Jeffrey Wallen

Professor of Comparative Literature
Hampshire College Professor Jeffrey Wallen
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Jeffrey Wallen
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Jeffrey Wallen is professor of comparative literature.

He has also taught as a visiting professor at the Free University Berlin and at the University of Toulouse, and has been the director of Hampshire's semester-long study abroad program. He has published widely on nineteenth- and twentieth-century European literature; on biography and literary portraiture; on testimony, Holocaust literature, and Berlin Jewish history; and on debates about education. His book Closed Encounters: Literary Politics and Public Culture was published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Some of his most recent publications are "Beckett in Time of Crisis," "Totem and Taboo: The Perverse Writings of Ka-Tzetnik 135633," "The Lure of the Archive: The Atlas Projects of Walid Raad," "Migrant Visions: The Scheunenviertel and Boyle Heights, Los Angeles," “Twemlow’s Abyss,” "Narrative Tensions: The Eyewitness and the Archive,” "Falling Under an Evil Influence," "The Death and Discontents of Theory," and "Sociable Robots und das Posthumane." He is currently working on a study of the archive in contemporary thought and art.

His teaching interests include 19th- and 20th-century comparative literature (German, French, British), critical theory, Holocaust Studies, modernism, Jewish Studies, psychoanalysis, and philosophy.

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Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • Translation is inherently an ethical and political act, involving inevitable misunderstandings and ambiguity. Things that can be said in one language cannot be neatly transferred into another. The translator works on the border of cultures as well as languages. This gap becomes even more difficult when translating across cultures that do not share the same basic concepts. The idea of translation as treachery is an old one. In this class we will read theoretical and practical works about translation, as well as fictional texts that foreground the task of the translator. We will also read poems and short prose texts in multiple translations, and practice our own translations, individually and also in groups. Each student will undertake a translation project. It would be helpful to know a language other than English, but this is *not* a requirement for taking the course. There will be several guest visits by translators. Keywords:Literature, Languages, Border Crossing, Multilingualism

  • More than 70 years after the end of World War II, the mass atrocity of the Holocaust continues to provoke a tremendous amount of responses. Scholarship, literature, film, survivor testimonies, memorials, and museum exhibitions continue to proliferate. In this course, we will explore the difficulties of grappling with the Holocaust, and of representing mass violence. How do different types of materials--historical studies, wartime diaries, documentary and feature films, material artifacts, graphic novels and fictional accounts, interviews with survivors and writings by perpetrators, artworks, memorials at sites of Holocaust violence and far removed from Europe--provide us with windows into understanding what happened then? What kinds of representations can still make us feel or think something new? Literature will be a central focus, but readings will include history and philosophy, and we'll look at films, art, and memorials. We'll explore material from the 1940s to the present day, and from a broad range of countries. Towards the end of the semester, we will also look at responses to other genocides of the last hundred years. Keywords: literature, film, history, art, genocide

  • In the early twentieth century, Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, and other writers radically transformed our notions of the novel, and of literature. In this class, we will explore the formal and geographic extremes of literary modernism, and examine how each of these writers challenge our familiarity and comfort in fiction, and attempt to reconceive the possibilities of the literary text. This course is affiliated with the Time and Narrative Learning Collaborative (LC). Among other questions we will be considering: How do these writers transform our perception of time, and reconceptualize our understanding of memory and "lost time"? Keyword: Literature

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  • In the late 19th century, when cities first became home for millions rather than thousands of people, many writers became fascinated with how people behave differently when part of a crowd or a "mass." What is the attraction of being part of a crowd? In the 20th century, the phenomenon of the crowd has become central to modern life, as people joined crowds in many circumstances: mass political movements, strikes, concerts, parades, protests, sporting events, rallies, religious gatherings. We will explore moments in the 20th century where the emergence of crowds has changed the course of history, but also how it has become part of ordinary life. We will look at works of literature and film, and explore the power and behavior of crowds through readings in psychology, political theory, journalism, and many other approaches. This course is affiliated with the Time and Narrative Learning Collaborative (LC). Among other questions, we will be considering: How does being part of a crowd change our sense of time?