Department of English

Academic Staff

Prof. Dr. Thomas Claviez

Professor of Literary Theory, Director, Department of English

Literary Theory

+41 31 631 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.pdf (PDF, 127KB)

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

- 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

- "Twelve Angry Men": Justice and Trials in American Culture

- Cosmopolitanism in American Literature

- Hyphenated America: Frontiers, Borderlands, Contact Zones.


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

Monographs and Editorships

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.

Aesthetics & Ethics: Otherness and Moral Imagination from Aristotle to Levinas and from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to House Made of Dawn. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008.

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

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

Co-editor, with mit Maria Moss, Neo-Realism: Between Innovation and Continuation, Amerikastudien/American Studies Special Issue. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2004.

Co-editor, with Winfried Fluck, Theories of American Culture, REAL- Band Nr. 19. Tübingen: Narr, 2003.

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

Work in Progress

Editor, Ethics and/of Contingency. Forthcoming.

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

Co-Editor, with Britta Sweers, Kornelia Imesch-Oechslin, and Martine Hennard- Dutheil: A Critique of Authenticity. Forthcoming.


"Introduction," in Claviez, Thomas (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 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.

Transcendifferance, or: Limping Toward a Radical Hospitality,” in T. Claviez (ed.), The Conditions of Hospitality. New York: Fordham, 2013.

“Rancière, Schiller, and ‘Free Play’: Politicizing the Game,” in Colloquium Helveticum 43 (2012): 147-159.

“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 Trands in European Ecocriticism. Heidelberg: Winter, 2012. 69-80.

“Giorgio Agamben,” in M. Betzler et al. (Hgg.), Kröner Lexicon Ästhetik und Kunstphilosophie, Kröner: Stuttgart, 2012. 16-23.

“Die Rückkehr des Mythos - das Ende der Aufklärung?” in Dietmar Wetzel (Hrsg.), 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 A. Nünning/M. Basseler (eds.), A History of the American Short Story.Trier: WVT, 2011. 219-38.

“Democracy: ‘A Dieu, à venir, or au Revoir?’”Annals of Scholarship 19:3 (2010) 108-125.

“Discipline and (Non-)Conformity: European American Studies as Non-American Studies,” in B. Christ et al. (eds.), American Studies/Shifting Gears.Heidelberg: Winter, 2010. 23-38.

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

“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’.” Journal of Modern Literature 32:4 (2009) 22-33.

“Pragmatic Transcendence:‘Power and Weakness’ and the Solar System According to Robert Kagan.” PhiN (Philologie im Netz) 47 (2009) 85-97.

“Declining the Sublime: Stephen Crane’s ‘The Open Boat’.” 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 W. Fluck/S. Brandt/ I. Thaler (eds.), Transnational American Studies, Real Vol. 23. Tübingen: Narr, 2007. 97-112.

“‘Blotted Out: Richard Wright’s Native Son and the Limits of Narrative Ethics.” Annals of Scholarship 17:1 (Summer 2007) 31-69.

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

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

“Ecology as Moral Stand(s): Environmental Ethics, Western Moral Philosophy, and the Problem of the Other,” in S. Mayer/C. 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 T. Claviez/U. Haselstein/S. 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 K. Kolinska/B. Georgi-Findlay (eds.), Contemporary Aboriginal Literature in North America. Litteraria Pragensia 30, Vol. 15 (2005) 17-27; reprinted in M. Prochazka (ed.), After History. Prag: Litteraria Pragensia, 2007. 327-343.

“Introduction: Neorealism and How to Make It New,” in T. Claviez/M. 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 H. Bak/W. 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 T. Claviez/W. 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?” in B. Georgi-Findlay/H.U. Mohr (eds.), Millenial Perspectives. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2003. 249-261.

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

“Ambrose Pierce” and “Bret Harte,” in B. Engler/K. Müller (eds.), Metzler Lexikon amerikanischer Autoren. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2000. 70-72; 306-307.

“Pragmatism, Critical Theory, and the Search for Ecological Gnealogies in American Culture,” in W. 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,” in W. 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 Turner’s Frontier Thesis.” Amerikastudien/American Studies 39 (1994) 563-577.


"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, 2016.

Current 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.


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

Recent Conferences and Presentations

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

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.

"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