Prof. Dr. Thomas Claviez

Ausserordentlicher Professor
Literary Theory

+41 31 684 83 67
B 274
Postal Address
Department of English
Länggassstr. 49
CH – 3012 Bern
Consultation Hour
By arrangement

Thomas Claviez studied Political Science, American and Italian Literature at the University of Konstanz and the University of Padua. He then moved to the John F. Kennedy-Institute for North American Studies, where he did his Ph.D thesis on the "frontier myth" and its uses in American Studies (Grenzfälle: Mythos – Ideologie – American Studies), as well as his Habilitation, which deals with the relationship between Ethics and Aesthetics in American Literature (Aesthetics & Ethics: Moral Imagination and Otherness from Aristotle to Levinas, and from Uncle Tom's Cabin to House Made of Dawn). He was Research Fellow at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin, and at the University of California, Irvine. He taught American Studies at the University of Stavanger, Norway, before joining the English Department of the University of Bern as Professor for Literary Theory in 2009. His publications comprise books and essays on Environmentalism, Aesthetics, American Philosophy, Native American and African American Literature, American Studies, Otherness and Ethics, and, most recently, Theories of Community.

For more information on Thomas Claviez, please follow the link

CV Thomas Claviez

Recent Supervision

Ph.D Theses

Rickli, Christina Eclipsing Melancholia: American Cultural Trauma Templates before and after 9/11 (2012)

Marchi, Viola Rethinking the Common: Community and Literature Outside the Person

Kopaitich, Ryan Language, Reference, and Community in Contemporary Literature

Akin, Banu Exiles Crossing Female Bodies: Towards New Configurations of Gender in Arab American and Maghrebi Literature


MA Theses

Butan, Anna "Storytelling, Blues and Mechanical Reproduction in Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues”

De Zanet, Mara "Fiction of Freedom – Freedom of Fiction: A Schematized Reflection on Jonathan Frenzen's Neo-Realism"

Knights, Courtney "Mosaic Drift: Reimagining Multicultural Identities in Neil Bissoondath's The World Within Her (1998), Dionne Brand's What We All Long For (2005), and Shani Mootoo's Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab (2014)”

Moor, Samuel "Anthropocentrism in a Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Land and Development in Coetzee's Life & Time of Michael K. and Mda's The Heart of Redness"

Sadovskaya, Tatiana "Apocalypse Now Redux (2001): The Vietnam War and the New Frontier Hero"

Senger, Victoria "The Shadowland of the Subconsciousness: A Psychoanalytical Interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe's Writing with Focus on Melancholy and Women-Figures"

Sutter, Daniel “Spheres of Oppression and identity in the Fiction of Sandra Cisneros”

Wenger, Felix “Dehumanization through Capitalism in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis”

Baumann, Jeannine "Contemporary Young Adult Literature"

Roth, Gabriel "The De/construction of Self in Contemporary Cinema"

Weber, Waylon "How hybridity in the novels of Cormac McCarthy serves to redefine the classic Western genre"

Pavlov, Kamen "Border Identity in Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex"

Berger, Johanna "The Importance of Home in the Identity Construction in Chicano Literature"

Hasler, Fabienne "Origin and Genealogy in Salman Rushdie's Post-nationalist Fiction"

Recent Courses

B.A. Level

- Introduction to Textual Analysis and the Interpretation of Literary Texts

- Sociology of Literature and Marxist Cultural Theory

- The "Frontier Myth" in American Culture and Literature

- American Modernism 1915-1935

- Introduction to Poststructuralism

- American Dreams, American Nightmares

- Images and Self-Images of Native Americans

- The American Renaissance: Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne

- Cosmopolitanism and the Postcolonial Other

- Introduction to Cultural Analysis

- The Environmental Imagination

- Frontiers Old and New

- From Transcendentalism to Pragmatism

- Between Slavery and Cosmopolitanism: Cultural Negations of African-American Identity

- American Culture of the 20s and 30s

- The American Sublime

- Contemporary Native American Novel

- Key Concepts of American Culture

- The American Short Story, 1850-1990.

