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.
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.
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
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
MERTENS, B., 2020. 'Dread, Desire and Destruction: The Historical Sublime in Erwin Mortier's Marcel (1999)' Journal of Modern Literature. (In Press.)
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.
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.
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.