The 2012 American Studies Network Book Prize

The prize this year goes to Ground Zero Fiction: History, Memory, and Representation in the 9/11 Novel (Winter, Heidelberg, 2011), in which Birgit Däwes investigates how novelists over the past decade have tried to come to terms with an event that has impacted the public consciousness of the West in an unprecedented way. She welcomes the fact that her material has become superabundant and very diverse, and that our attention may have become dulled by overexposure, because they have induced novelists to become more reflective, nuanced, and creative in their treatments. In her book, Birgit Däwes analyses dozens of novels employing a variety of critical approaches and develops a comprehensive typology of this new subgenre of fiction – a typology which is oriented at the different intellectual, epistemological, and aesthetic functions performed by these works. We are bound to admire the fresh, lively, inquiring spirit with which she conducts her investigation. Not driven by a particular agenda, she rather desires to give the different fictional and critical approaches their full sway, probably in the understanding that the culture at large – in its effort to grapple with 9/11 – will profit from such plenitude and diversity. The book gives the reader a sense of participating in a comprehensive intellectual and cultural debate. In mapping the field of Ground Zero Fiction, Birgit Däwes has conducted pioneer scholarly work that will help to guide scholars and readers for years to come. But she has also written an engaging and intellectually generous book that draws our attention to the powerful resources provided by literature and criticism encouraging us to gain a more balanced view of how our culture comes to terms with such a momentous event as 9/11.

Complete presentation on the 2012 Book Prize by Professor Philip John Davies, President, European Association for American Studies, on announcing the prize at Izmir, March 29, 2012 (pdf)

The 2010 Book Prize (pdf)