Dr Matthew Boswell

Dr Matthew Boswell


I joined the University of Leeds in 2012. I obtained my PhD on Holocaust poetry, my MA in Holocaust Studies, and my BA (Hons) in English Literature from the University of Sheffield.


  • Director of Impact

Research interests

My research focuses on the cultural memory of the Holocaust and other atrocities. I held an AHRC Leadership Fellowship for a project entitled Virtual Holocaust Memory, which considers the changing shape of Holocaust memory in the digital age, and I currently hold an AHRC/ EPSRC award for a follow-on project entitled Virtual Holocaust Memoryscapes.

In my monograph Holocaust Impiety in Literature, Popular Music and Film (2012) I discuss provocative responses to the Holocaust by non-victims, arguing that while such works are often shocking, the value of shock should not be lightly dismissed. Drawing on the philosopher Gillian Rose's criticisms of what she terms 'Holocaust piety' and its claim that the only possible response to the Holocaust is a respectful silence, the book considers how irreverent works of fiction play an important role in shaping our contemporary understanding of the Holocaust and also ourselves.

Other research interests include the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the globalisation of Holocaust memory, and intersections between the memories of traumatic histories. I am part of the Transnational Holocaust Memory research cluster, which leads an ongoing collaboration with the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation. This collaboration has led to a range of research projects and public engagement activities, including the AHRC-funded project Mobilising Multidirectional Memory to Build More Resilient Communities in South Africa and a major public event programme at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre entitled Remembering Holocaust and Genocide in the Digital Age.

I collaborate with a wide range of arts and heritage organisations in my work, from Holocaust museums to Opera North. I am a member of the Academic Advisory Board for the National Holocaust Centre and Museum and I have led a number of training events for the Holocaust Educational Trust. I frequently write essays and reviews for non-academic publications, including, most recently, the Los Angeles Review of Books, 3:AM Magazine and Coney's Loft. I have given interviews about the memory of traumatic histories for Serbian television and radio stations in South Africa and Hong Kong. I am a member of the Critical Life research group, which explores the contemporary relevance of critical and cultural theory, and I am currently producing a documentary about artistic responses to the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

I supervise PhD students working on Holocaust memory in the digital age; Holocaust poetry; and the representation of the Holocaust in graphic novels. I am a member of a WRoCAH postgraduate network, The Future of Holocaust Memory, and I am always happy to discuss new PhD proposals that connect to my research interests.



Virtual Holocaust Memoryscapes: Scoping the Creation of Immersive, Spatial Archives of the Bergen-Belsen and Neuengamme Memorial Sites (PI, AHRC/EPSRC Research and Partnership Development call for the Next Generation of Immersive Experiences, 2018).

Mobilising Multidirectional Memory to Build More Resilient Communities in South Africa (CI, AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund, 2016).

International Postgraduate Internships in Rwanda and South Africa (PI, University of Leeds Footsteps Fund, 2016).

Confronting Traumatic Pasts: Between the Local and the Global (PI, Sadler Seminar Series, 2016).

Virtual Holocaust Memory: From Testimony to Holography (PI, AHRC Leadership Fellowship, 2015).

Transnational Holocaust Memory (PI, World University Network Fund for International Research Collaboration, 2014).

The Future of Holocaust Memory (PI, World University Network Research Mobility Programme, 2013).


Conference and event organisation

I have organised a number of major international conferences and public events including:

Life Stories and Human Rights: A Public Panel with Mark Gevisser (Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, 2017).

Remembering the Holocaust and Genocide in the Digital Age (Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, 2016).

Transnational Holocaust Memory (University of Leeds, 2015).

The Art of Risk (Opera North, Leeds, 2014).

Slave: Witnessing the Voice through Testimony and Performance (Lowry Theatre, Salford, 2010).


Keynote papers

'Reading Genocide Memorial Sites in Rwanda: Eurocentrism, Sensory Secondary Witnessing and Shame' (Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory/ Centre for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade, December 2017).

'Virtual Holocaust Perpetrators' (University of East Anglia, July 2017).

'European Holocaust Memory and the Postcolonial Turn' (Manchester Metropolitan University, May 2017).

'Holocaust Testimony in the Digital Age' (Lessons and Legacies plenary panel, Claremont College, USA, November 2016; and King's College, London, December 2016).

'Transnationalism, Cosmopolitanism and the Future of Holocaust Memory' (University of Copenhagen, May 2015).

'Evaluating Impact in the Arts and Humanities' (University of Hong Kong, April 2015).

'Holocaust Literature and the Taboo' (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, April 2014; University of Hong Kong, April 2014; University of Cambridge, February 2014).

'Holocaust Impiety in Punk and Post-Punk Music' (Imperial War Museum, March 2009).


Conference papers

'Virtual Holocaust Perpetrators' (American Comparative Literature Association, Utrecht University, July 2017)

'"Machete words, club words": Literary and Theoretical Responses to Rwandan Genocide Memorials, and the Limits of Holocentrism’ (Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, September 2016).

'Downfall: The Nazi Genocide as a Natural Disaster' (European Society for the Study of English (ESSE 11), Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey, September 2012).

'Hybrid Testimony' (The Future of Testimony, University of Salford, United Kingdom, August 2011).

'Holocaust Impiety' (Northeast Modern Language Association Convention 2011, New Jersey, United States, April 2011).

'Awful Little Allegories: Holocaust Impiety and Non-victim Fiction' (Why Allegory Now?, University of Manchester, United Kingdom, April 2011).

'Beyond Holocaust Representation: Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds' (Representing Perpetrators, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, September 2010).

'Holocaust Impiety in Tim Blake Nelson's The Grey Zone' (European Society for the Study of English (ESSE 10), University of Turin, Italy, August 2010).

'Holocaust Impiety in British Punk and Post-Punk Music' (European Society for the Study of English (ESSE 9), University of Aarhus, Denmark, August 2008).

'The Black Book: John Berryman's Holocaust Requiem' (The Future of Memory, University of Manchester, United Kingdom, November 2005).

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD
  • MA
  • BA (Hons)

Professional memberships

  • Higher Education Academy Fellow

Student education

I teach on the following modules: Contemporary Literature; Modern Literature; and Representing the Holocaust: Transgression and the Taboo.

Research groups and institutes

  • Critical Life Research Group
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>