Kirk Wetters

Kirk Wetters's picture
Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures (On Leave)


Office Hours: By appointment. Schedule via email,

PhD New York University, New York City, NY

Kirk Wetters’s current research continues to pursue the intertwined genealogies of literary and critical theory in connection to questions of method in the humanities and social sciences. Under the thematic heading of “illegitimacy,” recent research and teaching have focused on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Herman Melville, J. J. Bachofen, Max Weber, Georg Lukács, Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Kammerer, Karl Löwith, Heimito von Doderer, Theodor W. Adorno, Hans Blumenberg, Nicolaus Sombart, Giorgio Agamben. A second ongoing project focuses on travel writing, historical fiction and biography; authors include Georg Forster, Goethe, Adalbert Stifter, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Broch, and Christoph Ransmayr.

Starting in 2018, together with Andrea Albrecht (Heidelberg) and Christian Benne (Copenhagen), Kirk Wetters is a member of the editorial team of Athenäum, the journal of the Friedrich Schlegel Society.


  • 2015- Present:  Yale University, Professor of German
  • 2009-2015:        Yale University, Associate Professor of German
  • 2004-2009:       Yale University,
 Assistant Professor of German

Current Teaching:

  • Spring 2022: “Heimito von Doderer’s The Strudlhof Steps” (graduate-undergraduate seminar)
  • Fall 2021: “Goethe’s Faust” (undergraduate-graduate seminar, co-taught with Prof. Jan Hagens, Comparative Literature; and “Critique and Crisis” (graduate-undergraduate seminar)
  • Spring 2021: “Game of Thrones and the Theory of Sovereignty” (undergraduate  seminar); and “Transformations of the Public Sphere” (graduate-undergraduate seminar co-taught with Max Kade Visiting Professor Thomas Khurana)
  • Fall 2020:  “German Fiction Around 1800” (graduate-undergraduate seminar)
  • Spring 2020: “Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister” (graduate-undergraduate seminar); and Game of Thrones and the Theory of Sovereignty” (first-year seminar)
  • Fall 2019: “Critical Methodologies of Literature and Theory” (graduate proseminar)
  • Spring 2019: Directed Studies: Literature; and “Living Form: Organicism in Society and Aesthetics” (graduate-undergraduate seminar)
  • Fall 2018:  “The Age of Goethe” (undergraduate lecture)
  • Spring 2018: “Ends of the Enlightenment” (undergraduate seminar); and  “Austrian Literature After Wittgenstein” (graduate proseminar)
  • Fall 2017: “World Literature: Problems and Case Studies” (graduate-undergraduate seminar, co-taught with Prof. Hannan Hever, Comparative Literature and Judaic Studies)
  • Spring 2017: “Music and Literature” (advanced language class)

Books and Co-Edited Volumes:

  • The Authoritarian Personality: A Special Issue, co-edited with Christina Gerhardt (University of Hawai’i & Princeon) and Robyn Marasco (Hunter College & CUNY), Polity 51:1 (January 2022).
  • Talking Prose: Narrative and Autobiography in Heimito von Doderer, co-edited with Gerald Sommer. Doderer-Gespräche: Schriften der Heimito von Doderer Gesellschaft 7. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann 2016.
  • Demonic History from Goethe to the Present, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press 2014.
  • “Das Dämonische”: Schicksale einer Kategorie der Zweideutigkeit, co-edited with Eva Geulen (Frankfurt) and Lars Friedrich (Bonn), Munich: Fink Verlag 2014
  • Hans Blumenberg, co-edited with Rüdiger Campe (Yale) and Paul Fleming (Cornell) for Telos (Number 158, Spring 2012).
  • The Opinion System: Impasses of the Public Sphere from Hobbes to Habermas. New York (Fordham University Press), 2008, 292 pp. Reviewed by Irmela Schneider in Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 128: 4/2009, 615-618; Susanne Lüdemann in MLN 125.3 (April 2010), 723-727; Martin Stingelin in Lichtenberg-Jahrbuch 2009, 285-289.

