Characters Before Copyright: The Rise and Regulation of Fan Fiction in Eighteenth-Century Germany, written by Matthew H. Birkhold and published by Oxford University Press, was declared the winner for the best first book, published in 2019. The award also includes a $3,000 CAD cash prize.
Birkhold, associate professor of German at Ohio State University, explored the popularity and frequent practice of writing fan fiction in 18th-century Germany. In doing so, he discussed several other themes like the nature of publishing, the development of a reading public, the conventions that evolved to define intellectual property rights, and specifically copyright issues surrounding fan fiction that are prevalent even today.
The jurors praised Birkhold for being able to draw “connections to today’s copyright questions such as Star Wars and Harry Potter.”
The jury was composed of German Studies scholars – including Ann Marie Rasmussen from UW, Joachim Whaley from the University of Cambridge, and Stephan Jaeger from the University of Manitoba – and was chaired by James M. Skidmore, Director of the Waterloo Centre of German Studies (WCGS).
Out of twenty nominations, six other books won a place on the shortlist, which illustrates the quality and range of German studies today:
- Kata Gellen. Kafka and Noise: The Discovery of Cinematic Sound in Literary Modernism. Northwestern University Press.
- Seth Howes. Moving Images on the Margins: Experimental Film in Late Socialist East Germany. Camden House.
- Richard N. Lutjens, Jr. Submerged on the Surface: The Not-So-Hidden Jews of Nazi Berlin, 1941–1945. Berghahn Books.
- Philipp Nielsen. Between Heimat and Hatred: Jews and the Right in Germany, 1871–1935. Oxford University Press.
- Zef M. Segal. The Political Fragmentation of Germany: Formation of German States by Infrastructures, Maps, and Movement, 1815–1866. Palgrave.
- Tyler Whitney. Eardrums: Literary Modernism as Sonic Warfare. Northwestern University Press.
Nominations for the WCGS Prize for books published in 2020 are open until Mar. 31, 2021. Information regarding eligibility and nomination procedures is available on the WCGS Book Prize website and questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.