Jens Kruse

Professor Emeritus of German

Researching Goethe and Kafka; teaching across the curriculum; involved in college governance.  

Prof. Kruse's recent works were highlighted, along with colleague Prof. Hansen, on the Wellesley College homepage recently, here.

I am the author of the book Der Tanz der Zeichen: Poetische Struktur und Geschichte in Goethe's “Faust II” and numerous articles on Goethe, Franz Kafka, and Martin Walser. In 2004, I published Tortured Enlightenment: Writing and Reading in Kafka's In the Penal Colony, in which I examine this horrifying novella of the year 1914 for instructions on how best to read Kafka. A common thread in all of my scholarly work is the attempt to trace the connections between cultural artifacts and the historical structures that shape them and are in turn informed by them. An example of this is my book project entitled "Goethe": Biography of a Fiction . Here, I use the fictional representations of Goethe in novels and novellas between 1832 and the present to trace that writer's unparalleled significance in the cultural identity of the German nation.

I teach both German language and literature on all levels of the curriculum, including Germany and Austria Today, a course that uses electronic media to trace contemporary German and Austrian politics, culture, and society. My particular teaching interest is late 18th- and early 19th- century literature, especially the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. However, I have also taught 20th-century literature, such as Franz Kafka and a course on World War II and its aftermath in German literature. I have also team-taught the extra-departmental course on classic western texts in contemporary perspective and a course in the Comparative Literature Program on Imaginary Crimes and Courts: the Law in Literature.

I also blog about Kafka on .

I am a member of the Goethe Society of North America, the German Studies Association, and the Kafka Society of America. My professional service includes evaluation of manuscripts, service on departmental visiting committees, and evaluation of professional dossiers. I have held numerous administrative assignments at Wellesley, including, repeatedly, chair of the German department, acting chair of the Department of Italian Studies, and Associate Dean of the College. I have also served on numerous important college-wide committees, such as the Committee on Faculty Appointments, the President’s 2015 Commission, and the Presidential Search Committee.