M.A. Level

- Contemporary Cultural Theory

- The American Sublime

- American Transcendentalism and Pragmatism

- American Studies in the 20th Century: From the Myth & Symbol School to New Historicism

- Postmodernity as a Cultural Model

- Moral Imagination from Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin to Auster's The New York Trilogy

- Ethics and Justice in US-American Literature and Film

- Cosmopolitanism in American Literature

- Hyphenated America: Frontiers, Borderlands, Contact Zones.

- The Environmental Imagination: Theory and Literary Practice

- The Short Story in American Literary History

- Thinking Community

- ‘Da Blues’: History, Aesthetics, Literature


Ph.D Level

- Writing/Thinking Community: From Aristotle to Giorgio Agamben



- American Dreams, American Nightmares

- Introduction to American Cultural and Literary History

- American Literary History

- The American Century

- American Genesis

- After the Linguistic Turn: 20th Century Literary Theory

- Cosmopolitanism and World Literature


Editor, with Viola Marchi. Throwing the Moral Dice: Ethics and/of Contingency. New York: Fordham University Press, 2021.

Co-Editor, with Britta Sweers and Kornelia Imesch. Critique of Authenticity. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2019.

Co-author, with Dietmar Wetzel. Zur Aktualität von Jacques Rancière. Darmstadt: VS Verlag, 2016.

Editor, The Common Growl: Toward a Poetics of Precarious Community. New York: Fordham UP, 2016.

Editor, The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible. New York: Fordham UP, 2013.

(A)E(S)TH(ET)ICS: Moral Imagination from Aristotle to Levinas and from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to House Made of Dawn. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008.

Co-editor, with Ulla Haselstein and Sieglinde Lemke, Aesthetic Transgressions: Modernity, Liberalism, and the Function of Literature. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2006.

Co-editor, with Maria Moss, Neo-Realism: Between Innovation and Continuation, Amerikastudien/American Studies 49:1 (2004); special issue. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2004.

Co-editor, with Winfried Fluck, Theories of American Culture, REAL-Band No. 19. Tübingen: Narr, 2003.

Co-editor, with Maria Moss, "Mirror Writing": (Re-)Constructions of Native American Identity. Glienicke/Cambridge: Galda + Wilch, 2000.

Grenzfälle:  Mythos  -  Ideologie  -  American  Studies. Trier:  Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 1998.


Work in Progress:

Author, The Metonymic Community:  Toward a Poetics of Contingency. Forthcoming.



"Neorealism, Contingency, and the Linguistic Turn." Humanities, 2019 (8:4). 176. Special Issue Ethics and Literary Practice. Ed. Adam Zachary Newton.

"Where Are Jacques and Ernesto When You Need Them? Rancière and Laclau on Populism, Experts and Contingency." Philosophy and Social Criticism 2019 (45:9-10). 1132–1143

"A Critique of Authenticity and Recognition," in T. Claviez, B. Sweers, K. Imesch (eds.), Critique of Authenticity. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2020. 43-58.

"The Dual Paradox of Authenticity in the 21st Century: A Response to Alessandro Ferrara," in T. Claviez, B. Sweers, K. Imesch (eds.), Critique of Authenticity. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2020. 19-30.

"Introduction." With Britta Sweers and Kornelia Imesch. In T. Claviez, B. Sweers, K. Imesch (eds.), Critique of Authenticity. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2020. vii-xix.

"Dead or Alive? Blues and the Question of Authenticity," In: Blues in the 21st Century: Myth, Self-Expression and Trans-Culturalism. Ed. Douglas Mark Ponton and Uwe Zagratzki. Wilmington, Del., USA: Vernon Press, 2020. 115-126.  

