Sheila E. Jelen

Sheila Jelen


Areas of Study and Research

Religion, Literature and Visual Culture

History of Judaism

Faculty Professor; also in the College

Prof. Jelen’s scholarship is in the field of modern Jewish literature and culture, with a particular emphasis on gender and Jewish literacy and the intersection between ethnographic, photographic and literary discourses in popular reconstructions of pre-Holocaust East European Jewish life in Israel and the United States. Her recent monograph, Salvage Poetics: Post-Holocaust American Jewish Folk Ethnographies (2020), explores the literary sources and visual images American Jews in the post-Holocaust period have used to formulate an understanding of pre-Holocaust East European Jewish life. Israeli Salvage Poetics (2023) extends that discourse with an investigation of how Hebrew writers for the last half century have grappled with their East European legacy. Testimonial Montage: A Family of Israeli Holocaust Testimonies from the Cracow Ghetto Resistance (Forthcoming in May 2024) considers the delicate balance between collective and individual testimony from a literary perspective.

Professor Jelen comes to us from the University of Kentucky, Lexington where she was the Zantker Professor of Jewish Literature, Culture, and History and Director of the Program in Jewish Studies. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001 and previously taught in the English Department and the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park from 2001 through 2018.

Prof. Jelen will teach a number of courses next year, including American Jewish Literature (Autumn 2024), Salvage Poetics: Literature as Ethnography (Autumn 2024), Testimonial Montage: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Holocaust Testimony (Winter 2025), and Jewish Civilization II: Early Modern Period to 21st Century (Winter 2025).