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Durham University

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Dr Zoë Roth, BA (Lon), MA, PhD (King's College London)

Assistant Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 44354
Room number: ER273, Elvet Riverside II
Director of MA in Visual Arts & Cultures in the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture

Contact Dr Zoë Roth (email at

I completed my PhD in Comparative Literature at King’s College London in 2013, where I also taught as a Visiting Lecturer until joining Durham in September 2014. From 2012-2013 I held a Junior Research Fellowship at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, where I began research looking at francophone Jewish avant-garde artists and writers.

My research is broadly concerned with two things: bodies and Jews. My first book project, Formal Matters: Embodied Experience in Modern Literature, engages with phenomenology and aesthetics to reinterpret modern European fiction and reinvigorate formalist methods with political relevance. In contrast to approaches that have interpreted this literature through postmodern skepticism towards language and representation, I rethink the theoretical insistence that the body fundamentally escapes representation by shifting towards a formalist understanding of embodied experience. The book demonstrates how embodiment is not what resists but what constitutes form. I put into dialogue theories of embodiment from phenomenology and cultural anthropology with the new formalist studies, in order to develop a radical new model of literary criticism, one that insists upon the political potential of what I term “embodied form.”

The tension between aesthetics and subjective experience similarly informs my second project, “The Aesthetics of Jewishness: Jewish art and literature of the avant-garde,” which explores how a focus on the specificity of aesthetic, rather than historical or ethnographic, approaches to Jewish art and literature reveal the way race accrues a discursive force.

I also write and teach on literary and visual representations of the Holocaust within transnational framework.

Research Groups

School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

Edited Journal

Journal Article

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Selected Grants

  • 2016: Harry Ransom Center Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin
  • 2016: Transnational French Modernisms (£1500.00 from MHRA)
  • 2016: Transnational French Modernisms (£500.00 from Society for French Studies)
  • 2015: BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant [2 years]
  • 2015: The Jewish Avant-Garde: Transnational Modernisms, 1916-1945 (£8765.00 from The British Academy)
  • 2014: Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship [3 years] (declined)
  • 2012: Junior Research Fellowship, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies
  • 2009: Doctoral Fellowship, AHRC [3 years]
  • 2007: MA Scholarship, AHRC