"Walt Whitman: Metonymy, Contingency, and the Democracy of it All," in Winfried Herget (ed.), Walt Whitman Revisited: On the Occasion of his 200th Birthday. Berlin: Peter Lang, 2019. 139-162.

"Melville, Whitman, and Metonymy: Towards a New Poetics of Community." Textual Practice, 2019 (33). 1767-1785.

"Dramen der An(v)erkennung: Kritische Theorie als Literaturgeschichte," in Michael Festl/Philipp Schweighauser (eds.), Subjektivität und Fremdheit in demokratischen Gemeinschaften. Beiträge am Schnittpunkt von Literatur und Politischer Philosophie. München: Wilhelm Fink, 2017.

"Introduction," in Thomas Claviez (ed.), The Common Growl. New York: Fordham UP, 2016. 1-14.

"A Metonymic Community? Toward a Poetics of Contingency," in Claviez, Thomas (ed.), The Common Growl: Toward a Poetics of Precarious Community. New York: Fordham UP, 2016. 39-56.

"Krise, Kritik, Kontingenz: Prolegomena zu einer neuen Poetik der Gemeinschaft," in Janette Friedrich/Dieter Thomä/Michael Festl/Florian Grosser/Anton Hügli (eds.), Über Krise und Kritik – Crise et critique. Studia philosophica. Jahrbuch der Schweizerischen Philosophischen Gesellschaft. Vol. 74, 2015. 107-120.

"Presentation of Terence Cave," in Cave, Terence (ed.), Far Other Worlds, and Other Seas. The Annual Balzan Lecture, Vol. 6. Florence: Leo. S. Olschki, 2015. 15-21.

"Traces of a Metonymic Society in American Literary History," in Winfried Fluck et al. (eds.), American Studies Today. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014. 299-322.

"Reply to Petar Ramadanovic," in PMLA 129.1 (2014). 126-127.

"Done and Over With, Finally? Otherness, Metonymy and the Ethics of Comparison," in PMLA 128.3 (2013). 608-614.

"Transcending Transcendence, or: Transcendifferances: Limping Toward a Radical Concept of Hospitality," in Thomas Claviez (ed.), The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible. New York: Fordham UP, 2013. 24-41.

"Rancière, Schiller, and 'Free Play': Politicizing the Game," in Colloquium Helveticum 43 (2012). 147-59.

"Time, Alterity, Hybridity, and 'Exemplary Universality': Some Remarks on Alessandro Ferrara’s Concept of 'Reflective Authenticity'." in Julia Straub (ed.), Paradoxes of Authenticity: Studies on a Critical Concept. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2012. 77-92.

"Jamming What Exactly? Some Notes on the 'Anthropological Machine' and Ethics in Derrida, Agamben, Calarco, and Latour," in Timo Müller (ed.), Literature, Ecology, Ethics: Recent Trends in European Ecocriticism. Heidelberg: Winter, 2012. 69-80.

"Giorgio Agamben," in Monika Betzler et al. (eds.), Kröner Lexicon Ästhetik und Kunstphilosophie. Stuttgart: Kröner, 2012. 16-23.

"Die Rückkehr des Mythos - das Ende der Aufklärung?" in Dietmar Wetzel (ed.), Perspektiven der Aufklärung. München: Narr, 2012. 43-56.

"Modernist Short Stories between the Regional and the Universal: William Faulkner’s 'Dry September' and Eudora Welty’s 'Petrified Man,'" in Ansgar Nünning/Michael Basseler (eds.), A History of the American Short Story. Trier: WVT, 2011. 219-238.

"Discipline and (Non-)Conformity: European American Studies as Non-American Studies," in Birte Christ/Christian Kloeckner/Elisabeth Schäfer-Wünsche/Michael Butter (eds.), The Future of American Studies – Shifting Gears. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2010. 23-38.

"Vom (White) American Adam zur (Black) American Eve: Identitäten und Utopien in Toni Morrisons Paradise," in Claudia Benthien/Manuela Gerlof (eds.), Paradies. Topographien der Sehnsucht. Köln/Wien: Böhlau, 2010. 135-154.

