Kirk Wetters

Kirk Wetters's picture
Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures and Department Chair

Office Hours: by appointment

PhD New York University, New York City, NY

Kirk’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 is a member of the editorial team of Athenäum, the journal of the Friedrich Schlegel Society.

Office Hours by appointment. Schedule via email,


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

Current Teaching

  • Fall 2019: “Critical Methodologies of Literature and Theory” (graduate proseminar)
  • Spring 2020: “Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister” (advanced seminar)
  • Spring 2020: “Game of Thrones and the Theory of Sovereignty” (freshman seminar)

Books and Co-Edited Volumes

Article Publications

  • “Ideal or Ideal Type: Simmel’s Goethe and Lukács’s Lenin.” Forthcoming 2020.
  • “The Alternative Romanticism of Friedrich Schlegel’s ‘Georg Forster.’” Forthcoming 2020 in Athenäum.
  • “Voici venu le temps des unilatéralités”: Spécialisation, differenciation et métier das les Années de voyage de Wilhelm Meister” (forthcoming 2020).
  • “Genre and the Philosophy of History in Lukács’s Early Drama-History.” New German Critique. Eds. Patrick Eiden-Offe and Jette Gindner (forthcoming 2019).
  • “Genealogy Trouble: Secularization and the Leveling of Theory.” Theological Genealogies: Reflections on Secularization in Twentieth-Century Continental Thought. Eds. Willem Styfhals and Stepháne Symons (forthcoming 2019).
  • 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. Eds. Jocelyn Holland and Joel Lande. 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. Eds. Arne Höcker, Franziska Schweiger and Lauren Shizuko Stone, In Colloquia Germanica 47.3 (2014), published 2017, 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: Trasnscript 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. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press 2006, 31-46. Reprinted in: Agamben and Law. Ed. Thanos Zartaloudis. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate 2015.

Current Papers and Presentations

  • 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 lecture at “‘Genie’ in der Nachromantik: Das Schöpferische (Individuum) und der Aufstieg der Massenkultur,” conference at the University of Salzburg.
  • September 14, 2019: 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: “Entropy and Constructed Worlds: Paul Kammerer’s ‘Law of the Series,’” 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).
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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,” conference paper at “Migration and Immigration in Modern Hebrew Literature and Jewish Literature,” Yale University.
  • February 24, 2017: “Philology as Passion, Illegitimacy as Norm,” presented at the Yale German Department work in progress colloquium.
  • November 9, 2016: “Introduction to Sokurov’s Faust.” In the Whitney Humanities Center series, “Body and Soul: The Films of Aleksandr Sokurov.”
  • October 10, 2016: “On the Pathologies of Care in Goethe’s Image of the Architect.” Forum of the Yale School of Architecture.
  • September 29-October 2, 2016: German Studies Association seminar, “‘Technical Means’: Heimito von Doderer and the Modern novel” (San Diego, CA), co-organized with Christopher Chiasson of Indiana University.
  • October 1, 2016: commentator and respondent to “The Authoritarian Personality and Contemporary Politics, Populism, and Subjectivity,” 2016 German Studies Association panel (San Diego, CA).
  • June 10, 2016: “Bilderverbot: The Straub/Huillet Film of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron.” Colloquium presentation at the annual meeting of the American Friends of Marbach (Marbach, Germany).
  • June 8, 2016: “Philology as Passion,” invited lecture at the literary colloquium “Texte. Zeichen. Medien” at the University of Erfurt.
  • May 24, 2016: “Problems with Trees: Genealogy and Genetic Criticism,” conference paper at Ethical Reading: Philology, Philosophy and Poetry (Oriel College, Oxford University).
  • April 16, 2016: “‘Fateful Hours’: Stefan Zweig’s Demonic Histories,” conference paper at Austrian Modernism and the Habsburg Myth (Yale University).