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Personal profile

Biography

Sofia Cumming is a PhD candidate working in the fields of Comparative Literature and modern European intellectual history at the School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing under the supervision of Prof. Duncan Large. Since 2018, she has acted as an Associate Tutor and Guest Lecturer at the School, where she has taught undergraduate courses in Critical Theory, Literary Criticism and Modernism. She is currently a doctoral associate at the Marc Bloch Centre for Franco-German Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences and was previously a visiting researcher at the Humboldt University of Berlin (2020-2021).

Her doctoral thesis focuses on the life and work of German-Jewish writer, philosopher and cultural critic, Walter Benjamin. It takes an analysis of Benjamin’s engagement with French literature, as well as research into his Parisian exile and interactions with notable French intellectuals, as the foundation from which to explore the post-war reception of his philosophy in France. From a wider angle, the project aims to examine the history of Franco­-German cultural and intellectual relations throughout the twentieth century and the ways in which philosophies from both nations were exchanged, inherited and developed. Reconciling Marxist and Surrealist analytical frameworks, it ultimately seeks to contribute to a recontextualization of Benjamin’s role as an innovator of both form and content within twentieth-century critical theory. 

She has hosted a number of academic events in relation to her research. In 2019, she was the co-organizer of Benjamin's Baudelaire: Constellations of Modernity, a workshop for early career researchers in affiliation with the Centre for Philosophy & Critical Thought as well as the screening event Berlin Childhood around 1900: A Film Project in Progress by Aura Rosenberg and Frances Scholz (both at Goldsmiths, University of London). In 2020, she co-founded the Walter Benjamin Research Collective which offers a platform for international collaborative discussion, debate and exchange to early career researchers in the field of Benjamin Studies. 

Sofia has also presented and discussed her work internationally at numerous conferences, symposia, workshops and summer schools and is presently in the process of preparing several articles for publication. Her further research interests range broadly across twentieth century European literature and thought, modernism and the avant-garde, writers and multilingualism as well as the intersections between literature, philosophy and visual culture. She is happy to be contacted about prospective collaborative research, writing or presenting opportunities.

 @SofiaCumming

Key Research Interests and Expertise

• Walter Benjamin Studies & Activities of the Institute for Social Research

• Weimar Feuilletonism & Visual Culture

• WWII Parisian Exile History

• French Literary Surrealism (specifically Louis Aragon, Pierre Naville and André Breton) and its significance for 20th c. thought

• Historical & Anthropological Materialism and their genealogies

Academic Background

2015 – 2016: Master of Studies in Modern Languages, Linacre College, University of Oxford

2013 – 2014: Visiting Student, Faculty of Philosophy and the Arts, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

2011 – 2015: BA (Hons) in Comparative Literature, University of Kent

Professional Activities

Papers & Presentations (selected):

• ‘Free Play in the Age of Automation: Walter Benjamin’s Spielraum’, Playfulness: A Virtual Symposium, Cultural Literacy Everywhere, May 2021

• ‘Montage, Miniatures & the Modernist City: Walter Benjamin’s One-Way Street’, New Work in Modernist Studies, 10th PGR Conference, British Association for Modernist Studies, December 2020

• ‘“Fiber [der] Gegenwart”. Walter Benjamin’s France’, Research Seminar, Critical Thinking in the Plural, Marc Bloch Centre, Berlin, November 2020

• ‘Walter Benjamin’s Modern Mythologies & The Possibility of an Awakened History’, Walter Benjamin & the Ninetheenth Century Today - International Conference, Institute for Modern Languages Research, Senate House, London, December 2019

• ‘On the Present Social Situation of the European Writer: Walter Benjamin as Intermediary Critic', Institute for World Literature Summer School, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., July 2019

• ‘Lasting Snapshots of the European Intelligentsia: Walter Benjamin as Vermittler’, International Walter Benjamin Conference, University of Bern, Switzerland, June 2019

• ‘Issues of Inheritance: Walter Benjamin and the Ethics of Knowledge’, Forces of Education – A Workshop for Young Benjamin Scholars, Walter Benjamin Archive, Academy of the Arts, Berlin, January 2019

• 'Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project: Point(s) of Departure', Graduate Research Seminar, School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing, University of East Anglia, October 2018

• ‘Inheriting Walter Benjamin or Walter Benjamin, Inheriting’, Comparative Literature Summer School, Centre for Modern European Literature, University of Kent, June 2018

• ‘Walter Benjamin’s Literary Criticism: A Philosophy of Experience’, Critical Reinventions Symposium, School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing, University of East Anglia, May 2018