Schirrmeister, Sebastian

Core Areas

Jewish Studies, German-Hebrew Studies, literature and exile, historiography of literature, archival research and theory, rhetoric, narratology

Current Project: “Legitimate Passions. Reflections on Revenge (Fantasies) in Modern Jewish Writing”

“And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” (Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice)

My postdoctoral project focusses on a rather disregarded aspect of the German-Jewish entanglement in the 20th century. Historians have repeatedly noted that the virtual absence of revenge in the aftermath of the Shoah – both in historical and in discursive terms – was most remarkable. In fact, the hegemonic German discourse of reconciliation has been especially reluctant to accept the notion of “angry Jews” at all. A side glance on literature however reveals a whole history of artistic engagement with the complexities and implications of vengeful feelings and deeds in this context. A history, that extends from early examples in the 1940s (e.g. Friedrich Torberg’s Mein ist die Rache) to contemporary Jewish writing and even popular culture and has yet to be explored. Owing to the universal character of revenge both as a human sentiment and as one of the most common narrative topoi, the texts in question transcend borders of language and genre. Novels, short stories, poems, plays, autobiographies, nonfiction books, and (popular) movies in German, Hebrew, English and Yiddish are of equal concern to the project – based on their narrative and poetic examination of revenge and its relation to issues like justice, pleasure, closure, and forgiveness. I am especially interested in narrative strategies of de-/legitimization, intertextual patterns, references to Jewish Thought and to non-literary discourses on revenge as well as the appropriation and transformation of anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Academic Background

M.A. in Jewish Studies and German Literature from University of Potsdam (2011). Lecturer in the Department for German Language and Literature at University of Hamburg (2011–2019). Doctoral fellow at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center Jerusalem (2014). PhD in German literature from University of Hamburg (2017). Doctoral thesis on the entanglement of German and Hebrew literature written in Palestine/Israel after 1933.

Selected Publications


Begegnung auf fremder Erde. Verschränkungen deutsch- und hebräischsprachiger Literatur in Palästina/Israel nach 1933. Stuttgart 2019.

Das Gastspiel. Friedrich Lobe und das hebräische Theater 1933–1950. Berlin 2012. (Joseph Carlebach Award 2013)


Offene Rechnungen. Juden*, Deutsche* und die Sache mit der Rache . In: Jalta. Sonderausgabe 01 (2019): Zwischen Literarizität und Programmatik. Jüdische Literaturen der Gegenwart. Ed. by Luisa Banki / Yevgeniy Breyger / Micha Brumlik / Marina Chernivsky / Max Czollek / Hannah Peaceman / Anna Schapiro / Lea Wohl von Haselberg, pp. 29–36.

Plurale Perspektiven. Literaturwissenschaft und Israel-Studien. In: Israel-Studien. Geschichte – Methoden – Paradigmen. Ed. by Johannes Becke / Michael Brenner / Daniel Mahla. Göttingen 2020, pp. 137–146 [forthcoming].

Verzeichnete Existenzen und würdige Lektüren. Für eine neue Geschichte deutschsprachiger Literatur in Palästina/Israel. In: Zwischen den Sprachen – Mit der Sprache? Deutschsprachige Literatur in Palästina und Israel. Ed. by Stephanie Willeke / Norbert Otto Eke. Bielefeld 2019, pp. 63–77.

Dem Archiv entschrieben. Wege aus dem Speichergedächtnis. In: Exilforschung. Ein internationales Jahrbuch 37 (2019), pp. 58–73.

ריאיון: מתי שמואלוף משוחח עם סבסטיאן שירמייסטר על הסופר היהודי האוסטרי משה יעקב בן גבריאל. [Interview: Mati Shemoelof speaks with Sebastian Schirrmeister about the Austrian-Jewish author Moshe Yaakov Ben-Gavriêl]. In: Ha-Mussach. Literary Supplement 42, 13.01.2019.

Vom Wegweiser zur Hieroglyphe. Anna Maria Jokls Essenzen als Versuch über die Shoah und das Schreiben danach. In: artefrakte. Holocaust und Zweiter Weltkrieg in experimentellen Darstellungsformen in Literatur und Kunst. Ed. by Esther Kilchmann. Wien 2016, pp. 251–267.

On Not Writing Hebrew. Max Brod and the ‘Jewish Poet of the German Tongue’ between Prague and Tel Aviv. In: Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 60 (2015), pp. 25–42.

Two Roads to the Land: A Contiguous Reading of Two anti-War Novels by Avigdor Hameiri and M. Y. Ben-Gavriêl. In: Naharaim 9,1-2 (2015), pp. 108–127.