Prof. Dr. Ilka Saal

Professor of American Literature



  • On January 16, 2020, Prof. Ilka Saal gave a lecture on the topic of "Representing Slavery in Contemporary Visual Arts" at the University of Regensburg
  • New Publication: Ilka Saal and Bertram D. Ashe (eds.). Slavery and the Post-black Imagination. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020. Publisher

  • Ilka Saal gave a keynote address at the international conference "The Federal Theatre Project: Contexts and Issues" at the University of Toulouse, France on October 19, 2019.

Research Interests

  • American Drama, Theater, and Performance
  • African American Literature
  • Visual Culture
  • Studies in Race and Ethnicity
  • Trauma and Memory Studies
  • Literature and Historiography
  • Literature and War


Select Publications


  • New Deal Theater: The Vernacular Tradition in American Political Theater. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. 244 pp. (2008 SAMLA Book Award).
  • Epic Pleasures: Political Theater Reconsidered. Ann Arbor: UMI ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2002.

Edited Volumes

  • Slavery and the Post-Black Imagination. Eds. Ilka Saal and Bertram D. Ashe. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020.
  • Theatre Annual: A Journal of Theatre and Performance of the Americas 72 (Winter 2019), ed. and with introduction by Ilka Saal.
  • Enterprise and Drama: Performing Capital on the American Stage. Special thematic focus of SAR: South Atlantic Review 75.3, co-edited with Ralph J. Poole (Summer 2010): 3-79.
  • Passionate Politics: The Cultural Work of American Melodrama from the Early Republic to the Present. Eds. Ralph J. Poole and Ilka Saal. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008.

Selection of Recent Articles

  • “Songs of Social Significance: Theater of the Depression Era.” The Cambridge Companion to American Literature of the 1930s. Ed. William Solomon. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018. 111-126.
  • “Post-National American Dreaming in Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland: The Adversity of Hans van den Broek.” Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue canadienne d’études américaines 47.3 (Winter 2017): 333-352. Article
  • “On the Portability and Meanings of Blackness in Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment (2009).” JCDE: Journal of Contemporary Drama in English 5.1(2017): 98-111. Article
  • “Theatricality in Contemporary Visual and Performance Art on New World Slavery.” Oxford Handbooks Online: Literature (June 2016). Article
  • “Of Diggin’ and Fakin’: Historiopoiesis in Suzan-Lori Parks and Contemporary African American Culture.” African American Culture & Society Post Rodney King: Provocations & Protests, Progression & ‘Post-Racialism’. Eds. Jo Metcalf and Carina Spaulding. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015. 67-81.
  • “Regarding the Pain of Self and Other: Trauma Transfer and Narrative Framing in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” Modern Fiction Studies 57.3(Fall 2011):  453-76.


Please see Team

My work in the field of American Studies focuses on literary, performance, and visual cultural studies. I have published widely on the literature of September 11 as well as on various aspects of 20th and 21st century American drama and theater, particularly on the political theater of the 1930s, including the monograph New Deal Theater: The Vernacular Tradition in American Political Theater (Palgrave 2007).

My current research focuses on recent engagements with transatlantic slavery in contemporary African American performing and visual arts. The project has been supported by a Feodor Lynen Fellowship for Experienced Researchers of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which enabled me to carry out work at the University of Toronto from 2015-2017. It has also benefitted from participation in the international DFG Network “Cultural Performance in Transnational American Studies.” This larger research project has recently come to fruition in two book publications: the edited collection Slavery and the Post-Black Imagination, edited by Bertram D. Ashe and Ilka Saal (University of Washington Press, 2020) and the monograph Collusions of Fact and Fiction: Performing Slavery at the Turn of the Millennium — Kara Walker and Suzan-Lori Parks (University of Iowa Press, forthcoming 2021). 

Before coming to Erfurt, I have taught for thirteen years at universities in the United States and for one year at the University of Ghent in Belgium. My teaching at Erfurt encompasses a broad range of topics in American literature and culture from the colonial period to the present.