Matthew Johnson
Fulbright ifk_Junior Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2019 bis 30. June 2020

Faltering Language: German-Yiddish Literature after 1900


The dissertation of Matthew Johnson examines the relationship between German and Yiddish literature after 1900. While German and Yiddish are often thought to represent divergent trajectories of modern Jewish culture, his research demonstrates that there was a significant effort to bring these two languages together. Johnson identifies and analyzes an understudied corpus of texts in which writers make use of both German and Yiddish. This corpus includes translations, transliterations, macaronic (bilingual) texts, anthologies, and critical essays by Solomon Birnbaum, Martin Buber, Paul Celan, Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, Bertha Pappenheim, and Chava Rosenfarb. Johnson endeavors to show how the intersection of German and Yiddish became a concentrated space for reflection and literary experimentation that opened new possibilities for modern Jewish writing.


Matthew Johnson studied comparative literature, German, and Jewish Studies in Chicago, Berlin, and New York and completed internships at the Archive of the Jewish Museum Berlin and at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation examines the relationship between German and Yiddish literature in the twentieth century. In addition, he is a member of the editorial team of the Chicago Review.


"Miriam Orleska" (translator), in: Women on the Yiddish Stage, Syracuse, forthcoming; “Book Review: Cosmic Miniatures and the Future Sense: Alexander Kluge’s 21st-Century Literary Experiments in German Culture and Narrative Form by Leslie Adelson”, in: The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 95, 2019; together with Corbin Allardice, Jessica Kirzane, Jonah Lubin (Translation), “The Small Opinions of Great Men by G. Selikovitch”, in: Pakn Treger: Magazine of the Yiddish Book Center, 2019; “Book Review, Never Better! The Modern Jewish Picaresque by Miriam Udel”, in: geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, 2016.

Buchrezension von Matthew Johnson: "The Naked Truth: Viennese Modernism and the Body" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020) von Alys X. George


Sowohl in der populären Vorstellung als auch in der Forschungsliteratur wird die Kulturgeschichte der Wiener Moderne vordergründig in Bezug auf die Psychoanalyse betrachtet. Die weltbekannten Gemälde Klimts und Schieles – ausgestellt im Leopold Museum und im Belvedere in Wien – und die noch immer vielgelesenen Texte Hofmannsthals und Schnitzlers werden gewöhnlich als Ausdrucksformen des Unbewussten oder als Auseinandersetzungen mit der Psyche verstanden. Doch in diesem Zusammenhang bleibt der Körper – in welchem Gedanken und Gefühle wohnen – immer wieder unberücksichtigt. Wie sollen wir die nackten und verzerrten Leiber Schieles oder die ikonenhafte Nuda Veritas Klimts begreifen?


Lecture of Matthew Johnson: "Glikl's Afterlives: On the Circulation and Reception of Glikl's Memoirs,"

Max Weinreich Fellowship Lecture in East European Jewish Literature, Matthew Johnson: 


How did Glikl, often referred to as "Glückel von Hameln," become such an iconic and oft-cited figure in Ashkenazic cultural history? In this talk, Matthew Johnson ventures an answer to this question by exploring the belated circulation and reception of Glikl's memoirs (written between 1691 and 1719) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Johnson will provide an overview of the particular editions and translations—in Yiddish, German, Hebrew, and English—that first made Glikl's memoirs available to a large audience and shaped how they were read and understood, often in contradictory ways, in modernity. 

Matthew Johnson is a PhD candidate in Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation concerns the relationship between Yiddish- and German-language literature in the twentieth century. His research has been supported by the YIVO Institute, the Fulbright Program and the IFK in Vienna, the Posen Society of Fellows, and the Yiddish Book Center.

20 April 2020
  • Lecture
IFK @Zoom

IFK_LIVE (Zoom Meeting): Another Language: Paul Celan in Yiddish

In 1994, the Yiddish writer Chava Rosenfarb argued that Paul Celan “sought to distance the German language from the language of his murderers […], as if he had wanted to transform German into Yiddish.” In his talk, Matthew Johnson analyzes this striking claim within the larger history of Celan’s Yiddish reception from 1965 to 2002.