The Waterloo Centre for German Studies is pleased to announce the winner of its 2018 Book Prize. Disruptive Power: Catholic Women, Miracles, and Politics in Modern Germany, 1918-1965, written by Michael O'Sullivan and published by the University of Toronto Press, was selected from a shortlist of eight excellent academic works on German studies published in 2018.
The book tells the story of Therese Neumann, a Bavarian mystic who developed a cult following that lasted through the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, and the early years of the Federal Republic. By examining the revival of belief in Catholic miracles and its role in influencing many thinkers, politicians, and other actors, O'Sullivan is able to paint a nuanced and many-sided portrait of the local, religious, social and political history of 20th-century Germany.
Jury members were impressed by O'Sullivan's ambitious analysis and attention to a variety of issues that combine to offer a refined look at the complexity of German regional and religious identities. As one juror commented, "this is an important book - it makes a person think again about the larger narratives that have so long shaped the story of German culture and history." For another juror, the book's ability to "be seen as women’s history, or as a history of political and identity struggles of rural Germany in times of upheaval" makes it a valuable contribution to German studies. A "fascinating and engrossing read," Disruptive Power asks important questions about the relationship between religion and mainstream culture.
Michael O'Sullivan teaches a broad range of courses on European history at Marist College in New York. He earned his BA from Canisius College, and his MA and PhD from the University of North Carolina.
The WCGS Book Prize was established to raise awareness, within academia and the broader public, of the engaging and dynamic knowledge being produced by newer German Studies scholars. An international jury chaired by James M. Skidmore, Director of the Waterloo Centre of German Studies, made the selection. Other members of the jury were Ann Marie Rasmussen (University of Waterloo), Carrie Smith (University of Alberta), Karina Urbach (Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton), and Joachim Whaley (University of Cambridge). In addition to O'Sullivan's book, seven other studies were named to the WCGS Book Prize shortlist, a testament to the quality of scholarship in German studies.