Na'ama Rokem

Chair and Associate Professor in Comparative Literature, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and The College
Walker 309A
Ph.D., Stanford University, 2007
Teaching at UChicago since 2009

Selected Publications

I am a scholar of Modern Hebrew and German-Jewish literature who is particularly interested in translation, self-translation, and language mixing. My first book, Prosaic Conditions: Heinrich Heine and Spaces of Zionist Literature (Northwestern University Press, 2013) uses the case of the reception and translation of the works of German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine to argue that prose - as a figure of thought, a mode and a medium - played an instrumental role in the literary foundations of the Zionist revolution. My second project – currently titled Dispatches in Translation: A Network of German-Hebrew Letters – maps a network of correspondences that cross between the two languages in different ways. With chapters on Franz Kafka, Else Lasker-Schüler, Ludwig Strauss, Leah Goldberg, Hannah Arendt, Paul Celan, Yehuda Amichai, Tuvia Rübner, and Dan Pagis, the book offers a new perspective on the central role of multilingualism in the formation of modern Jewish literature, and on the poetics of self-translation. I am one of the co-editors of Volume IV of the Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Hannah Arendt (Essays and Short Writings) and have organized a series of events and workshops that deal with Arendt’s thinking about Jewish questions.

I have been involved in a number of collaborative projects, including co-taught courses on bilingualism in linguistics, literary studies, and creative writing (sponsored by the Center for Disciplinary Innovation and the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry), and the Neubauer project The Quest for Modern Language: Between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Most recently, I have worked with colleagues in Chicago Studies, the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity, the History Department, and with a community organization - The Bronzeville Historical Society - on a project that uses the Oak Woods Cemetery in Woodlawn as a site for teaching, programming, and researching the history of the South Side of Chicago, with a particular interest in the complexly intertwined histories of African Americans and Jews. The project has received funding from the NEH, the Mellon Foundation, and the Women’s Board at the University of Chicago.

Since I participated in the creation and development of the newest Humanities Core Course at the University of Chicago – Poetry and the Human – I have become interested in the nexus of pedagogy and poetry: how is poetry taught in schools and universities? How has it been taught historically in different cultural contexts?

I teach seminars on poetry and self-translation, the cultural history of Zionism, and modern Jewish literature, as well as a signature course on Jewish Graphic Narrative: Between Caricature and Memory.