Jenny Watson

Chancellor's Fellow

Contact details



Department of European Literatures, Languages and Cultures
50 George Square

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50 George Square, Room 3.41

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  • Office hours Monday 16.15-17.15 (50 George Square, Room 3.41)
    For other times please make an appointment via email.
    If you have an access issue (e.g. the lift is out), please let me know and we can arrange another location.


I did my undergraduate and Master's degree at the University of Sheffield, with a focus on German-language and Dutch-language literature. My Master's, supervised by Dr Henriette Louwerse, focused on colonial and postcolonial Dutch literature and I wrote my comparative dissertation on metaphorical border crossings in the work of Hafid Bouazza, Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Yoko Tawada. Since then I have published on colonial nostalgia and heritage film in the Netherlands, and on the processing of the colonial past in family novels by Dutch authors. During my Master's, I also began translating Dutch literature, including work by Bregje Hofstede, Frederik Willem Daem, Tessa de Loo, Simone van der Vlugt, Hendrickje Spoor, Niels t'Hooft, Mauro Pawlikowski, and Amarylis de Gryse. 

My PhD at Swansea University focused on the work of Herta Müller, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2009. My research on Müller focuses on the significance of the Second World War and the Holocaust to her literary creation, arguing that this cataclysm - particularly as it pertains to the German minority in Romania - is the primary point of departure for her oeuvre. I have published several articles on Müller's memory project, working with theoretical approaches from Judith Butler, Alison Landsberg, Michael Rothberg and Amir Eshel to explore themes of landscape, guilt and historical subjectivity. I have collaborated on several projects on Müller's work, including a 2018 special issue of German Life and Letters (co-edited with Dr Brigid Haines, Prof Karin Bauer and Dr Michel Mallet) and the 2017 conference Herta Müller and the Currents of European History (IMLR, London). 

My work on post-Holocaust landscapes in work by Müller and other Romanian-German authors including Franz Hodjak, led to my current focus on the representation of agricultural landscapes since 1945. My Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship 'Restless Earth' considered depictions of space in the context of the so-called 'Holocaust by bullets' and I am currently expanding this focus to look at what I term 'intimate violence' on the German home front, including slave labour, forced marches, trade in confiscated property and the murder of Jews by civilians in Germany and Austria itself. 


PhD German Studies,Swansea University, 2017

MA Germanic Studies, University of Sheffield, 2012

BA German with Dutch, University of Sheffield, 2011

Responsibilities & affiliations

Final Year Co-ordinator, German Section (Autumn, 2019-20)

FInal Year Co-ordinator, German Section (Autumn, 2021-22)

Treasurer of the Association for Low Countries Studies in the UK and Ireland

Undergraduate teaching

German Colonialism: History, Memory, Controversy 

Vulnerability and the City: Cartographies of Danger and Refuge in German Literature 

German 1b (Literature)

German Language Paper 1

Cultural Responses to War 

Dutch for Beginners 


Postgraduate teaching

Vulnerability and the City: Cartographies of Danger and Refuge in German Literature (open to MSc students)

Theories and Methods in Comparative Literature

Literary Translation MSc Dissertation (supervision of German or Dutch projects)


Dissertations supervised:

Katherine Laidlaw, MSc Dissertation 'Queer Representation in Translated YA Literature: An Innovative Translation of SAMe Love: Nur mit Dir'

Yiyi Li, MSc Dissertation 'Daimonic Characters in Female Writings: A Comparison Study Between Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and Ch’i-ch’iao from “The Golden Cangue”'

Marina Kisliuk, MSc Dissertation ‘A History of Silence: Exploration of Belarusian National Identity in National Writing and Film from 1905 to 2022’

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I welcome informal enquiries from students with a broad interest in literature and memory, particularly those with interests in German and/or Dutch-language literature, landscape, WWII or state socialism. If you think we might be a good team, please get in touch for a chat.  

