Professor Helen Finch

Professor Helen Finch

Profile

My main areas of research are in the representation of the Holocaust in German-language literature, queer identity and memory in German culture, and curriculum design. Linking all three is a concern with marginalised voices, poetics of resistance, and inclusivity, concerns which I also bring to my teaching.

I am Director of German at Leeds, and I am a member of the University’s Centre for Jewish Studies and the Centre for World Literatures.

I have worked at the University of Leeds since 2009, where I have held various teaching, leadership and research roles including Director of Student Education for the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies (2014–2017) and Director of the Centre for Pedagogic Research in the Arts (PRiA, 2020–2023). I co-run the LCS Queer Area Studies Network. I am also a member of the LCS Equality and Inclusion committee and the University LGBT+ staff network. 

Responsibilities

  • Director of German

Research interests

I work in the fields of queer memory, memory of the Holocaust, life writing and German Jewish literature. My research is driven by these questions:

  • What are the power relationships and ethics involved in translating literature about the Holocaust between languages, and how have these shifted with geopolitical changes in Europe since 1990?
  • How can the practices and art of queer memory – both the memory of historical queer communities, and memory practices of contemporary queer communities -  be used to create knowledge and resilience for creative worldmaking in an age of permacrisis?
  • How can German studies contribute to an interdisciplinary education that inclusively supports all students to build critical, creative and courageous communities?

My monograph, entitled German-Jewish Life Writing in the Aftermath of the Holocaust: Beyond Testimony, appeared with Camden House in 2023. This monograph focusses on the literary aftermath of witnessing in the wake of the Holocaust. It examines the transnational literary careers of four German-Jewish literary witnesses to the Holocaust, H. G. Adler, Fred Wander, Edgar Hilsenrath and Ruth Klüger, looking at the way that emotion, exclusion from the canon, and a lifetime of witnessing are reflected in their later literary work. I also have a longstanding interest in queer identities, gender and utopias in German literature and culture, and I am also currently writing an article about queer Holocaust memory in survivor memoirs.

Together with Prof. Anja Tippner (Hamburg), I am organising a project entitled ‘Working in the Holocaust Translation Zone: Ethics and Poetics of Literature’, including a workshop held at the Warburg-Haus, University of Hamburg, in September 2023.

My first monograph on queer masculine identities in the works of W. G. Sebald, Sebald's Bachelors: Queer Resistance and the Unconforming Life, appeared with Legenda in 2013. I have published widely on German-Jewish literature and the Holocaust, memory in German literature, and on diversifying the German curriculum, including articles on H. G. Adler, Jurek Becker, Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Edgar Hilsenrath, Elfriede Jelinek, Ruth Klüger, Antje Ravik Strubel and W. G. Sebald.

I am co-editor of the Peter Lang Women, Gender and Sexuality in German Culture book series, and will soon serve as a member of the MLA Forum Executive Committee, LLC 20th- and 21st-Century German.

Recent postgraduate projects supervised include:

  • Hesther Farge, ‘Women's interwar travel fiction in the literature of Irmgard Keun and Jean Rhys’ (PhD 2023-present)
  • Jiayin Song, ‘Gothic queer narrative and postcolonial representation in Lilian Lee's work’ (PhD 2023-present)
  • Eden Hills, ‘TERF Ideology, Transphobia and Bodily Autonomy in Transnational Exchange’ (MAR 2022–2024)
  • Victoria Suvoroff, “The impact of exile: Using non-representational methodologies to examine displaced contemporary queer visual art practices between 2020-2024 in the UK” (PhD 2021–present)
  • Min Zou, “Flying off Over the Combat Zone: Queer Aesthetic in David Henry Hwang’s Plays and its Medium Performance” (PhD 2020–2024)
  • Corey Hartley, “Dismantling the Binary: Exploring the interplay between Literature and the social positioning of gender in postmodern society” (PhD 2020–present)
  • Hannie Phillips, “The poetics of post-Holocaust memorial” (PhD 2018–2022)
  • Pete Freeth, “Look who's back in the frame: The translator's visibility in the digital paratextual framings of translated literary texts” (PhD 2018–2022)
  • Ian Ellison, “Melancholy cosmopolitan novels. Late European fiction at the turn of the twenty-first century” (PhD 2015–2019)
  • Dominic O'Key: "Creaturely Forms: Encounters with Animality in W. G. Sebald, J. M. Coetzee, and Mahasweta Devi" (PhD 2016–2019)
  • Alexandru Bar: "The double identity of Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco - the archives of an identity issue" (Performing the Jewish Archive Project PhD 2015–2018)
  • John March: "German Exile Photographers in Britain 1933–45" (MAR 2014–2017)

I welcome approaches from students interested in researching the following areas:

  • Comparative literature
  • German literature
  • The representation of the Holocaust
  • Queer identities and poetics
  • Queer memoir
  • Gender and politics in German literature
  • The works of W. G. Sebald, H. G. Adler, Ruth Klüger, Edgar Hilsenrath, Antje Rávik Strubel, Fred Wander

Publications

Books

Articles and Chapters

I have also written for publications including the TLS, and have recently released a podcast, Helen Finch & Alessio Baldini - Ukraine and The Voices of Those Left Behind: Jewish Novelists Natalia Ginzburg and Katja Petrowskaja in Dialogue. Ilkley Settee Seminar Podcast 6.3, April 2024

<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>

Qualifications

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2014)
  • PhD in German literature (Trinity College Dublin)
  • M. Phil in Modern German Thought (University of Glasgow)
  • B. A. in German and Russian (Trinity College Dublin)

Professional memberships

  • Women in German Studies
  • Association of German Studies in Britain and Ireland
  • German Studies Association of America
  • Modern Language Association of America

Student education

I teach German cultural studies at all levels, and contribute to cross-School and cross-Faculty modules on intercultural studies, world literature, the representation of the Holocaust, queer cultures, translation, and visual culture. 

I have regularly given invited talks on pedagogies, including recently contributing to a roundtable on ‘Best Practices for Transnationalising the Classroom’ (UCD, March 2023), now available as a podcast.

Research groups and institutes

  • German
  • Centre for World Literatures
  • Centre for Jewish Studies
  • Gender
  • Literary studies
  • Memory, Trauma and Violence
  • Conflict

Current postgraduate researchers

<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://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>