Professional and Biographical Information


A.M. (honorary), Amherst College (2021)

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Hispanic Languages and Literatures (2007)
M.A., University of California, Berkeley, Hispanic Languages and Literatures (2002)
B.A., Wesleyan University, Spanish, Honors Thesis (1998)


I examine Spain's little-known role in World War II by analyzing Spanish representations of the Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen in novels, historical texts, films, memoirs and new media from 1940 to today. In 2015, I was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to support this project. Spaniards in Mauthausen: Representations of a Nazi Concentration Camp 1940-2015 was published in 2018 with the University of Toronto Press. Ariel Dorfman called it a "painstaking and definitive book on the subject" in the New York Review of Books. I've also recorded a New Books Network podcast and an Historias: The Spanish History Podcast about the book.

B&W photo of Spanish survivors of Mauthausen posing in front of the stone towers of the camp prisoner's gate, May 1945

My co-edited volume Spain, the Second World War, and the Holocaust: History and Representation with Gina Herrmann (Univ of Oregon) and the participation of 36 international experts -- many published here in English for the first time -- from the fields of history, sociology, literature and film studies, among others, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2020. This book represents the first interdisciplinary, scholarly collection to situate Spain in the context of the history and culture of the Second World War. We recorded a New Books Network podcast about this volume.

Francisco Franco at his desk with a framed photo of Adolf Hitler.

My first book, Genre Fusion: A New Approach to History, Fiction, and Memory in Contemporary Spain (Purdue University Press, 2014), looked at the interweaving of fiction and history from the vantage point of four authors on the periphery of Postwar Spanish society (1939-present) who published both historiography and historical fiction after the death of Franco. Touching on questions of memory, historical accuracy, autobiography, testimony, and narrative representation in this book, I theorize about and analyze a space between two genres, in which twentieth- and twenty-first-century Spanish authors combine fiction and historiography into a uniquely blurred genre.

Sculpture of Francisco Franco's bust superimposed on one of the doors to the Sagrada Familia reading "I que es la veritat?"

This notion of a genre fusion has influenced much of my research and publications: from my interest in the cultural materials that emerged from the experiences of the Spaniards in Mauthausen; to articles about the Spanish novelist Javier Cercas's book about a false concentration camp survivor; to the implications of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s popular 2001 novel, La sombra del viento, on Spain’s collective historical understanding; to the role of Catalan history and identity in films about Barcelona.

My interest in Spain spans time periods and genres. Ultimately, I argue in my work that Spain is and has been an important player on the global stage throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

I tweet about my scholarly and pedagogical interests as well as about Spain in general at @profsjb.


One of the many advantages of teaching and learning at a liberal arts institution is the breadth of disciplines at the academic community’s disposal, and its willingness to look beyond these disciplinary boundaries to assemble a more complete understanding of the world around us. This is how I approach my teaching: Spanish literature, film, and other cultural productions do not exist in a vacuum and, as such, our critical thinking about contemporary Spain must necessarily encompass other fields and time periods that will lend us diverse perspectives culled from within Spain—incorporating history, politics, media, art, language and social structures—and from the world outside Spain’s borders. My courses are trained on Spanish culture after the Civil War (after 1939), but include materials from earlier time periods and other countries (Latin American, the U.S., and Western Europe) as well. In my courses on Spanish language, Spanish film and literatures, regional Iberian culture, urban studies, genre-specific studies and women’s writing, I offer an interdisciplinary approach, touching on issues of history, gender, memory, violence, representation, socioeconomic influences and nationality, among others, to encourage an in-depth global and local understanding of the course content.

Selected Publications


Spain, the Second World War, and the Holocaust: History and Representation, edited by Sara J. Brenneis and Gina Herrmann. University of Toronto Press, 2020.

Spaniards in Mauthausen: Representations of a Nazi Concentration Camp, 1940-2015University of Toronto Press, 2018.

Genre Fusion: A New Approach to History, Fiction, and Memory in Contemporary Spain. Purdue University Press, Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures no. 60 (2014).


“The Death of Historical Memory? Javier Cercas’s El impostor versus the Legacy of Spaniards Deported to Nazi Camps,” Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, Issue 19.3 (2018).

“Carlos Rodríguez del Risco and the First Spanish Voice from the Holocaust,” History & Memory, Vol., 25, No. 1 (2013).

“Moral Ambiguity in Mauthausen: The Case of Mercè Rodoreda’s ‘Nit i boira,’” Letras femeninas, Vol. 38, No. 2 (2012).

“Montserrat Roig and the Thread of Historiography: From Els catalans als camps nazis to L'hora violeta,” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, No. 86 (2009).

"Cinematic Barcelona: Catalan Identity in a Culture of Displacement," Catalan Studies, Vol. 22 (2008).

“Dictatorship Noir: Postwar Spanish History in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s La sombra del viento,” Romance Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1 (January 2008).

“Clarín’s Animals: Reading Leopoldo Alas’ Short Fiction through the Darwinian Revolution,” Hispanófila, No. 151 (September 2007).

Book Chapters

“‘El comboi dels 927’ de Montse Armengou: La presencia y la violencia,” Gynocine: Género, Praxis y Teoría del cine, Ed. Barbara Zecchi. Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza (2013).

“La batalla de la educación: Historical Memory in Josefina Aldecoa’s Trilogy,” Mirrors and Echoes: Women’s Writing in Twentieth-Century Spain, Eds. Emilie L. Bergmann and Richard Herr. Berkeley: University of California Press (2007).

General Interest

"Spain's new memory law dredges up a painful chapter of Spain's often forgotten ties to the Nazis," The Conversation, December 15, 2022.

Book Review: "The Impostor by Javier Cercas," The Alba Volunteer, March 2019.

"Carlos Blanco Aguinaga (1926-2013): An Exile's Fiction" The Alba Volunteer, December 2013.

“Mauthausen: A Spaniard’s Tale,” The Alba Volunteer, July 2012.


Tags:  Sara Brenneis