Classics and Modern Languages

Jamie Trnka, PhD

Professor of German
Chair, Classics and Modern Languages

Dr. Trnka joined the Xavier faculty in 2018 as Professor of German and Chair of Classics and Modern Languages. She earned her B.A. in German Language and Literature and Comparative Literature from Oberlin College and both her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Cornell University. Prior to joining the Xavier community, she worked from 2006-2018 at The University of Scranton, where she directed the Major in German Cultural Studies, served in leadership positions as a member of the faculties of Women’s and Gender Studies and Latin American Studies, and co-developed an interdisciplinary program in Cinema Studies.

Her research interests include 20th- and 21st-century German literature, film, and cultural studies; literature and politics; literatures of migration and exile; social scientific approaches to globalization and culture; history, memory, and literature; paraliterary writing (e.g., documentary, testimonio, life-narrative); postcolonial theory; comparative literary theory (including translation theory); Weltliteratur and the global; “1968”; representations of terrorism and revolutionary violence; and Latin American literature and cultural studies. She has published numerous articles in such journals as New German Critique, The German Quarterly, German Studies Review, and Critical Stages.

Her book, Revolutionary Subjects: German Literatures and the Limits of Aesthetic Solidarity with Latin America (2015) explores the literary and cultural significance of Cold War solidarities and offers insight into a substantial and under-analyzed body of German literature concerned with Latin American thought and action. It shows how literary interest in Latin America was vital for understanding oppositional agency and engaged literature in East and West Germany, where authors developed aesthetic solidarities that anticipated conceptual reorganizations of the world connoted by the transnational or the global. Through a combination of close readings, contextual analysis, and careful theoretical work, Revolutionary Subjects traces the historicity and contingency of aesthetic practices, as well as the geocultural grounds against which they unfolded, in case studies of Volker Braun, F.C. Delius, Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Heiner Müller. The book’s cultural and comparative approach offers an antidote to imprecise engagements with the transnational, historicizing critical impulses that accompany the production of disciplinary boundaries. It paves the way for more reflexive debate on the content and method of German Studies as part of a broader landscape of world literature, comparative literature and Latin American Studies.

Dr. Trnka’s current projects turn on the relationship between the arts and political advocacy for migrants, refugees, and exiles. She is especially interested in how multilingual and multimedial projects throughout Europe enact new forms of community and political agency.