"Democracy: À Dieu, à venir, or au revoir?" Annals of Scholarship 19:3 (2010). 107-25.

"What is a European? Letters from a European Americanist," in Theo D'haen/Iannis Goerlandt (eds.), Literature for Europe?. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009. 79-100.

"The Southern Demiurge at Work: Modernism, Literary Theory, and William Faulkner's 'Dry September'," in Journal of Modern Literature 32:4 (2009). 22-33.

"Pragmatic Transcendence: 'Power and Weakness' and the Solar System According to Robert Kagan," in PhiN (Philologie im Netz) 47 (2009). 85-97. http://web.fu-

"Declin(at)ing the Sublime: Stephen Crane's 'The Open Boat'," in Amerikastudien/American Studies 53:2 (2008). 137-151.

"Between Aesthetics and (Ethno-)Politics, Europe, America, and  Beyond:  Cosmopolitanism from Henry James to Toni Morrison," in Winfried Fluck/Stefan Brandt (eds.), Transnational American Studies, REAL Vol. 23. Tuebingen: Narr, 2007. 97-112.

"'Blotted Out': Richard Wright's Native Son and the Limits of Narrative Ethics," in Annals of Scholarship 17:1 (Summer 2007). 31-69.

"Enigmatic Circles: Approaching the Ethics of Myth Through N. Scott Momaday," in Amerikastudien/American Studies 51:4 (2006). 523-538.

"Rainbows, Fogs, and Other Smokescreens: Billy Budd and the Question of Ethics," in Arizona Quarterly 62:4 (2006). 31-46.

"The Problem of the Other: Environmental Ethics and Western Moral Philosophy," in Sylvia Mayer/Catrin Gersdorf (eds.), Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. 435- 454.

"Muted Fanfares: The Topos of the Common Man in the Works of Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams and James Agee," in Thomas Claviez/Ulla Haselstein/Sieglinde Lemke (eds.), Aesthetic Transgressions: Modernity, Liberalism, and the Function of Literature. Heidelberg: Winter, 2006. 289-313.

"Cosmopolitanism and its Discontents: The Politics of Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues and Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead," in Klára Kolinska/Brigitte Georgi-Findlay (eds.), Contemporary Aboriginal Literature in North America, Litteraria Pragensia 30, Vol. 15 (2005). 17-27.

"Introduction: Neorealism and How to 'Make It New'," in Thomas Claviez/Maria Moss (eds.), Neorealism: Between Innovation and Continuation, Amerikastudien-Themenband. Heidelberg: Winter, 2004. 5-18.

"‘Second Nature's Nation’ and Environmental Ethics: A Reply to Leo Marx and Lawrence Buell," in Hans Bak/Walter Hoelbling (eds.), Nature's Nation Reconsidered. American Concepts of Nature from Wonder to Ecological Crisis. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2003. 51-59.

"Afterword: American Studies – The State of Affairs and the Affairs of the State," in Thomas Claviez/Winfried Fluck (eds.), Theories of American Culture, REAL Vol. 19.Tübingen: Narr, 2003. 325-341.

"Whose ‘American’ Century – Whose ‘American’ Studies, or: What Indeed Is in a Name?" Brigitte Georgi-Finday/Hans Ulrich Mohr (eds.), Millenial Perspectives. Heidelberg:  Universitätsverlag Winter, 2003. 249-261.

"Narrating Environmental Ethics: N. Scott Momaday and Walter Benjamin," in Thomas Claviez/Maria Moss (eds.), ‘Mirror Writing’: (Re-)Constructions of Native American Identity. Glienicke/Cambridge: Galda + Wilch Verlag, 2000. 171-193.

"Ambrose Bierce," und "Bret Harte," in Bernd Engler/Kurt Müller (eds.), Metzler Lexikon amerikanischer Autoren. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2000. 70-72, 306-307.

