Maya Caspari

Postgraduate Researcher

Summary: My PhD research examines the representation of empathy and touch in contemporary world literature.

Teaching Commitments: Representing the Holocaust: Transgression and Taboo


My PhD research explores the representation of empathy and touch in contemporary world literature. I am interested in how different histories and memories of suffering are articulated and related to each other in recent texts, and the ethical implications of different forms and genres of representation.

Focusing on issues of gender and touch, and bringing insights from affect theory and recent discussions of cosmopolitanism into dialogue, my project explores how recent authors engage, problematise and extend recent critical and literary theorisations of empathy through their experimental poetics. In particular, I am interested in exploring what a feminist poetics of relation might mean in, and for, the contemporary moment, focusing on how narrative engagements with contingency may open space for new modes of relatedness.

Conference Papers and Publications:

Conference Papers 

'Subjunctive Remembering' in Katja Petrowskaja's Vielleicht Esther, Futures of Memory Symposium, University of Leeds, February 2017

Touching Histories: Multidirectional Memory in Katja Petrowskaja's Vielleicht Esther, Minorities and Minority Discourses in Germany since 1990: ​Intersections, Interventions, Interpolations, UMass Amherst, March 2017

“Emigrants, as is well known, tend to seek out their own kind”: W. G. Sebald and the Ambivalence of Empathy, Beyond Sebald: New Trajectories in Sebald Studies, University of Leeds, May 2017

The Limits of Cosmopolitan Empathy: Teju Cole's Open City, MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, University of Manchester, September 2017

I also co-organised and presented at the conference: ‘Life Narratives: Self-Representation in an Age of Human Rights’, a symposium for Postgraduate Students and Early-Career Researchers at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC), June 2017.

Selected reviews and interviews

Review: Teju Cole's Known and Strange Things, Wasafiri, 2017
Review: The Future Perfect, Another Gaze, 2017
Review: Fasting Girls and Fairy Tales, Review 31, 2016
Review: The Art of Witnessing: Son of Saul, ICA Bulletin, 2016
Review: Impunity, Fear and Filmmaking: Joshua Oppenheimer's Documentaries, ICA Bulletin, 2015
Interview: The Past is Never Dead: An Interview with Joshua Oppenheimer, ICA Bulletin, 2015

Activities and Impact:

Before beginning my PhD, I worked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and other arts organisations. I remain very interested in the ways in which academic research might be translated into public exhibitions, events and digital spaces and have continued my work with the ICA and Frames of Representation (FoR) documentary festival.

In June 2017, I completed a postgraduate internship at the Durban Holocaust Centre in South Africa, as part of the AHRC project "Mobilising Multidirectional Memory to Build More Resilient Communities in South Africa". During this time, I co-organised a conference and knowledge exchange event with museum professionals, as well as a film screening and commemoration event.

Awards and Funding:

Co-awarded Knowledge Exchange Project (KEP) funding from WRoCAH to organise a symposium and knowledge exchange event in South Africa (2017). 

Awarded an AHRC WRoCAH doctoral studentship (2016).

Awarded Provost's Studentship, which funded my MA in Comparative Literature at UCL (2013). 

Fitzgerald Prize; Waugh Scholarship, Exeter College, University of Oxford (2008-12)