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Emily Graf receives Ruprecht-Karls prize for dissertation

Dec 11, 2019

Emily Mae Graf, former member of the Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies, was awarded the Ruprecht-Karls-Prize for her doctoral dissertation “Lu Xun on Display: Memory, Space and Media in the Making of World Literary Heritage”. The award ceremony took place on November 9, 2019 in the Alte Aula of Heidelberg University.

Emily Mae Graf´s doctoral dissertation “Lu Xun on Display: Memory, Space and Media in the Making of World Literary Heritage or the Materiality of World Literary Heritage: Memory, Space and Media in the Making of Lu Xun” is located at the intersection of modern Sinology and Transcultural Studies. Her thesis analyzes author museums as microcosms of production and reproduction of culture, arguing that they are tangible spaces that reflect both the reception of an author within one cultural sphere and the transcultural nature of the production of a literary hero.

In particular, Graf examines social practices of commemorating writers as cultural heroes in memorial museums from a global perspective, placing the institutionalization of the Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881-1936) at the center of her investigation. She approaches the existence of literary heroes as a social reality, arguing that the author-as-hero as he is mediated and commemorated in museum space forms a Second Body of the writer beyond his mortal physical one. Because this Second Body has proven resilient to critical approaches, Graf goes beyond such a critical approach; her research does not aim at unmasking the differences between the writer’s representation and the writer as an historical figure, but rather at inquiring why these differences occur and how they affect a society’s memory of a particular writer. Along with Lu Xun, two other representatives of left-wing literature —Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) and Lai He (1894-1943) —constitute the focus of her research. Taking into account the interdependencies and inequalities within world literature, Graf investigates how the display of one writer is connected to other writers in memorial museums around the globe.

The Ruprecht-Karls-Prize is awarded annually by the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg to the best five doctoral theses of the athenaeum. The foundation rewards outstanding scholarly research in all disciplines with a grant of 3,000 € per dissertation. The jury, appointed by the Board of the University of Heidelberg on the recommendation of the rector, is chaired by Prof. dr. Bernd Schneidmüller.

Find the 2019 Ruprecht-Karls-Prize ceremony invitation, which took place on November 9, here.

Excerpt of the laudatio:

Frau Grafs Dissertation bietet eine mutige und innovative Lesart lokaler und globaler Formen des Schaffens, Veränderns und Vergessens nationaler Schriftsteller durch die Institution des Museums als Gedenkstätte. Beispiel ist der chinesische Schriftsteller Lu Xun (1881-1936). Frau Graf gelingt ein präziser Blick auf die materielle Kultur und auf größere Zusammenhänge, in denen musealisierte Objekte kulturelles Gedächtnis schaffen, ändern und sogar vernichten können. Die Choreographie der Musemsobjekte ist in dieser Dissertation Indikator für politische und ideologische Wetterlagen und umbrüche. Zwischen Propaganda und Bildungspolitik wird so das differenzierte Bild einer aufstrebenden und sich drastisch verändernden Nation gezeichnet. Zweite große Stärke der Dissertation ist die Hebung einer lokalen Mikrogeschichte auf die Ebene globaler Weltliteratur und globaler Erinnerungskulturen. Ihre Vergleiche erlauben es Emily Mae Graf, für die zumeist nordamerikanisch oder europäisch dominierte Diskussion über Weltliteratur einen alternativen Denkraum einzufordern und diesen zu eröffnen.

Dr. Emily Mae Graf studied Sinology at Heidelberg University. In 2018, she completed her doctorate at the former Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” within the Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies (GPTS). Until 2018, she was Assistentin/ assistant professor at the Institute of Chinese Studies of Heidelberg University and postdoctoral coordinator of the project on “Recalibrating Culture” (Field of Focus 3). She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Chinese Studies of the Freie Universität Berlin.



  • Graf at the ceremony of award, © Christoph Bastert