The Space Between Society offers a prize for the best essay presented at our annual conference.
The winner of the 2016 essay prize was Paula Derdiger’s “Surveying the Space Between in Postwar Berlin: Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair.”
The Essay Prize Committee deliberated long and hard due to the high volume and excellence of the submissions, but they agreed that Paula’s was the pick of the “brilliant and compelling” crop and that it exemplifies the high quality of interdisciplinary scholarship that is the hallmark of the The Space Between.
One committee member stated: “Derdiger’s essay accomplishes a great deal in its interpretation of Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair in ways that strike me as deriving organically from a multi-faceted knowledge base. She grounds her definitions and discussion of surveillance in historical, political, social, and cinematic terms without any sign of strain or diffusing its meanings. Her reading shows surveillance to be an everyday occurrence in the film’s social and historical contexts and as a new perspective on film-making itself.”
Another observed: ‘Derdiger’s analysis of Billy Wilder’s film A Foreign Affair is nuanced and insightful; she elucidates the ambiguity of Wilder’s work, the “strangeness” of the film, by situating it within the larger context of de-Nazification and the reconstruction of Germany, and the role of cinema in those historical and political developments. Derdiger’s work speaks brilliantly to the theme of the 2016 conference, asserting that A Foreign Affair is “triply defined by surveillance”: the plot of the film revolves around the military and government surveillance that was so much a part of postwar interventions in Berlin on the part of the US; the film deploys an assortment of metacinematic strategies that invite the audience to participate in a kind of surveillance; and the film functions as a kind of “artifact” of Wilder’s own attempts to “survey” postwar Berlin. Derdiger’s knowledge of film, from the individual oeuvre of Billy Wilder to the particular phenomenon of “rubble films,” inform this piece most effectively, and her analysis is convincing and a pleasure to read . . .’
Past prize winners:
2015: Joseph Elkanah Rosenberg, “Paper Bombs.”
2014: Michael Williamson, “Doubled Crossings: Yiddish Writers Respond to the Treaty of Non-Aggression Between Germany and Russia.”
2013: Katherine Brucher, “Henry Ford’s ‘Old-fashioned’ Dancing and ‘Early American’ Music: Americanization through Music and Dance.”
2012: Naomi Milthorpe, “Absolute Possession: Evelyn Waugh’s Library.”