Article Publications:

  • “Fahrvergnügungen: The Limits of Autonomy in Societies of Control (J. G. Ballard and Franz Kafka).” Forthcoming 2022.
  • Hermann Broch’s Massenwahntheorie Today.” Forthcoming 2022.
  • “Spectacle, Ideology, and Rhetoric of the Authoritarian Personality(republication, originally 2016). In Die Wiederkehr des autoritären Charakters. Eds. Manuel Clemens, Thorben Päthe & Marc Petersdorff. 2022, pp. 239-262.
  • Voici venu le temps des unilatéralités’: Spécialisation, differenciation et métier das les Années de voyage de Wilhelm Meister.” Goethe, le second auteur: Actualité d’un inactuel. Eds. Denis Thouard & Christoph König. Éditions Hermann. Forthcoming 2022.
  • Criteria of Tragic Form: Toward a Reconstruction of Lukács’s Earliest Critical Theory New German Critique. Forthcoming 2022/23.
  • A Transcendent Word: Stefan Zweig’s Demonic Histories.” Fragments of Empire: Austrian Modernisms and the Habsburg Imaginary. Austrian Studies 28 (2020), 166-181.
  • “Notes on the Theory-Hub Model of German Studies.” Re-Imagining the Discipline: German Studies, the Humanities and the University. Symposium contributions published as an online forum:
  • German’s Anti-National Niches,” a contribution to the forum, “Does German Cultural Studies need the Nation-State Model?” The German Quarterly 92.4 (Fall 2019), 494-498.
  • “Genealogy Trouble: Secularization and the Leveling of Theory.” Genealogies of the Secular: The Makings of Modern German Thought. Eds. Willem Styfhals and Stepháne Symons. Albany: State University of New York Press 2019, 21-50.
  • “Legends of the Origins of Hate: On the Etiology of a Societal Phenomenon.” Hass/Literatur: Literatur- und kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge zu einer Theorie- und Diskursgeschichte. Eds. Jürgen Brokoff and Robert Walter-Jochum. Bielefeld: Transcript 2019, 29-48.
  • “The Law of the Series and the Crux of Causation: Paul Kammerer’s Anomalies.” Modern Language Notes 134:3 (April 2019), 643-660.
  • “Illegitimacy as Norm: On the Temporality of Science and Theory.” Reframing Critical, Literary and Cultural Theories. Ed. Nicoletta Pireddu. Palgrave-MacMillan 2018, 63-90.
  • “Who Cares About Society?: Sorge and Reification in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.” Material Worlds: Novelistic Matters of the Nineteenth Century. Colloquia Germanica 47.3 (2014), 243-262.
  • “Spectacle, Ideology, and Rhetoric of the Authoritarian Personality.” Essay published online by the Platypus Affiliated Society. Platypus Review #91.…
  • “Die Tiefe ist außen’ – Heimito von Doderers gegenreformerische Lebensreform,” co-authored with Robert Walter-Jochum. Die Literatur der Lebensreform: Kulturkritik und Aufbruchsstimmung um 1900. Eds. Thorsten Carstensen and Marcel Schmid. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag 2016, 307-324.
  • “Gefühl eines Ungeheuerlichen’: Monster-Forms in Heimito von Doderer’s Die Dämonen.Doderer-Gespräche: Schriften der Heimito von Doderer Gesellschaft 7. Eds. Gerald Sommer et. al. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann 2016, 172-198.
  • “Konjunktivisches Erzählen in Heimito von Doderers Die Dämonen.” Heimito von Doderers “Dämonen”-Roman: Lektüren. Eds. Eva Geulen and Tim Albrecht. Beiheft zur Zeitschift für deutsche Philologie. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag 2016, 125-140.
  • “‘Am sausenden Webstuhl der Zeit, web’ ich der Gottheit lebendiges Kleid’: Spuren des Dämonischen in Oswald Spenglers Geschichtsmorphologie.” Tektonik der Systeme: Neulektüren von Oswald Spengler. Eds. Arne de Winde, Sven Fabré, Sientje Maes, Bart Philipsen and Le Prince-Évêque. Heidelberg: Synchron Verlag 2016, 78-92.
  • “Skepsis,” co-authored with Florian Fuchs. Blumenberg lesen: ein Glossar. Eds. Robert Buch and Daniel Weidner. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2014, 276-291.
  • “The Luciferian and the Demonic in Georg Lukács’ Theorie des Romans.” In “Das Dämonische”: Schicksale einer Kategorie der Zweideutigkeit. Eds. Lars Friedrich, Eva Geulen, and Kirk Wetters. Munich: Fink Verlag 2014.
  • “Working Over Philosophy: Hans Blumenberg’s Reformulations of the Absolute.” Hans Blumenberg. Eds. Rüdiger Campe, Paul Fleming and Kirk Wetters. Telos 158 (Spring 2012), 100-118.
  • “Self-Regulation, Reception and Ridicule in Hölderlin’s Hyperion.” MLN 123:3. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press 2008, 534-550.
  • “The Rule of the Norm and the Political Theology of ‘Real Life’ in Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben.” Diacritics 36.1 (2006), 31-46. Reprinted in: Agamben and Law. Ed. Thanos Zartaloudis. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate 2015.

