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Ruth von Bernuth

Professor of German


PhD., Medieval and Early Modern German Literature, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Intellectual Biography & Awards

My research interests are in German and Yiddish literature and culture of the late medieval-early modern period, or the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries, with a special interest in the sixteenth century. I have worked on ideas of natural folly, the 19th-century constructs of mental illness and mental disability, in early modern German literature. Combining my research on folly and my interest in Yiddish literature, I am also interested in Jewish carnivalesque culture including the tales of the “wise men” of Chelm. My most recent research focus is the Bible and Biblical literature in Yiddish.

In 2012-13, I held a Yad Hanadiv Visiting Fellowship in Jewish Studies from the Rothschild Foundation in Israel as well as a Vivian Lefsky Hort Memorial Fellowship of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. In 2013, I spent a semester as a Alfried Krupp Junior Fellowship at the Wisssenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) in Greifswald, Germany. Since 2017, I serve as the Mercator fellow of the Research Training Group “Religious Knowledge in Pre-modern Europe” at the University of Tübingen.

Recent Publications

“Chełm in Jewish Folklore,” in Oxford Bibliographies in “Jewish Studies,” ed. Naomi Seidman (New York: Oxford University Press, January 11, 2018,

How the Wise Men Got to Chelm: The Life and Times of a Yiddish Folk Tradition. New York: New York
University Press, 2016.

Zwischen Ereignis und Erzählung: Konversion als Medium der Selbstbeschreibung in Mittelalter und Früher
Neuzeit (with Julia Weitbrecht and Werner Röcke). Berlin: de Gruyter, 2016.

Frequently Taught Courses

  • JWST 297: Yiddish Literature and the Bible
  • GERM/RELI 227: Luther and the Bible

Additional Information

For more information about Dr. Bernuth, see her Curriculum Vitae.