Research summary

The German literature of memory (1945-present); space and memory; non-narrative cultural memory; metaphor and metonymy; recognition, empathy and identification; memory and material culture; embodiment. Memory and genre; Vaterliteratur; family memoirs. Holocaust history; non-sites of memory; commemoration/marginalisation; literary GIS. 

Current research interests

Intimate violence, past and present; witness-bystander dynamics; racialization and public space; trauma and public health; cognitive mapping; multidirectional memory.

Past research interests

Heritage cinema, history on film; Nazi language; the literature of migration.

Project activity

Articulating Atrocity: Metaphors of Rural Life in Accounts of Mass Shooting  Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien (VWI) Fellow April-August 2024

I will use my time as a VWI Fellow to develop my existing work on agricultural metaphors in the context of mass killing using historical documentary sources. This will involve analysing first-hand accounts of mass shootings to identify ways in which perpetrators, survivors and witnesses used language from the domains of everyday life to articulate the atrocities they had committed, experienced or seen. My hypothesis, developed from working with literary texts and inspired by Alon Confino’s work on “unconscious narrative enactment”, is that social scripts pertaining to communal work such as hunting, harvesting and butchery emerge as lenses through which subjects viewed the motives and processes of mass killing.   

Current project grants

Uneven Ground: Literary Representations of the “Holocaust by Bullets” - Workshop Series Supported by Workshop Grant Funding by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Nov 2023- Oct 2024)

This international workshop will bring together researchers at various career stages to discuss the representation of Holocaust mass shootings in a diverse range of national literatures and how these texts reflect the place of this history in international memory culture. The so-called “Holocaust by bullets”, to which over two million people fell victim during the German occupation of Eastern Europe, has occupied a marginal position in, for example, German, Austrian and British memory literature, often emerging via allusion and metaphor rather than direct efforts to represent mass killing. This workshop will examine whether this is changing, particularly over the last two decades, and discuss why literary representations of this facet of the Nazi genocide remain so scarce. This will be the first meeting of literary scholars working on this topic, which so far has been addressed primarily with respect to museums, memorials and formal commemorative practices.

Past project grants

Restless Earth: Extra-Concentrationary Violence in German Literature Since 1945
Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (February 2019 - April 2021)

As the first literary-historical study of representations of the Holocaust outside the concentration camp setting, the project seeks to shed fresh light on the still marginal history of genocidal violence perpetrated on and behind the Eastern Front during the Second World War. My central thesis is that knowledge of the face-to-face mass killing which took place across the countryside of Eastern Europe in the period 1941-44 has troubled the depiction of landscape since 1945. Much as no image of a human face behind barbed wire can ever entirely be freed from cultural memories of the concentration camp, representations of Eastern European landscapes are burdened by the less frequently visualised but nonetheless powerful cultural memories of ‘extra-concentrationary’ violence. From the 1.5 million people murdered by mobile killing units in Ukraine (notably documented in Patrick Desbois’s 2008 work Holocaust by Bullets) to the mass graves that continue to be uncovered on a regular basis in the Baltic states and Belarus, rural spaces are indelibly marked – physically and psychologically – by the history of Nazi genocide. Depictions of mass killing outside the concentration camp setting have yet to be explored as a discrete tendency in post-1945 literature and thus represent an untapped resource for illuminating the cultural history of the Holocaust. German-language texts focusing on atrocities committed outside concentration camps and prisons offer insights into knowledge of the Holocaust among the perpetrator collective and complicate the view of manual mass killing by Einsatzgruppen, police battalions and Wehrmacht troops as a history only belatedly known to the German (and international) public.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung in der rumäniendeutschen Literatur 1965-85
Junior Fellowship, Institut für deutsche Kultur und Geschichte Südosteuropas (LMU München) April-May 2014

Father Literature in German-speaking Romania c. 1970
Sylvia Naish Visiting Scholarship, Institute for Modern Languages Research (London) Nov-Dec 2013