Kirk Wetters

Kirk Wetters's picture
Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures and Department Chair
100 Wall St, New Haven, CT 06511-6607
(203) 432-0782


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, Karl Löwith, Heimito von Doderer, Theodor W. Adorno, Hans Blumenberg and Giorgio Agamben (among others). 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.

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

  • “Goethe’s Faust” (grad-undergrad seminar), Fall 2016
  • “Literature of Travel and Tourism” (grad-undergrad seminar), Fall 2016
  • “Music and Literature” (L5 seminar), Spring 2016

Books and Co-Edited Volumes

Article Publications

  • “Who Cares About Society?: Sorge and Reification in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.” In Colloquia Germanica. Eds. Arne Höcker and Franziska Schweiger (forthcoming 2017).
  • “Genealogy Trouble: Secularization and the Leveling of Theory.” In Theological Genealogies: Reflections on Secularization in Twentieth-Century Continental Thought. Eds. Willem Styfhals and Stepháne Symons (forthcoming).
  • “Illegitimacy as Norm: On the Temporality of Science and Theory.” In Recoding and Reinventing Theory. Ed. Nicoletta Pireddu (forthcoming).
  • “What’s the Upshot? Post-Enlightenment Science and Weber’s Concept of Value Neutrality.” In For a New Enlightenment. Eds. Hans Adler and Rüdiger Campe (forthcoming from Camden House 2017).
  • “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. In 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.” In 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.” In 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.” In 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. In 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. Munich: Fink Verlag 2014.
  • “Working Over Philosophy: Hans Blumenberg’s Reformulations of the Absolute.” In Telos 158: Spring 2012, 100-118.
  • “Self-Regulation, Reception and Ridicule in Hölderlin’s Hyperion.” In 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.” In 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

  • 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,” 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 29-30, 2016: concluding discussion with Patrick McCreless at the Yale German Department Graduate Student Conference, “Aesthetics of Dissonance.”
  • April 16, 2016: “‘Fateful Hours’: Stefan Zweig’s Demonic Histories,” conference paper at Austrian Modernism and the Habsburg Myth (Yale University).
  • April 15-16, 2016: conference co-organizer, Austrian Modernism and the Habsburg Myth (with Rüdiger Campe and Klemens Renoldner of the Stephan Zweig Centre of Salzburg and the Beinecke Library).
  • October 1-4, 2015: “Human Objects: Reification in Georg Lukács and Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister,” conference paper at the German Studies Association Conference (Washington, DC).
  • September 25, 2015: “Genealogy Trouble: Secularization and the Leveling of Theory,” invited lecture at the Institute for German Cultural Studies at Cornell.
  • May 13-15, 2015: “Pathologies of Care in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister” at “The Eighteenth-Century: Who Cares?,” invited lecture at the Workshop of Indiana Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies (Bloomington, IN).


PhD New York University, New York City, NY