"Pragmatism, Critical Theory, and the Search for Ecological Genealogies in American Culture," in Winfried Fluck (ed.), Pragmatism and Literary Studies REAL Vol. 15. Tübingen: Narr, 1999. 343- 380.

"Dimensioning Society: Ideology, Rhetoric and Criticism in the Work of Sacvan Bercovitch,"Winfried Fluck (ed.), The Historical and Political Turn in Literary Studies REAL Vol. 11. Tübingen: Narr 1995. 173-205.

"Ideology and Rhetoric: The Function of Mythopoiesis in Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis," Amerikastudien 39 (1994). 563-577.

Research Projects

"Theories and Practices of Authenticity in Global Cultural Production." SNF Sinergia-Project in cooperation with Britta Sweers (Anthropology of Music, University of Bern), Kornelia Imesch-Oechslin (Art History, University of Lausanne) and Martine Hennard-Dutheil (English, University of Lausanne). As part of this project, A Critique of Authenticity, edited together with Britta Sweers, Kornelia Imesch-Oechslin, and Martine Hennard- Dutheil, is forthcoming. 2014-2017.

Current Projects

A Metonymic Community? Toward a Poetics of Contingency (Monograph)

The Problem with Recognition

Lecture Series

Organizer of the "Distinguished Lecture Series" of the Walter Benjamin Kolleg at the University of Bern


Students of both English Literatures and World Literature have the opportunity to take part in the Harvard-organized "Institute of World Literature," which takes place alternatingly in Harvard and another, international venue. The Center for Global Studies is partner of the IWL, and can send two (sometimes more) students to this Summer School, which usually takes place between June and July, at half the tuition rate. If finances allow, the other half is sponsored by the CGS. For more information, please contact Prof. Thomas Claviez or have a look at


Seminar Leader at the Institute of World Literature, Harvard University, June/July 2019.

Co-Organizer of the Conference “Constructing and Contesting Community,” Bern 8-9 May, 2019.

Organizer of the Conference "What is Authentic about Authenticity?" Bern, 17-19 November 2016.

Seminar Leader at the Institute of World Literature, University of Kopenhagen, July 2017.

Organizer of the Distinguished Lecture Series and Workshops, Center for Cultural/Global Studies, 2010-2017.

Seminar Leader at the Institute of World Literature, University of Lisbon, June 2015.

Host of the Annual Balzan-Lecture, 17 October 2014.

Organizer of the Opening Conference "Theories and Practices of Authenticity in Global Cultural Production," Bern, 14-16 March 2014.

Organizer of the Workshop "For the Health of the Body Politic: Hybridity from Fanon to Bhabha." EAAS Conference, Izmir, June 2012.

Recent Conferences and Presentations

"Constructing and Contesting Community." Universität Bern. 9. - 10. Mai 2019.

"Alterity, Contingency, and the Difference of it All." Workshop  "Alterity Revisited." Universität Luzern, 8.-9. Dezember 2018.

"Dead or Alive? Blues and the Question of Authenticity." Konferenz "Blues in the 21st Century." University of Catania, Italien. 23.-24. November 2018.

"Realism, Metonymy, and the Contingency of it all." Konferenz "Realisms." Universität Göttingen. 5.-6. Juli 2018.

"Neo-Realism and the Problem of Recognition." Konferenz "Current Tendencies in Contemporary American Fiction." Warburg Haus, Hamburg. 22.-23. Juni 2018.

"The Road Not Taken: Ethics, Reciprocity, and Non-Negative Non-Agency." GCSC Keynote Lectures. Giessen. Justus-Liebig Universität, GCSC. 29. Juni 2018.

"Where is Jacques When You Need Him? Rancière, Populism, and the Demos." Annual Symposium "Philosophy and Social Science". Prag, Tschechien. 16.-20. Mai 2018.

