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Helfer, Martha


Department of German, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures


Tel: 848-932-0440

Office: AB, Room 4125


Ph.D., Stanford University

Research Interests

Literature of the Age of Goethe, Romantic aesthetic and philosophical theories, German intellectual history (18th-20th-century), questions of gender and the construction of subjectivity, philosophical approaches to literature, representations of Jews in German critical discourse.

Awards, Fellowships, Grants

  • Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award (Rutgers Graduate School New Brunswick, 2007-2008)
  • Max Kade Award for Best Article in German Quarterly (1998)

Selected Publications


  • The Word Unheard: Legacies of Anti-Semitism in German Literature and Culture, Northwestern University Press, 2011.
  • The Retreat of Representation: The Concept of Darstellung in German Critical Discourse , Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

Edited Volumes:

  • Nexus 1: Essays in German Jewish Studies , co-editor with Bill Donahue, Camden House, 2011.
  • Commitment and Compassion: Essays on Georg Büchner , co-editor, with Patrick Fortmann, Rodopi, 2012. (please click here for publishing information)
  • Rereading Romanticism, Amsterdam/Atlanta: Rodopi, 2000 .

Selected Articles:

  • " 'Ein heimlich Ding': Das Selbst als Objekt bei Annette von Droste-Hülshoff," in Redigierte Tradition, ed. Claudia Liebrand, Irmtraud Hnilica, and Thomas Wortmann (Schöningh, 2010), 271-279.
  • "The Fairy Tale Jew," Neue Lektüren/New Readings, ed. Gerhard Knapp and Norbert Eke, Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik 67 (Rodopi: 2009), 31-42.
  • "Die Judenbuche" [The Jews' Beech Tree]. The Literary Encyclopedia, 23 Aug. 2006. .
  • "Annette von Droste-Hülshoff," The Literary Encyclopedia, 12 July 2006, .
  • "The Male Muses of Romanticism: The Poetics of Gender in Novalis, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Eichendorff." The German Quarterly 78.3 (2005): 299-319.
  • "Natural Anti-Semitism: Stifter's Abdias," Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift 78.2 (2004): 261-86. [Reprinted in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism , Volume 198 (Gale, Cengage Learning 2008): 306-320.]
  • "Romanticism and Gender Studies," Camden House History of German Literature: The Literature of German Romanticism , ed. Dennis Mahoney (Camden House 2004): 229-49.
  • "Wilhelm Meister's Women," Goethe Yearbook 11 (2002): 229-54.
  • "Framing the Jew: Grillparzer's Die Jüdin von Toledo." German Quarterly 75.2 (2002): 160-80.
  • "'Wer wagt es, eitlen Blutes Drang zu messen?': Reading Blood in Annette von Droste-Hülshoff's Die Judenbuche." German Quarterly 71.3 (1998): 228-253. Best Article Award, German Quarterly 1998 (Max Kade Prize).
  • "Dorothea Schlegel's Florentin: Constructing a Feminist Romantic Aesthetic." German Quarterly 69.4 (1996): 144-160.
  • "'Confessions of an Improper Man': Friedrich Schlegel's Lucinde," Outing Goethe and His Age, ed. Alice Kuzniar (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1996): 174-193.

Courses Offered


  • What's so Great about Goethe? (German 625, Fall 2010)
  • German Romanticism (German 523, Fall 2009)


  • Introduction to Literary and Cultural Analysis: Enchanted Worlds (German 302, Spring 2010)

Professional Affiliations


  • Co-editor, Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik
  • Co-editor, Nexus: Essays in German Jewish Studies
  • Co-founder and co-organizer, German and Jewish Studies Workshop
  • Editorial Board, Goethe Society of North America book series at Bucknell University Press
  • Editorial Board, Athenäum
  • Editorial Board, German Studies Review


  • Executive Committee, MLA, Division on 18th - and early 19th -Century German Literature
  • Executive Committee, German Studies Association
  • Program Committee, German Studies Association
  • Executive Committee, Goethe Society of North America
  • Book Review Editor, Goethe Yearbook
  • Secretary-Treasurer, Goethe Society of North America

WGS Statement on Academia and Free Speech Rights

It is inherent to the discipline of Women's Studies to deal with complex subjects through theoretical lenses, which question conventional knowledge production. This department, one of the most distinguished departments of WGS in the country, has a highly visible faculty of national and international reputation invited to speak in various fora on sometimes highly controversial subjects. Such faculty members, as scholars, have not only a right, but also an obligation to produce and disseminate knowledge within and beyond the academy. Moreover, as private citizens, our faculty continue to enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression as any private citizen and in accordance with university policy the department supports their protection from institutional discipline in the exercise of these academic and free speech rights. 

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