Centre for Studies in Literature (CSL)
Dr Petra Rau
Senior Lecturer in English Literature
My main research areas are literature and film about the Second World War and fascism, modernism, and the interplay between cultural memory and national identity. Much of my work has a strong interdisciplinary and comparative aspect, and I remain very interested in the cultural production of the Weimar Republic and the aesthetics of Neue Sachlichkeit and German expressionism. I am part of the War and Representation research network WAR-Net (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/our-research/war-net).
My first book concerned modernist Anglo-German literary relations and discussed major figures such as Conrad, Woolf, Lawrence, Ford, Forster and Bowen as well as popular or less-familiar writers such as Saki, Graham Greene, and Stevie Smith. It dealt with perceptions of and responses to Germans and Germany in modernist literature and their complex role in the construction of English and British identity and the negotiation of modernity. This project was supported by the AHRC and the British Academy.
My current monograph Our Nazis: Representations of Fascism in Contemporary Literature and Film analyses one of the more perturbing legacies of modernism, the appropriation of fascist aesthetics through the rather complacent retroactive historiography of neo-historical fiction and film. It includes discussions of literary fiction, avant-garde and popular film as well as art installations. In this book I argue that fascism is both reduced to an exotic other (someone else’s history) and domesticated (a perpetrator position that can be inhabited vicariously through first-person point of view in PC games and fiction). This representational impasse is a symptom of our culture’s irreconcilable demands vis-à-vis increasingly remote history: on the one hand, commemoration and our focus on trauma prescribe empathy with the victims of violence and prohibit representation; on the other, popular visual and literary culture has habituated us to ‘pornification’, ‘militainment’ and graphic imagery. The engagement with fascism, in this context, requires new approaches. Our Nazis forms the inaugural volume in the new book series Edinburgh Critical Studies in War and Culture and will be published in 2013.
I have also edited a collection of essays on war, national identity and the body (Palgrave 2010) which emerged from the first Portsmouth Symposium in English Literature. Alongside a number of smaller projects on war, fascism and travel writing, I am also editing a collection of essays on the reverbarations of the Second World War in British Literature and Film for Northwestern UP. This is partly the result of an international 3-day conference on WW2 and Popular Culture which took place in Brighton in July 2011 and which I co-organised with Dr Lucy Noakes (University of Brighton) and Dr Juliette Pattinson (University of Strathclyde).
PhD supervision: Representations of Gender in 1950s Austrian Film; Historical Writing about and Commemoration of the British Slave Trade (AHRC). I would welcome PhD projects on WW2 writing, fascism, modernism, Anglo-German relations, cultural memory, modern travel writing.
- Our Nazis: Fascism in Contemporary Literature and Film (Edinburgh UP, forthcoming 2013)
- English Modernism, National Identity and the Germans , 1890-1950. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009.
- Long Shadows: The Second World War in British Fiction and Film, 1943 to the present (Northwestern UP, forthcoming 2013)
- Conflict, Nationhood and Corporeality in Modern Literature: Bodies-at-War . Houndmills: Palgrave, 2010.
Peer-reviewed journal articles:
- “The Fascist Body Beautiful and the Imperial Crisis in 1930s British Writing”. Journal of European Studies 39.1 (2009): 5-35.
- “‘Splendid Little Soldiers’: Invasion, Empire and the Fantasy of Dominance in Saki’s When William Came.” Cahiers victoriens et edouardiens 65.1 (2007): 185-207.
- “Beyond Punctum and Studium: Trauma and Photography in Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room.” Journal of European Studies 36.3 (2006): 295-327.
- “The Poetics of Pathology: Freud’s Studien Über Hysterie and the Tropes of the Novelle.” German Life and Letters 59.1 (2006): 62-77.
- “The Common Frontier: Fictions of Alterity in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day and Graham Greene’s The Ministry of Fear.” Literature and History 14. 1 (2005): 31-56.
Chapters in books:
- “Reflections on the Enemy: from Evil Nazis to Good Germans.” The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Writing about the Second World War. Ed. Adam Piette and Mark Rawlinson. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. 341-51.
- “Between Absence and Ubiquity: On the Meanings of the Body at War”. Conflict, Nationhood and Corporeality in Modern Literature: Bodies-at-War. Ed. Petra Rau. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2010. 1-26
- “’One step closer to the dreamers of the nightmare’: the Fascinating Fascist Corpus in Contemporary British Fiction” Conflict, Nationhood and Corporeality in Modern Literature: Bodies-at-War. Ed. Petra Rau. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2010. 143-164.
- “‘The sight of this pale brown naked flesh’: Mythical Aryan Masculinity and British Travel Writing about 1930s Germany.” Ed. Rüdiger Görner and Angus Nicholls. In the Embrace of the Swan: Anglo-German Mythologies in Literature, the Visual Arts and Cultural Theory. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2010.
- “The Trouble with Cosmopolitans: Ford and Forster between Nation and Internationalism.” Internationalism and the Arts at the Fin de Siècle. Ed. Grace Brockington. Oxford and New York: Peter Lang, 2009.
- “The War in Fiction After 1970.” The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the Second World War. Ed. Marina Mackay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 207-20.
- “Telling It Straight: The Rhetorics of Conversion in Freud’s ‘Psychogenesis’ and Elizabeth Bowen’s The Hotel.” Ed. Laura Doan and Jane Garrity. Sapphic Modernities: Sexuality, Women and National Culture. London: Palgrave, 2006. 217-233.
- Holidays in the Third Reich. Making History, 17 April 2007, Radio 4