Gerhard Richter Professor of German Studies, Professor of Comparative Literature, Chair of German Studies

Gerhard Richter was educated in Germany and the U.S., earning his Ph.D. at Princeton University. Before coming to Brown as Chair of the German Department and as Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature, he taught at the University of California, Davis, where he served as Director of the Graduate Program in Critical Theory, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Richter's books include Inheriting Walter Benjamin ("Walter Benjamin Studies" Series, London: Bloomsbury, 2016); Verwaiste Hinterlassenschaften. Formen gespentischen Erbens [Orphaned Remains: Forms of Ghostly Inheriting] (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2016); Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics (Columbia University Press, 2011); Thought-Images: Frankfurt School Writers' Reflections from Damaged Life (Stanford University Press, 2007); Ästhetik des Ereignisses. Sprache-Geschichte-Medium (Fink, 2005); and Walter Benjamin and the Corpus of Autobiography (Wayne State University Press, 2000; 2nd edition, 2002). He also is the editor of seven additional books, including Jacques Derrida's Copy, Archive, Signature: A Conversation on Photography (Stanford University Press, 2010). Among other texts, Richter has translated into English Benjamin’s 1938 “Diary Entries” (in Benjamin’s Selected Writings, vol. 3, Harvard University Press) as well as Adorno’s 1969 Spiegel conversation on aesthetics and politics. He has served as chair of the Executive Committee of the MLA's Division on Philosophical Approaches to Literature and serves on the Advisory Board of the International Walter Benjamin Society. Richter has been a visiting fellow at institutions such as Northwestern, Rutgers, and Syracuse, and, in Germany, at the Universities of Bonn, Cologne, and Düsseldorf, as well as the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin. 

Brown Affiliations

research overview

Gerhard Richter's research focuses on aesthetic theory and European critical thought since Kant; modern German literature and culture (including photography); the Frankfurt School (especially Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno); the intersections of literary writing and philosophy (especially Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida); contemporary French thought; questions of translation; and the complexities of intellectual and cultural inheritance.

research statement

Professor Richter publishes in the general areas of European critical thought and modern German literature and culture.

He is the author of Inheriting Walter Benjamin ("Walter Benjamin Studies" Series, London: Bloomsbury, 2016); Verwaiste Hinterlassenschaften. Formen gespenstischen Erbens (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2016); Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics (Columbia University Press, 2011); Thought-Images: Frankfurt School Writers' Reflections from Damaged Life (Stanford University Press, 2007); Ästhetik des Ereignisses. Sprache-Geschichte-Medium (Fink, 2005); and Walter Benjamin and the Corpus of Autobiography (Wayne State University Press, 2000; 2nd edition, 2002). 

In addition to his single-author books, Professor Richter has published seven edited books, including Benjamin's Ghosts: Interventions in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory (Stanford University Press, 2002); Literary Paternity, Literary Friendship (University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Sound Figures of Modernity: German Music and Philosophy (University of Wisconsin Press, 2002, co-ed. with Jost Hermand); Language without Soil: Adorno and Late Philosophical Modernity (Fordham University Press, 2010); Jacques Derrida, Copy, Archive, Signature: A Conversation on Photography (Stanford University Press, 2010); Benjamins Grenzgänge - Benjamin's Frontiers (Königshausen & Neumann, 2013, co-ed. with Karl Solibakke and Bernd Witte); and For the Love of Words: Responses to Werner Hamacher's 95 Theses on Philology, co-ed. with Ann Smock (forthcoming).


He also has published some 60 articles and book chapters in venues such as MLNNew German Critiquedifferences, Zeitschrift für kritische Theorie, Oxford Literary Review, Weimarer BeiträgeThe Cambridge Companion to Walter BenjaminThe German Quarterly, MonatshefteTelosGrey RoomJournal of Visual CultureCR: The New Centennial Reviewqui parleGerman Politics and SocietySymplokeAngelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, and Culture, Theory, and Critique

Some of Professor Richter's recent essays (since 2010) include "The Debt of Inheritance Revisited: Heidegger's Mortgage, Derrida's Appraisal," Oxford Literary Review 37:1 (2015); "Critique and the Thing: Benjamin and Heidegger," Sparks will Fly: Benjamin and Heidegger, eds. Andrew Benjamin and Dimitris Vardoulakis. SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy. (SUNY Press, 2015); "Mit der Zeit gehen," Benjamins Grenzgänge - Benjamin's Frontiers (Königshausen & Neumann, 2013); "Die Seminare über Schiller und Herder. Von der Freiheit zur Sprache," Heidegger-Handbuch. Leben-Werk-Wirkung, 2nd ed. (Metzler, 2013); "Gespräch über Bäume," Zeitschrift für kritische Theorie 33-34 (2012); "Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) and Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969)," Aesthetics: The Key Thinkers, ed. Alessandro Giovanelli (Continuum, 2012); "Die Erbschaft der Konstellation. Adorno und Hegel," MLN 126: 3 (2011); "Benjamin's Blotting Paper: Writing and Erasing a Theological Figure of Thought," Symposium 65: 1 (2011); "Love as Resistance: A Miniature after Adorno," Culture Industry Today, ed. Fabio Akcelrud Durão (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010); "Can Anything Be Rescued by Defending It? Benjamin with Adorno," differences 31: 3 (2010), also in Portuguese translation as "Pode algo ser salvo ao ser defendido? Benjamin com Adorno," trans. Tauan Tinti, Remate de Males: Revista de Teoria e História Literária30: 1 (2010); "Der Schatz der Bilder. Bild und Erinnerung bei Heidegger," Weimarer Beiträge 56: 3 (2010); "The Work of Art and Its Formal and Genealogical Determinations: Benjamin's 'Cool Place' between Kant and Nietzsche," Grey Room 39 (2010); "Between Translation and Invention: The Photograph in Deconstruction," Introduction to Jacques Derrida, Copy, Archive, Signature: A Conversation on Photography (Stanford, 2010); "Acts of Memory and Mourning: Derrida and the Fictions of Anteriority," Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, ed. Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz (Fordham, 2010); "Introduction," Language without Soil: Adorno and Late Philosophical Modernity (Fordham, 2010).

Most recently, Richter has delivered invited lectures, keynote addresses, and guest seminars on his research at institutions such as Cornell, UC Berkeley, Rutgers, NYU, