre’s Absence Reveals about National Postwar Cinema and Film Studies” re-conceptualizes the genre of Trümmerfilm and highlights the scholarly biases about divisions between national cinemas.  In addressing a relatively under-explored area of film history falling between the Third Reich and the new German cinema of the 1960s, Randall’s essay offers a compelling argument for a comparative re-reading of German and Austrian cinemas that pays attention to “their aesthetic, narrative, and symbolic strategies, as well as their conditions of production and undergirding ideologies.” Ms. Randall demonstrates that such an approach enables us to expand the concept of Trümmerfilm and with it, the scope of postwar film history. Her well-written essay carefully considers both German and Austrian historiography clearly pointing out the artificial divisions cultivated by national scholarship and the conventional periodization of Trümmerfilm as she reframes the category of analysis to extend its analytical possibilities.  Ms. Randall provides strong evidence of wartime and post-war devastation represented in both national cinemas to seek a broader understanding of post-war film that understands Trümmerfilm as that which connects the audience to the war experience in order to foster a comparative cultural analysis.

2013 Winner Announced

The GSA is proud to announce that the winner of this year's Graduate Student Paper Prize for the best paper in German Studies written in 2012-13 is awarded to Carl Gelderloos (Cornell University) for his paper "Simply Reproducing Reality: Brecht, Benjamin, and Renger Patzsch on Photography." The prize selection committee was chaired by Professor Anthony Steinhoff, Université de Montréal. The other members were Professors Perry Myers, Albion College, and Maiken Umbach, University of Nottingham. Mr. Gelderloos's paper will be published in a future issue of the German Studies Review. The GSA congratulates him for his excellent achievement and thanks the selection committee for its outstanding work.

Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:

With his well crafted and insightful essay, "Simply Reproducing Reality: Brecht, Benjamin, and Renger Patzsch on Photography," Carl Gelderloos casts new light on contemporary debates over visual culture by reassessing some of the initial discussions on aesthetics, visual representation and technology during that iconic moment of cultural modernity, Weimar Germany. Highlighting the central place of a self consciously modern photography in Weimar era discourses on aesthetics and culture, Mr. Gelderloos brilliantly constructs a debate between Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht, on the one hand, and a noted proponent of Neue Sachlichkeit in photography, Albert Ranger Patzsch, on the other, in order to expose the considerable reluctance of Weimar's cultural critics to embrace photography as a form of modern art and as an acceptable medium for representing reality. A fascinating contribution to our understandings of the conceptualization of nature and technology, with important implications for scholars of film, literature and theater, Mr. Gelderloos's essay also sharpens our awareness of the considerable gains, but also challenges, involved in bringing photography into the practice of writing history.

2012 Winner Announced

The GSA is proud to announce that the winner of this year’s Graduate Student Paper Prize for the best paper in German Studies written in 2011-12 is awarded to Ari Linden (Cornell University), for his paper “Beyond Repetition: Karl Kraus’s ‘Absolute Satire’.”

The prize selection committee was chaired by Professor Kathrin Bower (University of Richmond), and included Professors Jennifer Miller (Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville) and Zoe Lang (University of South Florida). Mr. Linden’s paper will be published in a future issue of German Studies Review. The GSA congratulates him for his excellent achievement and thanks the selection committee for its outstanding work.

Here is the text of the committee’s laudatio:

"The 2012 GSA Graduate Student Essay Prize committee is pleased to announce the winner of this year’s competition: Ari Linden (Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University) for his paper “Beyond Repetition: Karl Kraus’s ‘Absolute Satire’.” In his sophisticated and well-argued essay, Mr. Linden contrasts Karl Kraus’s dismissal of Heinrich Heine's writing as inauthentic satire with his praise for the work of Johann Nestroy in order to illuminate Kraus's concept of "absolute satire." For Kraus, satire must exceed the historical moment in which it was conceived so as to retain its currency over time, a quality he attributes to Nestroy but not to Heine. Linden then turns to Kraus’s Die letzten Tage der Menschheit to explore Kraus’s own approach to satirical writing. Linden reads Die letzten Tage both as a satirical indictment of World War I and as a kind of handbook on satire as a literary form. He deftly combines a judicious selection of theoretical positions to evaluate Kraus’s use of satire as well as the criticisms leveled against him. Linden’s paper offers precisely the kind of historically contextualized, theoretically grounded, and critically astute analysis that characterizes the best German Studies scholarship and the committee congratulates Mr. Linden on his excellent work."