"Grey Metonymy: Conbtingency and Community in Agamben and Esposito." Colloquium Philosophy Center. De Paul University Chicago. 13. April 2018.

"Contingency in Agamben and Esposito." Italian Studies Colloquium. Cornell University, New York. 10.04.2018.

"The Metonymic Community." CGS Forum "Community". Universität Bern, Schweiz. 26.02.2018.

"Anectode and Contingency: The Relevance of the Irrelevant." Konferenz "Exemplary Singularity: Fault Lines of the Anecdotal." John F. Kennedy Institut Berlin. 1.-3. Februar 2018.

"Dreams of Misrecognition: Critical Theory as Literary History." Annual Symposium "Philosophy and Social Science". Charles University Prag, Tschechien. May 2017.

"A Critique of Authenticity." Konferenz "Theory and Practice of Authenticity in Global Cultural Production." Bern, Schweiz. 05.-07.11.2016.

"The Road not Taken: Environmental Ethics, Reciprocity, and Non-Negative Non-Agency," Colloquium, Rice University, Houston, 5 April 2016; Philosophisches Colloquium University of Bern, 25 Feb. 2016.

"Reading the American Assemblage as Metonymic Community," Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Forum, Key West, 11 April 2016.

"A Critique of Authenticity and Recognition," Konferenz "Authenticity and Cultural Translation in the Global City and Community," University of Lausanne, 14 Nov 2015.

"Dramas of Recognition: Philosophy as Literary History." Konferenz "Philosophy and Social Criticism." Prague, 29 May 2015.

"Environmental Ethics, Responsibility, and the Problem of Agency," Kolloquium. Universität Düsseldorf. 6 Nov 2015; Colloquium University of Bern, 6 Nov 2015.

"The Metonymic Community: Walt Whitman and Herman Melville," University of South California, Los Angeles, 9 Nov 2014.

"Authenticity, Community, Being-With: Heidegger, Arendt and Levinas," Dartmouth College, 4 Nov 2014; Penn State, 13 Nov 2014.

"Krise, Kontingenz, Kritik: Prolegomena zu einer neuen Poetik der Gemeinschaft," Annual Meeting oft he Swiss Philosophical Association, St. Gallen, 5 - 6 June 2014.

"The World Literature Program of the CCS Bern," Institute of World Literature, Hong Kong, 2-5 July 2014.

"Being-With: Authenticity, the 'They' and Community in Heidegger's Being and Time." Colloquium "Philosophy and Sociology," Prague, 19 May 2014.

"The Sublime – a Critical Reassessment," Doctoral Workshop, Geneva, 3 April 2014.

"Post-Subjectivity, Contingency, and Community," Conference "Extra-Subjectivity: New Concepts in Post-Identitarian Thought," University of Bern, 1-2 Dec. 2013.

"The Limits of Recognition," Colloquium "Philosophy and Sociology," Prague, 2-4 May 2013.

"A Reply to Stewart Martin and Steven Shapiro," CUSO-Workshop "New Aesthetic Paradigms," Brienz, Sept. 2012.

"The Limits of Recognition," Workshop "Authenticity Today," University of Berne, Sep. 2012.

"Politicizing the Game: Rancière, Schiller, and 'Free Play'," Colloquium "Literatur und Spiel," Bern, June 2012.

"Hybridity Between Contingency and Threat," EAAS Conference, Izmir, 2012.


Member of the Academia Europea

German Association of American Studies (DGfA)

Advisory Board European Association of American Studies (EAAS)

German Association of Higher Education (DHV)

Salzburg Seminar American Studies Alumni Association (SSASAA)

European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and the Environment (EASCLE)

Board of Referees, Atlantis, Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies

External Reviewer for the Czech Science Foundation (GACR)

Member of the German Research Foundation's Network "The Futures of (European) American Studies" 2008-2011.

Research Interests

Theories of Community, Ethics and Otherness, 20th Century American Literature, Literary Theory, Cosmopolitanism and World Literature