deutsch  englisch  

Subproject C5

Ritualization as a Means of Literary Canon-Building: Modernist Literature and its Rituals

Department and Research Field: General Literary Studies (Germanic Studies)
Subproject C5 has been concluded December 31, 2005.

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Dietrich Harth
Department of Germanic Studies
Hauptstr. 207-209
69117 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 32 07 or  +49 (0) 6221 - 71 24 26

Associate Professor Dr. Burckhard Dücker
Department of Germanic Studies
Hauptstr. 207-209
69117 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 32 07


Dr. Judith Ulmer

Project Program

Based on our systematic approach and the results of the first funding phase we will study the development, function and effectiveness of public awarding rituals in the modernist literary and cultural field.


We will examine awarding rituals, which provide public attention and recognition to producers and promoters of symbolic goods in their role as representatives of common values.


Compared to other events, the awards under examination all share a stage design and are all issued by institutions who benefit in return from the opportunity for regular public self-portrayal. This fact lets the ritualized acts appear as a strategic means for making one's mark by promoting someone else's name.


Taking the new founded DekaBank Award and the Siegfried Unseld Prize as examples, we will inquire the circumstances that prompt the agents of an institution to endow a ritualized awarding.


According to our hypothesis, symbolic acts support instrumental-rational actions in order to achieve a defined goal. The institutions seem to revise the performance, when the ritual fails to obtain the expected media acceptance. This assumption is encouraged by the announcements of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels about their plans to change the Deutscher Bücherpreis to Deutscher Buchpreis.


We expect deep insight about the public acceptance of genuine literature-promoting TV programs, the positioning of the laureates in the literary field and about the function of an institution's presence in awarding rituals as a segment of public attention.


Taking the Christian Wagner Prize as an example, we will study the atmospheric agency of cultural tradition. We will approach the questions about the importance of the name giver and possible relations between the effort put into the performance and the prize's chance to position in the literary field. Furthermore, we will investigate the chances of the name giver's and awardee's inclusion in the literary canon.


The Joseph Breitbach Prize awarded by the Mainzer Akademie will be included to compare ritualized literary awarding initiated by traditional cultural institutions, literature societies and commercial enterprises.


A dissertation project about Friedrich Hölderlin is dedicated to the research on the cult of poets. Besides the existing Hölderlin awards it also includes historic forms of quasi-religious adoration of poets based on "genius religion" and "cultural nation".

Main Topics