BA University of Toronto
I spent my teenage years in boring Mississauga and had to flee as soon as possible—and as far away as possible, studying French and German, in order to spend time abroad and expose myself to rich cultures otherwise missing in my life. I also think that this desire to escape was fundamentally a protest against heteronormativity, though I didn’t know it at the time.
After receiving my Ph.D. at Princeton University, working on Hölderlin and Novalis, I took a position at the University of North Carolina, where I worked 25 years, first in German and then jointly in Comparative Literature. After receiving tenure, I ventured further afield in my research and published an article on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story, “The Sandman” and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. It started an exploration into ever new areas of research, a pattern that has characterized my entire academic life as a dilettante.
Working more on film (co-mingled with queer theory), I published The Queer German Cinema in 2000. It was preceded in 1996 by an another major publication—the first on queer issues in 18th-century literature and on the topic of what I like to term “homoaesthetics”—Outing Goethe and His Age, a volume that I edited. Pursuing my passions further (I am the owner of two lovely whippets) I started working in the area of animal studies and came out in 2006 with Melancholia’s Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship. Along the way, I have had guest professorships teaching a semester each at Princeton University, Rutgers University, and the University of Minnesota.
I moved back to Canada in 2008 to escape Bush’s regime and assumed a position at uWaterloo in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies. Here I helped to set up the Fine Arts major in Visual Culture and every fall teach a large first-year film class on contemporary Global Cinema. I lead a research group on “Poetics and Nature circa 1800” for the Waterloo Centre for German Studies. As an amateur herbalist I became interested in homeopathy and started researching its origins in German Romantic medicine, life sciences, and philosophy. The result is a just published book, with a nod to Nietzsche, entitled The Birth of Homeopathy out of the Spirit of Romanticism. I currently hold a University Research Chair.
The Birth of Homeopathy out of the Spirit of Romanticism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017.
Melancholia’s Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
The Queer German Cinema. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.
Outing Goethe and His Age, ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.
Delayed Endings: Nonclosure in Novalis and Hölderlin. Athens GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987. Winner of the 1985 South Atlantic Modern Language Association Award Competition.
“Precarious Sexualities: Queer Challenges to Psychoanalytic and Social Identity Categorization.” Clinical Encounters in Sexuality: Psychoanalytic Practice and Queer Theory. Ed. Noreen Giffney and Eve Watson. Brooklyn: Punctum Books, 2017. 51-76.
“Where is the Animal after Posthumanism? Quivering Life in Sue Coe’s Art.” Special Issue of The New Centennial Review 21.2 (2011) on “The Animal . . . in Theory.” Ed. David Clark.
“‘I Married My Dog’: On Queer Canine Literature.” Queering the Non/Human. Ed. Noreen Giffney and Myrna Hird. Aldershot: Ashgate Press, 2008. 205-26.
“’It’s not often that I want a man’: Reading for a Queer Marlene.” Dietrich Icon. Ed. Gerd Gemünden and Mary Desjardins. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. 239-58.
“Wenders’s Windshields.” The Cinema of Wim Wenders: Image, Narrative, and the Postmodern Condition. Ed. Roger F. Cook and Gerd Gemünden. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 1997. 222-39.
“Double Talk in Twin Peaks.” Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to TWIN PEAKS. Ed. David Lavery. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994. 120-29.
“Hearing Woman’s Voices in Heinrich von Ofterdingen.” PMLA 107 (1992): 1196-1207.
“Ears Looking at You! E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Der Sandmann and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.” South Atlantic Review 54 (1989): 7-21.
Fellowships & Awards
- Excellence in Arts Research Award, University of Waterloo (2017)
- Chair in Croatian Studies, University of Waterloo (2010-2012)
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant (2011-2015)
- Humboldt Fellowship (1997-98)
The Romantic science of homeopathy, founded by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, is grounded in the intellectual and aesthetic cross-currents of the day. Around 1800 scientists, philosophers, and poets alike believed in a life force uniting all of nature. In response to the eighteenth-century classification of species and mechanistic view of nature, the Romantics envisaged a dynamic harmonic symbiosis with nature. Although homeopathy has enjoyed a vibrant afterlife up to our present day, its intellectual, indeed poetic, groundings have been largely forgotten. I investigate how authors as Goethe and Novalis underscore the importance of the literary field in this momentous chapter to the history of science and medicine. As an outgrowth of this research, I also investigate how the homeopathic anamnesis and repertoires influence the poetry of the main female author of 19th-century Germany, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, who consulted a homeopath for over a decade.
Areas of graduate supervision
- Cinema studies
- Queer studies
- Animal studies
- History of medicine
- Psychoanalytic approaches to literature and film
I have directed dissertations on such topics as “Christopher Nolan and the art of anamorphosis,” "The representation of the divine in Friedrich Hölderlin and his contemporaries,” “Narrative strategies in the contemporary novel of the undead,” “Reforming the fat woman: the narrative encoding of size in film,” “Generational conflict in German terrorist cinema,” and “Visual violence and the loss of self in Günderrode, Hölderlin und Fichte.” I co-supervise uWaterloo English department dissertations. Since coming to uWaterloo, my graduate classes have included “From Freud to Lacan: Psychoanalysis in Literary, Visual, and Sexuality Studies,” “Performance and Sexuality in German Cinema,” “Becoming Animal,” and “Romantic Ecology.”