A German Classic: E.T.A. Hoffmann's 'Der Sandmann'
An Essay Prize for Sixth-Formers
1st Prize: £500 2nd Prize: £300 3rd Prize: £100
Deadline: Wednesday 11 September 2019, 12 noon
We are delighted to announce the launch of the third round of 'A German Classic' – our essay competition for sixth-form students. This year we would like to invite you to read with us E.T.A. Hoffmann's 'Der Sandmann' (1816) – one of the most captivating short stories in German literature and a masterpiece of Gothic fiction. Hoffmann's eerie and mysterious tale centres on a young, impressionable student called Nathanael, who becomes convinced that he is pursued by a shadowy figure called Coppelius. Filled with Doppelgänger, mechanical dolls, alchemistic experiments, inexplicable fires, uncanny optical toys, and misaddressed letters, 'Der Sandmann' explores the power of the imagination as it erupts into a dark obsession. We have put together a free study pack, including a set of multimedia materials, that will help you delve into this fascinating text. We will guide you through topics ranging from the best party tricks around 1800 to Sigmund Freud's revolutionary theories about the human psyche to a cult film made in 1950s Britain which testifies to the enduring cultural appeal of Hoffmann's stories.
For all details about eligibility, study packs, essay questions, submission, judging criteria, and more, see here.
We encourage all students interested in entering the competition to email their UK correspondence address to the Prize Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 12 noon on 10 June to receive a free study pack. If you get in touch after 10 June, we cannot guarantee to send you a full study pack, but will at least email a copy of our secondary literature reader to you.
You can also have a look at these free online resources:
- Our podcast series on 'Der Sandmann': we recorded these four conversations between Oxford professors and students especially for this competition.
- An introduction to Hoffmann: this is a great website about German literature with very readable, short entries written by scholars.
- The German text of 'Der Sandmann' online
- Audiobook in German
- Audiobook in English
- Sommers Weltliteratur to go: this is a popular German YouTube channel that retells famous books in short videos using action figures. Don't worry if you can't even begin to keep up with Michael Sommer's German - he speaks extraordinarily fast and uses slang and specialised allusions. But you should be able to work out who the Playmobil gigures are!
- The Royal Opera’s introduction to their production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann
- Mark Kermode’s introduction to Powell’s and Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffman