Peter Demetz

Peter Demetz's picture

30 April 2024 – The Department of Comparative Literature mourns the passing of  Sterling Professor of German and Comparative Literature Emeritus Peter Demetz, a titan of 19th-20th-century German and comparative literary studies. Demetz, born in Prague in 1922 into a German-speaking Jewish-Catholic family, was a survivor of Nazi persecution who eventually emigrated to the United States in 1952. He studied and then taught at Yale, where he spent 35  years. Professor Demetz is recognized internationally for the exemplary quality of his scholarship and the rigor and accessibility of his writing. His life and work transcended the typical academic specializations according to subfield or period: his vast intellectual horizons spanned German and European classics, Czech and central European literature, as well as many generations of modern and contemporary literature. He was a great fan of the cinema, to which he also devoted a book. Peter Demetz’s work remains as important and engaging as it ever was: he is one of our most important models for writing about history and literature in a way that is critically and theoretically incisive while effortlessly expanding into autobiographical, public, and cosmopolitan dimensions.

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