Werner Sollors

English Literature, Harvard University

Werner Sollors is Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot professor emeritus at Harvard University, where he taught for more than three decades. He received his doctorate from and taught at the Freie Universität Berlin. He held positions at Columbia University, Università degli Studi in Venezia and as a guest professor for World Literature at New York University Abu Dhabi.

Werner Sollors’ research has focussed on English Studies, African American Studies and Comparative Literature. Together with Greil Marcus he co-edited A New Literary History of America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009) and authored numerous books, among them Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (Oxford University Press, 1986), Neither Black nor White yet Both (Oxford University Press, 1997), Ethnic Modernism (Harvard University Press, 2008),The Temptation of Despair (Harvard University Press, 2014), African American Writing (Temple University Press, 2016), and Schrift in bildender Kunst. Von ägyptischen Schreibern zu lesenden Madonnen (transcript Verlag, 2020). Since 2020 he has been writing Venezianische Bagatellen.

Together with Alide Cagidemetrio, also a HIAS Fellow 21/22, Werner Sollors is working on their common book project Face to Face with Antiquity: Visitors of ancient sites have been inclined to express their reactions amply, in writing and in visual media. Some recorded faithfully what they saw, and their reports and drawings are of interest because the sites themselves may have changed since the time of their visit. Other visitors were moved to imagine themselves back into the past in dreamlike visions or erotic fantasies that would seem to bridge the gulf between present and past. Some took souvenirs along with them or brought back parts of what they saw for their own collections or for public or privately owned museums. Others left things behind, like their names etched onto ancient statuary, tokens signifying that they had been there. The visitors came from many countries and drew on aesthetic traditions with which they were familiar to account for their encounters with the typically less familiar past. Yet they did not react in uniform or predictable ways to the various sites, each of which seemed to lend itself to different storylines.

The forms of expression chosen by famous writers and intellectuals as well as by little known travellers will be investigated on the basis of published accounts, archival materials, drawings, photography, site visits and other sources.
Werner Sollors’ collaboration partner is Martina Seifert, professor and head of the institute for Archaeology and Cultural History of the ancient Mediterranean at Universität Hamburg.

Werner Sollors’ HIAS Fellowship is provided by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the federal and state funds acquired by Universität Hamburg in the framework of its Excellence Strategy.


Werner Sollors


Universität Hamburg


Univ.-Prof. Dr. Martina Seifert, Professor and head of the Institute for Archaeology and Cultural History of the ancient Mediterranean at Universität Hamburg

Förderung durch das Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) sowie der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg im Rahmen der Exzellenzstrategie von Bund und Ländern der Universität Hamburg

Image Information

Visitor inscription, Persepolis, photo: Werner Sollors