Melissa Elliot, who earned a Ph.D. in German Studies from Michigan State University, recently was awarded the Women in German Dissertation Prize for her dissertation, Forgotten Notes: Narrative Film Music in DEFA Cinema.
As the winner, Elliot received a $500 award and a certificate of recognition that was conferred at the 2021 Women in German Conference. Dissertations were evaluated based on contribution to the current dialogue in the field and its demonstrated innovative scholarship.
“I feel so honored to have received this prize and see it as confirmation that my work is new and exciting and has relevance to the field,” Elliot said.
Forgotten Notes: Narrative Film Music in DEFA Cinema challenges the notion that music in narrative film, specifically in East German film adaptations, functions solely as a mood-setting tactic. The political realities of the East German state, where expressive language was externally censored, laid the groundwork to explore how music contributes subtle, extra-linguistic qualities to film in order to address controversial topics.
I feel so honored to have received this prize and see it as confirmation that my work is new and exciting and has relevance to the field.
“I would describe the experience of writing my dissertation as a mix of times of motivation and inspiration with periods of slog and persistence when things got more difficult,” Elliot said. “Working closely with my advisor, Dr. Liz Mittman, made the process much more enjoyable and the direction and mentorship she provided was invaluable for the overall shape and success of my project. Furthermore, much of this dissertation was written during the COVID pandemic with a 1-year-old at home, which came with challenges all on its own.”
Elliot now works as an Assistant Professor of German and German Studies at Wheaton College. While writing her dissertation, she was an Adjunct Professor of German at Calvin College and a Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant at MSU. Her research interests also include how music functions in film adaptations of novels to further interpret the source text. She addresses this topic in her article, No Need for Words: The Role of Music in Volker Schlöndorff’s Der junge Törleß, published in Literature/Film Quarterly.
My time spent at MSU gave me all the tools I needed to be successful in the job market and to prepare me for my position at Wheaton.
“My time spent at MSU gave me all the tools I needed to be successful in the job market and to prepare me for my position at Wheaton,” Elliot said. “I am thankful for all of the wonderful professors in the German program and the exceptional training and mentorship they provided.”
Elliot has a B.A. in German Language and Literature from Calvin College and an M.A. in German Language and Literature from Wayne State University. While earning her M.A., she studied at Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München in Germany. Elliot has worked as a German Linguist and Data Analyst for Digital Reasoning, where she annotated German/English text for linguistic devices to train machine learning classifiers for syntactic parsing. She also worked as a translator for Fellowship Bible Church, where she translated for German attendees at the church’s Global Summit seminar.