Current Papers, Presentations, and Conferences:

  • October 7, 2021: pre-circulated statement at the online forum, “Projekt Germanistik: Vom Nebeneinander zum Miteinander der weltweit unterschiedlich aufgestellten und standortsbewusst agierenden Germanistik,” organized by Stephan Wolting.
  • June 3-5, 2021: “Hermann Broch and Post-Weberian Political Theory,” presentation at the zoom conference, “Verteidigung der Demokratie: Hermann Brochs amerikanische Exilerfahrung und die Aktualität seines politischen Denkens,” at the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies (ZfL), Berlin.
  • October 1-4, 2020: “Precarious Authority: Game of Thrones and Max Weber’s Theory of Charisma,” presentation at the German Studies Association panel series, “Representations of Social Precarity.”
  • February 14-15, 2020: co-organizer, together with Christina Gerhardt and Robyn Marasco, of the conference “The Authoritarian Personality” for the Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Whitney Humanities Center; additional funding from Yale’s Kempf Fund and the DAAD.
  • February 15, 2020: “Carl Schmitt as Typus of the Authoritarian (in Adorno and Nicolaus Sombart),” presentation at the conference “The Authoritarian Personality,” sponsored by the Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
  • December 2, 2019: “The Law of the Series and the Crux of Causation: Paul Kammerer’s Anomalies,” invited presenter at the workshop Hermeneutic Interventions, Oriel College, Oxford.
  • October 3-6, 2019: presenter at “The Nations of Philology,” seminar at the German Studies Association conference in Portland, OR.
  • October 4, 2019: commentator at “Figures of Gesamtkunstwerk: Wagner Mediated and Unmediated,” panel at the German Studies Association conference in Portland, OR.
  • September 18, 2019: “Genius and Typus: Paradigms of exceptionality in Stefan Zweig,” invited keynote at “‘Genie’ in der Nachromantik: Das Schöpferische (Individuum) und der Aufstieg der Massenkultur,” conference at the University of Salzburg.
  • September 14, 2019: “Notes on the Theory-Hub Model of German Studies,” invited panelist at “Re-Imagining the Discipline: German Studies, the Humanities and the University,” conference of the Institute for German Cultural Studies at Cornell University.
  • March 22, 2019: “Guilt by Association: Nicolaus Sombart and Carl Schmitt,” paper presented at Yale German Department workshop, “Complicity: On Participation in Literature and Criticism.”
  • March 17, 2019: “Affect and Political Resistance in the Tragic View of History: Walter Benjamin, Stefan Zweig, and Popular Narrative,” conference paper at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Seattle, WA.
  • December 6, 2018: ““The Law of the Series and the Crux of Causation: Paul Kammerer’s Anomalies,’” invited lecture at the Princeton University German Department.
  • November 16, 2018: invited round table discussion at Northwestern University on Prof. Erica Weitzman’s book manuscript, At the Limits of the Obscene: Realism, Profanation, Aesthetics.
  • October 17-18, 2018: “Exiting the Chamber of the Past: Model Precursors in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister Novels,” invited lecture at Ethical Reading (2): Philology, Philosophy and Poetry (Oriel College, Oxford University).
  • September 22, 2018: “The Authority of Theory: Nicolaus Sombart and Carl Schmitt,”
  • invited lecture at “Expertise and Authority,” International Workshop of the Thematic Network “Literature–Knowledge–Media” at Cornell University.
  • August 23, 2018: “‘Voici venu le temps des unilatéralités’: Spécialisation, différenciation et métier dans les Années de voyage de Wilhelm Meister,” invited lecture at the conference “Goethe: l’actualité d’un inactuel” at Cerisy-La Salle (Normandy).
