Julia Hell studied in France, Germany, and the U.S. After receiving her Ph.D. in 1989 with a dissertation on the historical novel, Hell taught at Duke University from 1989 to 1997 in the Department of German and the Program in Literature. In 1998, she received the MLA’s Scaglione Prize for her Post-Fascist Fantasies (Duke UP, 1997). For selected parts of the text, see the following pdf documents: Contents, Introduction, History as Trauma. Interested in the politics of culture, Hell has published extensively on the topic of post-fascist East and West German literature and visual arts and German culture after 1989 (with articles on Uwe Johnson, W. G. Sebald, Neo Rauch, Uwe Tellkamp; Janina Bauman; for more see list of publications below). Hell also contributed two entries on East German literature to the The New History of German Literature (Harvard UP, 2004).
Hell subsequently pursued this interest in the intersection of politics and the arts in the field of ruin studies, organizing a conference (2005), followed by the publication of Ruins of Modernity (Duke UP, 2010). Hell contributed an essay on the ruins of the Third Reich (“Imperial Ruin Gazers, or Why did Scipio Weep?”), and co-authored the introduction with Andreas Schönle. For more information, click here. Dealing with the connection between the phenomenology of ruins and the epistemology of realism after 1945, Hell’s original contribution to the ruins conference appeared in John Zilcosky’s Writing Travel under the title “Ruins Travel: Orphic Journeys Through 1940s Germany.”
Hell recently completed a book-length manuscript, Ruin Gazing (forthcoming with Chicago UP) on Western imperialism. Here she combines her work on ruins with her interest in the theories and cultures of Europe’s post-Roman empires. Hell argues that the scenario of the imperial ruin gazer is central to the theories, politics, and aesthetics of (post)-Roman mimesis. Ruin Gazing traces this (post)-Roman scenario in the work of theorists of empire (from Polybius to Edward Gibbon and Carl Schmitt), in imperial manifestoes (from Augustus to the authors of the Description de L’Egypte to Himmler), literature (Virgil to Gottfried Benn), travelogues (Pausanias to Louis Bertrand), and the visual arts (from frescoes at Pompeii to Anselm Kiefer). Like her previous work, Ruin Gazing represents a form of historical cultural studies informed by psychoanalysis and political theory.
Professor Hell is co-editor of The Germanic Review. She served on the editorial board of PMLA and The German Quarterly and currently serves on the advisory board of Signale: Modern German Letters, Culture, and Thought (electronic book series at Cornell UP), and the e-journal Konturen: Interdisciplinary Journal for German Cultural Analysis.
On the undergraduate level Professor Hell’s courses include: The Third Reich and its Legacies; Introduction to German Literature: The Family; Twentieth Century German Philosophy. On the graduate level: Realism: Theory and Aesthetics; German Colonialism (with George Steinmetz); Hauntings: A Seminar in Psychoanalysis; Trauma and Cultural Analysis (with James Porter); Post-Fascist Cultures; Ruins (with Andreas Schönle); Political Theory: From Weber to Schmitt (with George Steinmetz).