Robert Walser:
Intersections of Life and Literature, Art and Psychiatry
International conference, April 3, 2013

The singular work and exceptional biography of the Swiss author Robert Walser (1878-1956) have in recent decades attracted the interest of a wide, international readership. During his lifetime, however, Walser lived and wrote at the margins of society. Many of Walser’s most prominent admirers have, therefore, portrayed him as the prototype of the modern writer’s tragic fate. Considering the central importance of writing and psychiatry in his life, Walser’s work and biography invite discussions from perspectives that combine artistic productivity with psychopathology. This conference will thematize ongoing debates on genius and insanity with regard to Walser’s mysterious micrograms and his decision to turn silent as an author. We will also reflect on the possibilities of translating Walser’s unique work into the present day via other languages and art.

This conference intends to foster a dialogue across disciplinary borders and to generate new insights into the relationship between art, deviation and insanity by linking historical perspectives in the fields of literature and psychiatry to contemporary artistic and literary activities and projects. A select group of scholars, critics, and artists has been invited to discuss the topic of this conference from a multiplicity of perspectives including translation, literary writing, plastic art, psychiatry, and academia.

The conference has two parts: The morning and afternoon program will take place on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, with a series of lectures. From there, the conference will move to San Francisco, where it will continue with a special evening program.

Official Conference Poster


April 3, 2013, 9am-5pm

University of California, Berkeley, Institute of European Studies, 201 Moses Hall.

Admission free.

9:00-9:30am Jeroen Dewulf Welcome, Introduction
9:30-10:30am Jörg Kreienbrock

Failure is (not) an Option:
Robert Walser’s Modernity

10:30-10:45am Coffee Break
10:45-11:45am Winfried Kudszus Via Robert Walser: Microwriting, Metaparanoia
11:45a–12:45p Uwe Henrik Peters Robert Walser and the Enigma of Schizophrenia
12:45-2:15pm Lunch
2:15-3:15pm Lucas Marco Gisi

Writing under Observation, or
Robert Walser Falling Silent in the Clinic

3:15–3:30pm Coffee Break
3:30-5:00pm Emily Verla Bovino

Son Mot Mort or Its Word Death: The Recipes and Journals of Constance Schwartzlin-Berberat at the Waldau Clinic (1884-1911)

Euan Macdonald We Already See So Much

Translating Robert Walser:
A Roundtable with the Translators Susan Bernofsky and Mark Harman
Moderation: Winfried Kudszus
April 3, 2013, 7:00-8.30 p.m.
swissnex San Francisco, 730 Montgomery Street
Presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco. Reception to follow.
Mandatory RSVP via:

In this roundtable event, the prominent translators and literary scholars Susan Bernofsky and Mark Harman will provide insights into their work in a discussion session moderated by Professor Winfried Kudszus from the University of California, Berkeley.


Susan Bernofsky is one of the best-known translators of literary works in German into English. She translated Robert Walser’s novels The Robber (2000), The Assistant (2007), The Tanners(2009), and also a selection of his Microscripts (2010). Her translation of the Berlin Stories was published in 2012. She is the author of a great number of articles on Robert Walser and teaches at Columbia University, New York. For her translation of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Susan Bernofsky was awarded the Hermann-Hesse-Preis 2012.

Emily Verla Bovino is an artist and author, based in La Jolla. She is pursuing artistic fieldwork asMarfa researcher-in-residence and research as a doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego. Her projects are informed by her studies on the history of Anarchism as well as on the interrelations among Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and the Arts. Her latest project is an exhibition of works by Constance Schwartzlin-Berberat and also includes Robert Walser.

Jeroen Dewulf is a professor at the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a specialist in German-Swiss literature, in particular the work of Hugo Loetscher. Among his books are Brasilien mit Brüchen (2007) and Spirit of Resistance (2010). His numerous articles include considerations of cultural hybridity and intercultural tensions.

Lucas Marco Gisi is the director of the Robert Walser Archives in Bern, Switzerland. He edited two anthologies with texts by Robert Walser (Mikrogramme and Im Bureau, both 2011) and published several articles on Walser, including Das Schweigen des Schriftstellers (2012).

Mark Harman is prominently known as the English translator of Franz Kafka’s Amerika: The Missing Person and The Castle. He also translated Robert Walser into English and edited the influential volume Robert Walser Rediscovered (1985). His translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’sLetters to a Young Poet was published in 2011. Harman is the author of a great number of scholarly articles on Franz Kafka and Robert Walser, among others, and is a professor for English Literature at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania. For his translation of Franz Kafka’s The Castle, Harman was distinguished with the Lois Roth Award.

Jörg Kreienbrock is a professor at the Department of German at Northwestern University. He is the author of the books Kleiner. Feiner. Leichter. Nuancierungen zum Werk Robert Walsers(2010) and Malicious Objects, Anger Management, and the Question of Modern Literature(2012).

Winfried Kudszus is a professor at the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley. Among his books are Literatur und Schizophrenie, ed. (1977), Psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Literaturinterpretation, co-ed. (1981), Poetic Process (1995), and Terrors of Childhood (2005). His many articles include “Robert Walser’s Silence”, and “Acknowledgments: ‘An Georg Trakl,’ by Robert Walser”.

Euan Macdonald is an artist based in Los Angeles, whose drawings, videos and sculptures have been internationally exhibited. He published several books, amongst othersEverythinghappensatonce (2006) and Selected Standards (2008). A result of his deep involvement with the work of Robert Walser is the art book We Already See So Much (2013).

Uwe Henrik Peters, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Köln, is a most preeminent German psychiatrist and neurologist. He was Director of the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of Mainz and the Head of the Psychiatric Clinic at the University of Köln. Author of a great many articles and books, among the latter definitive works on Exile Psychiatry, psychiatric terminology, Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud, the history of psychiatry, and his widely discussed books on the complexities of insanity in the cases of Friedrich Hölderlin (Hölderlin. Wider die These vom edlen Simulanten, 1982) and Robert Schumann (Gefangen im Irrenhaus—Robert Schumann, 2011).

Contact information

  • Jeroen Dewulf (
  • Lucas Marco Gisi (
  • Winfried Kudszus (

Sponsored by the Center for the Art of Translation, the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco, the Department of German and the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the Robert Walser-Zentrum, Bern, and swissnex San Francisco.