Elisabeth Bronfen Former Senior Fellow

Elisabeth Bronfen
April - July 2017


Elisabeth Bronfen is Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Zürich and, since 2007, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. She did her B.A. at Radcliffe College and her M.A. at Harvard University. She completed her PhD at the University of Munich, on literary space in the work of Dorothy M. Richardson's novel Pilgrimage, and her habilitation, five years later, on representations of femininity and death. She was a Mellon Faculty Fellow at Harvard University (1987-88), a Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor at Columbia University (1997, 2000), a Whitney J. Oates Short-Term Fellow of the council of the Humanities at Princeton (1995), a S.W. Brooks Visiting Lecturer at the University of Queensland (2003), and had a residency at the Louise Bourgeois Studio (2010). She has been a visiting professor at Sheffield Hallam University, University of Odense, University of Copenhagen, Catholic University in Lisbon. Since 2012 she has been a member of the Academia Europaea. In 2017 she was awarded the Martin Warnke-Medal by the Aby-Warburg Stiftung.

Dated from 2017

Fields of research

British and American Studies 19th through early 21st century. The cultural afterlife of Shakespeare and early modern drama in opera, cinema and t.v. Literary and culture theory, visual culture and intermediality, gender studies, psychoanalysis.

IKKM Research Project

Serial Shakespeare

My project "Serial Shakespeare" treats this oeuvre as a set of variations on character configurations, thematic constellations and rhetorical strategies. Individual texts, regulated by the rules of genre, play through different psychological, ideological and aesthetic positions. Revisiting Shakespeare in relation to a poetics of seriality means thinking together repetition and difference. Reading Shakespeare serially thus involves strategies of condensation and displacement but also dispersal as discussed by Freud in relation to fantasy work. A hermeneutic approach which serially maps one text onto others in the process of tracing thematic or figural analogies and lines of correspondences itself also has recourse to an operative practice. Reading this oeuvre in terms of seriality draws attention to the fact that each singular play gives shape again, thus producing something different in the process. Seriality, however, also allows for a transhistorical and transmedia line of association between Shakespeare's early modern dramatic imagination and contemporary media culture. With Mieke Bal's notion of doing history preposterously in mind, I propose looking at the historically previous set of Shakespeare plays through the lens of their subsequent recyclings (20th century cinema, contemporary quality t.v.). My concern is not the history of theatrical performances, nor, strictly speaking that of cinematic adaptations. Instead, crossmapping contemporary and early modern shapings of cultural concerns follows on what Stanley Cavell has proposed as a philosophical conversation. At issue is not only isolating and relating events for which significance needs to be assigned in each set of texts. Rather, looking at the Shakeseparean text in relation to its subsequent recylings also alters our understanding of the earlier text. The signification uncovered in this two-way correspondence is also the effect of serial thinking. By begining with the transhistorical and transmedia condensation of a series of texts, crossmapping seeks to take the differences into account whose articulation and visibility is an effect of reading serially. Revisiting the Shakespearean oeuvre in relation to seriality is, thus, operative on three levels: looking at the serial configurations in and construction of individual plays, treating a complete set of texts as a series, and bringing this oeuvre into conversation with several series of 20th centural films or t.v. shows.

Selected publications

Mad Men, Death and the American Dream (Diaphanes 2016),
Night Passages. Philosophy, Literature,and Film (Columbia University Press 2013),
Specters of War. Hollywood's Engagement with Military Conflict (Rutgers University Press 2012),
Crossmappings. Essays zur visuellen Kultur (Scheidegger und Spiess 2009),
Stanley Cavell. Zur Einführung (Junius Verlag 2009).

Edited books
Noch einmal Anders. Zu Einer Poetik des Seriellen, co-edited (Diaphanes 2016).
Eine Amerikanerin in Hitlers Badewanne. Lee Miller, Martha Gellhorn und Margaret Bourke-White, co-edited (Hoffmann und Campe)

"Screening and disclosing fantasy: rear projection in Hitchcock" (Screen 56:1 Spring 2015),
"Shakespeare's Wire" in Amerikanische Fernsehserien der Gegenwart, eds. Christoph Ernst and Heike Paul (Transkript 2015)