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Bram Mertens

Lecturer in German and Dutch, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

I studied English and German at the University of Leuven in Belgium before studying for an MPhil in English at Keele University. I gained my PhD in German and English from the University of Nottingham in 2001, and have been working at the University ever since, first as a postdoctoral research fellow and later as a Lecturer in German and Dutch.

Expertise Summary

My area of expertise is the history of European ideas, broadly conceived, and this actively feeds into my teaching as well as my research. Areas of particular interest include the history, politics, culture and society of Belgium from 1830 to the present day, modern and contemporary European literature and its translation (chiefly into English, German, French and Dutch), as well as German and French philosophy and critical theory of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I am also a published translator of literary and philosophical texts.

Teaching Summary

I teach at all levels across a range of areas in Dutch and German Studies, including literature, history, film, culture and society. My current modules include History of the Low Countries, Culture… read more

Research Summary

My research interest is the history of European ideas, broadly conceived, from the late eighteenth century to the present day. In this area, I have developed projects across a number of disciplines,… read more

Recent Publications

I teach at all levels across a range of areas in Dutch and German Studies, including literature, history, film, culture and society. My current modules include History of the Low Countries, Culture and Society of the Low Countries, The Second World War in Modern Dutch Fiction and Post-War Belgian Cinema. I also convene the Department's final-year dissertation modules and have taught Dutch and German language from complete beginners to advanced.

I welcome enquiries about supervising undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations in any of the areas listed above, or any of the areas mentioned in my research summary.

Current Research

My research interest is the history of European ideas, broadly conceived, from the late eighteenth century to the present day. In this area, I have developed projects across a number of disciplines, including literary studies, critical theory, philosophy, history and translation studies.

One project focuses on the history and memory of the Second World War and its aftermath in the Low Countries. I have published a number of articles on the construction of narratives surrounding wartime collaboration and its legal sanctioning after the war in Belgium. Of particular interest is the use of such narratives in twentieth-century (and contemporary) Belgian politics, as well as their continual critical reworking in modern Flemish literature.

This research has led to the development of a second project on the work of the Belgian author Hugo Claus (1929-2008). I am interested not only in the presentation of the Second World War in his novels, but also in Claus' place in twentieth-century European literature and the translation of his fiction into English, German and French. In this context, I am currently working with Dr Sarah Davison in the School of English on a substantial genetic study of the influence of James Joyce on Claus' magnum opus The Sorrow of Belgium.

A third project, which was conceived in wake of my doctoral dissertation, concerns Walter Benjamin's reception and reworking of the philosophy of Kant, Fichte, Schlegel and Novalis. I am particularly interested in the influence of their ideas on the creation of Benjamin's epistemology in his early work and its effects on his later work, including on the Arcades Project and on the Theses on the Concept of History.

Past Research

My doctoral thesis Das Denken der Lehre: Walter Benjamin, Franz Joseph Molitor and the Jewish Tradition (2001) examined the influence of the Jewish tradition on the work of Walter Benjamin, mediated through the writings of the nineteenth-century catholic kabbalist Franz Joseph Molitor, notably his four-volume magnum opus Philosophie der Geschichte (1827-1853). I have since published a book, Dark Images, Secret Hints (2007), and a series of articles on the role of Judaism in the work of Walter Benjamin and the influence of his friendship with Gershom Scholem.

  • MERTENS, B. and DAVISON, S., 2017. A Portrait of Hugo Claus as a Young Artist: the Influence of James Joyce on The Sorrow of Belgium Modern Language Review. 112(2), 413-439
  • MERTENS, B., 2015. Het Vlaamse proza over de Tweede Wereldoorlog Internationale Neerlandistiek. 53(3), 265-269
  • MERTENS, B., 2013. (Judicious) Interpretation: Walter Benjamin reads the early German Romantics History of European Ideas. n/a(n/a), n/a
  • MERTENS, B., 2013. 'An explosion of vitality and creativity'? Memory and historiography of the Second World War in Belgium and the Netherlands Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies. 37(1), 41-56
  • MERTENS, B., 2013. From perpetrator to victim and back again: the long shadow of the Second World War in Belgium. In: KARNER, C. and MERTENS, B., eds., The use and abuse of memory: interpreting World War II in contemporary European politics Transaction Publishers. 101-119
  • KARNER, C. and MERTENS, B., eds., 2013. The use and abuse of memory: interpreting World War II in contemporary European politics Transaction Publishers.
  • KARNER, C. and MERTENS, B., 2013. Introduction: Memories and analogies of World War II. In: KARNER, C. and MERTENS, B., eds., The use and abuse of memory: interpreting World War II in contemporary European politics Transaction Publishers. 1-21
  • MERTENS, B., 2012. "The concept of art criticism in German Romanticism": Walter Benjamin's epistemological exercise book. In: CARROLL, J., GILES, S. and OERGEL, M., eds., Aesthetics and modernity from Schiller to the Frankfurt School Peter Lang. 255-274
  • MERTENS, B., 2009. German-Jewish Popular Culture before the Holocaust: Kafka’s Kitsch (review) Journal of Jewish Studies. 60(2), 364
  • MERTENS, B., 2007. Dark images, secret hints: Benjamin, Scholem, Molitor and the Jewish tradition Bern: P. Lang.
  • MERTENS, B., 2006. "Hope, yes, but not for us": Messianism and redemption in the work of Walter Benjamin. In: CRISTAUDO, W. and BAKER, W., eds., Messianism, apocalypse and redemption in 20th century German thought Adelaide: ATF Press. 63-77
  • GERIGK, H. and MERTENS, B. (TRANSLATOR), 2006. Narrative Technique as 'Maieutics': Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punisment. In: JONES, S. and MILNE, L., eds., Dostoevsky: On the Threshold of Other Worlds: Essays in Honor of Malcolm V. Jones Bramcote Press. 170-174
  • MERTENS, B., 2005. The Arcades Project: a Talmud for our times? New Formations. 54, 60-73
  • MERTENS, B., 2003. 'The True Words of the Mystic': Gershom Scholem and Franz Joseph Molitor Australian Journal for Jewish Studies. 17, 131-153
  • MERTENS, B., 2002. "This still remarkable book": Franz Joseph Molitor's Judaeo-Christian synthesis Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. 1(2), 167-181
  • MERTENS, B., 2002. The Anxiety of Influence: Benjamin, Scholem and Molitor: selected papers from the Conference of University Teachers of German, University of Southampton, April 2000 In: Millennial Essays on Film and other German Studies. 127-141
  • LAERMANS, R., VANDEN ABEELE, M. and MERTENS, B. (TRANSLATOR), 1998. The Lucidity of the Obscene Needcompany/International Theatre and Film Books.

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