Werner Sollors earned his doctorate from the Freie Universität Berlin and is Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English, Emeritus, 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 History of American Civilization from 1997-2002, and of Ethnic Studies from 2001 through 2004 and in academic year 2009-10. He has taught at the Freie Universität Berlin, Columbia University, at the Università degli Studi di Venezia, Cà Foscari, and as Global Professor of Literature at New York University Abu Dhabi.
His most recent books are Schrift in bildender Kunst: Von ägyptischen Schreibern zu lesenden Madonnen (2020), The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s (2014), African American Writing: A Literary Approach (2016), and Challenges of Diversity: Essays on America (2017). 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), with Marc Shell of The Multilingual Anthology of American Literature (2000), 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, Charles Johnson, and Teju Cole. 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), Charles W. Chesnutt’s Novels, Stories, and Essays (2002), An Anthology of Interracial Literature (2004), Frank. J. Webb's Fiction, Essays & Poetry (2005), Alexandre Dumas’s Georges (2007), Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson (2015), and Jeffrey B. Ferguson's Race and the Rhetoric of Resistance (2021). In recent years he contributed to Critical Inquiry, New Literary History, Daedalus, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Amerikastudien, German Life and Letters, 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. He holds an honorary doctorate from the Universität Regensburg. A corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and of the Academia Europaea and an honorary member of the Bayerische Amerika-Akademie, he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.
His lectures and essays "The Wright Era: African American Fiction in Retrospect,""Edward Steichen in München: Wir alle – The Family of Man in der Städtischen Galerie im Lenbachhaus, 1955," “Reckoning by Cyphers, Laughing with Robots: New Technologies in Research and Teaching,” “Goodbye Germany,” and “Obligations to Negroes Who Would Be Kin if They Were not Negroes” have been posted on the web.