Werner Sollors earned his doctorate from the Freie Universität Berlin and holds the Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Chair as Professor of English and Professor of African-American Studies at Harvard University, having joined the faculty in 1983. He served as chair of Afro-American Studies from 1984 through 1987 and from 1988 through 1990, of American Civilization from 1997-2002, and of Ethnic Studies from 2001 through 2004 and in academic year 2009-10. He has taught at Columbia University, at the Università degli Studi di Venezia, Cà Foscari, and as Global Professor of Literature at NYU’s Global Network University.
His most recent book is The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s (2014). In 2012 he prepared an expanded centennial edition of Mary Antin’s The Promised Land and a Norton Critical Edition of Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition. With Julia Faisst and Alan Rosen he coedited David Boder’s collection of interviews from 1946, Die Toten habe ich nicht befragt (2011). Coeditor with Greil Marcus of A New Literary History of America (2009), and with Glenda R. Carpio of African American Literary Studies: New Texts, New Approaches, New Challenges (2011), his major publications include Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Literature and Culture (1986), Neither Black nor White yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature (1997), and Ethnic Modernism (2008). He has written essays on ethnicity, pluralism, migration, multiculturalism, and numerous individual authors, among them Olaudah Equiano, Mark Twain, W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles Chesnutt, Mary Antin, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Roth, Richard Wright, Ed Bullins, Adrienne Kennedy, Amiri Baraka, and Charles Johnson. Among his edited books are The Invention of Ethnicity (1989), The Return of Thematic Criticism (1993), Theories of Ethnicity (1996), The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (2000), Interracialism (2000), The Multilingual Anthology of American Literature (2000, with Marc Shell), Charles W. Chesnutt’s Novels, Stories, and Essays (2002), An Anthology of Interracial Literature (2004), Frank. J. Webb, Fiction, Essays & Poetry (2005), and Alexandre Dumas’s Georges (2007). His John Harvard Library edition of Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson is forthcoming. Recently he contributed to Daedalus, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Amerikastudien, Comparative American Studies, The Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies, and the volumes The Harvard Sampler and The Turn Around Religion.
He is the recipient of Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was awarded the Constance Rourke award for the best essay in American Quarterly and the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award at Harvard University. A corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and of the Bayerische Amerika-Akademie, he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and of the Academia Europaea in 2012.
His lectures and essays “Americans All,” “Goodbye Germany,” "Multilingual America," and “Obligations to Negroes Who Would Be Kin if They Were not Negroes” have been posted on the web.