  • June 24, 2018: “Hassursprungslegenden: Zur Ätiologie eines gesellschaftlichen Motivationszusammenhangs,” invited lecture at the conference Hass/Literatur at the Free University, Berlin.
  • April 30, 2018: “Legends of the Origins of Hate: A Dialogue with Nicolaus Sombart,” invited lecture at “Gender in Modern Hebrew and Jewish Literature,” Yale University.
  • February 16, 2018: “Presence and Absence in Georg Forster’s Journey Round the World,” invited lecture at “Meaningful Presence: Lived Experience and Representation” at Wesleyan University.
  • February 7, 2018: “Presence and Absence in Georg Forster’s Journey Round the World,” Yale Whitney Humanities Center Fellows Lunch Presentation.
  • December 28, 2017: “Demonic World Literature,” invited lecture at the University of Haifa Bucerius Institute and Haifa Center for German and European Studies.
  • December 26, 2017: “Demonic World Literature,” invited lecture at Tel Aviv University Minerva Institute for German History and The Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics.
  • December 17-21, 2017: “Who Cares About Society?: Sorge and Reification in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre,” invited lecture at the workshop and conference on “Goethe’s Scientific Writings” and “Goethe and Philosophy,” Tel Aviv University.
  • November 3, 2017: “Ideal or Ideal Type?: Georg Lukács’s Concept of Form,” at “Re-Orientations around Goethe,” Atkins Conference of the Goethe Society of North America, November 2-5, Penn State University, PA.
  • October 7, 2017: “Soul and Genre: Implications of Lukács’s Early Drama Theory,” conference paper at the German Studies Association Conference (Atlanta, GA).
  • October 6, 2017: commentator and respondent to “Racism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism in Germany and the United States: Autoritäre Politik im 21. Jahrhundert,” 2017 German Studies Association panel (Atlanta, GA).
  • September 18-19, 2017: co-organizer (with Irene Peirano and Yii-Jan Lin) of “Philologia Sacra et Profana: Constructions of the Authentic,” Yale Whitney Humanities Center conference/workshop of the Divinity School, Classics and Germanic Languages & Literatures.
  • September 16-17, 2017: invited participant at “Transatlantic German Studies: Personal Experiences,” symposium of the American Friends of Marbach at the University of Washington in St. Louis.
  • July 22-27, 2017: Invited participant at the Humboldt University (PhD-Net) Summer School, “Transformations.”
  • July 9, 2017: “Heaven and Earth: Stefan Zweig’s Sternstunden der Menschheit and Christoph Ransmayr’s Atlas eines ängstlichen Mannes” at the American Comparative Literature Association Conference in Utrecht, Netherlands.
  • July 6-9, 2017: American Comparative Literature Association conference seminar,  “Literary Space in Modernist Literature 1890-1960” (Utrecht, Netherlands), co-organized with Yvonne Wolf and Andreas Solbach of the University of Mainz.
  • June 26, 2017: Workshop with Werner Michler and Klemens Renoldner on genre and Stefan Zweig’s Sternstunden der Menschheit at the University of Salzburg.
  • May 26, 2017: “Spectacle, Ideology and Rhetoric of the Authoritarian Personality: Reading Trump with Adorno,” invited lecture at the University of Copenhagen.
  • May 11, 2017: “‘Fateful Hours’: Stefan Zweig’s Demonic Histories,” invited lecture at “Migration and Immigration in Modern Hebrew Literature and Jewish Literature,” Yale University.
  • February 24, 2017: “Philology as Passion, Illegitimacy as Norm,” presentation at the Yale German Department work-in-progress colloquium.