German Major Katie O’Leary ’25 Awarded National Essay Prize

20 December 2023

We are very proud to announce that German and Chemistry major Katie O’Leary ’25 was awarded the 2024 Alexander Stephan Undergraduate Essay Prize for a German Studies essay written in English, for her essay “Bodily Potential: Materialism and Trans-Corporeality in Ilse Aichinger’s ‘Mein Vater aus Stroh’.” Katie wrote the original draft of this essay for Seth Peabody’s CCST 245 class, “Meaning and Power: Introduction to Analytical Approaches in the Humanities.”

The prize committee was very impressed by the originality of Katie’s approach to Aichinger’s story, often seen in the context of German post-WWII literature, from a completely new angle, combining theories of trans-corporeality and material ecocriticism. Katie was able to uncover the critical potential of the figure of a human being made of straw and its connection with the environment and the challenge that it poses to common understandings of physical and temporal boundaries among humans and their natural environment. The award committee also very much enjoyed reading Katie’s elegant English prose!

Congratulations, Katie!