Presner todd 2013  
Todd Presner
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Todd Presner is Professor of Germanic Languages, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies at the University of California Los Angeles.  Since 2011, he is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies.  He is also the Chair of the Digital Humanities Program, which offers an undergraduate minor and graduate certificate, and faculty co-PI on the "Urban Humanities" initiative at UCLA. His research focuses on European intellectual history, the history of media, visual culture, digital humanities, and cultural geography.  He is the author or co-author of four books: The first, Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (Columbia University Press, 2007), maps German-Jewish intellectual history onto the development of the railway system; the second, Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration (Routledge, 2007), analyzes the aesthetic dimensions of the strong Jewish body; the third, Digital_Humanities (MIT Press, 2012), co-authored with Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, and Jeffrey Schnapp, is a critical-theoretical exploration of this emerging field; the fourth, HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Harvard University Press, 2014), with David Shepard and Yoh Kawano, explores digital cultural mapping using the HyperCities project as a starting point. 

Presner is the founder and director of HyperCities, a collaborative, digital mapping platform that explores the layered histories of city spaces.  Awarded one of the first “digital media and learning” prizes by the MacArthur Foundation/HASTAC in 2008, HyperCities is an interactive, web-based research and teaching environment for authoring and analyzing the cultural, architectural, and urban history of cities. The project co-PIs are: Mike Blockstein, Philip Ethington, Diane Favro, Chris Johnason, and Jan Reiff.

Major collaborative publications realized using HyperCities include:

  • “HyperCities Los Angeles” (, funded by the Haynes Foundation, with PI Phil Ethington, Jan Reiff (co-PI), and Presner (co-PI) — brings quantitative GIS and census data together with qualitative story-telling, oral histories, and neighborhood memories, focusing on LA’s Historic Filipinotown.  Realized in collaboration with Public Matters and the Pilipino Workers’ Association.
  • “Visualizing Statues in the Antique Roman Forum” (, funded by the NEH, with PIs Diane Favro, Chris, Johanson, and Gregor Kalas.
  • Holocaust Survivor Stories: Survivor stories told by undergraduate students in Presner’s German 118 Service Learning course, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (needs Google Earth plugin)



HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Harvard University Press, 2014), with David Shepard and Yoh Kawano

Digital_Humanities (MIT Press, 2012), co-authored with Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, and Jeffrey Schnapp

Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration (London: Routledge Press, 2007), 279 + xxiv pp.

Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 368 pp.

Lead translator of a collection of essays by Reinhart Koselleck, The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History/Spacing Concepts, Foreword by Hayden White (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002),  363 pp.



The Ethics of the Algorithm (“digital publication” within the Scalar platform; not yet under contract).  Taking the 50,000+ Holocaust testimonies of the Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive as its case study, this book asks how a database or information architecture can be “ethical.”  It explores a number of tools and approaches within the Digital Humanities, including data visualization, mapping, topic modeling, and network analysis in order to undertake both “close” and “distance” listening to the digital archive.

A Message in a Bottle: Holocaust Writing on the Edge of Death.  Projected length: 250 pp. (in progress). Taking its title from Paul Celan’s idea of a poem as a “Flaschenpost” (message in a bottle), this book analyzes a unique archive of Holocaust letters and diaries that were written days and sometimes even hours before the death of the author.  Using a conceptual framework built on the philosophies of Martin Buber, Walter Benjamin, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida, the project investigates the idea of writing blindly on the edge of death, the attempt to communicate to the future, and the ethical imperatives of being open to the message of the wholly other.


Recent Work:

"Welcome to the 20-Year Dissertation" (November 25, 2013), The Chronicle of Higher Education 

"Critical Theory and the Mangle of Digital Humanities," forthcoming in The Humanities and th Digital, eds. David Theo Goldberg and Patrik Svensson (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014).

"German-Jewish Studies in the Digital Age: Remarks on Discipline, Method, and Media," in:Nexus 1: Essays in German Jewish Studies, ed. William Donahue (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2011), 7-26.

"Comparative Literature in the Age of Digital Humanities: On Possible Futures for a Discipline,"Blackwell Companion to Comparative Literature, eds. Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas (Oxford: Blackwell, 2011), 193-207.

“Hypercities: A Case Study for the Future of Scholarly Publishing,” The Shape of Things to Come, ed. Jerome McGann (Houston: Rice University Press, 2010), 251-71.  Also available online:

“Digital Humanities 2.0: A Report on Knowledge,” Emerging Disciplines, ed. Melissa Bailar (Houston: Rice University Press, 2010), 63-86. Also available online:

“Hegel’s Philosophy of History via Sebald’s Imaginary of Ruins: A Contrapuntal Critique of the ‘New Space’ of Modernity,” in The Ruins of Modernity, eds. Julia Hell and Andreas Schönle (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 193-211.

“Digital Geographies: Berlin in the Ages of New Media,” in: Spatial Turns: Space, Place, and Mobility in German Literary and Visual Culture, eds. Jaimey Fisher and Barbara Mennel (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010) (Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik),  447-69.

“HyperCities: Building a Web 2.0 Learning Platform,” in: Teaching Literature at A Distance, eds. Anastasia Natsina and Takis Tagialis (Continuum Books, 2010), 171-82.

“Remapping German/Jewish Studies: Benjamin, Cartography, Modernity,” in: German Quarterly, ed. Leslie Morris 82.3 (Summer 2009): 293-315

“The City in the Ages of New Media: From Ruttmann’s Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grossstadt to Hypermedia Berlin,” in After the Digital Divide: German Aesthetic Theory in the Age of New Media, eds. Lutz Koepnick and Erin McGlothlin (Camden House, 2009), 229-51.

“Seeing Urban Spaces Anew at the University of California” (co-authored with Suzy Beemer and Richard Marciano), Cyberinfrastructure Technology Watch, 3.2 (May 2007), 7 pages.  Available on-line at:

“Muscle Jews and Airplanes: Modernist Mythologies, the Great War, and the Politics of Regeneration,” in: Modernism/Modernity, 13.4 (Winter 2006): 701-28.

“‘The Fabrication of Corpses’: Heidegger, Arendt, and the Modernity of Mass Death,” Telos, no. 135 (Summer 2006): 84-108.

“Cultural History in the Age of New Media, or ‘Is There a Text in this Class?’” Vectors:Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular. Vol. 2 (Summer 2005).  The article is on-line (“launch project”)

“‘What a Synoptic and Artificial View Reveals’: Extreme History and the Modernism of W.G. Sebald’s Realism,” Criticism, special issue, “Extreme and Sentimental History.”  Vol. 46.  No. 3 (Summer 2004): 341-60.

“‘Clear Heads, Solid Stomachs, and Hard Muscles’: Max Nordau and the Aesthetics of Jewish Regeneration,” Modernism/Modernity.  Vol. 10.  No. 2.  (April 2003): 269-96.

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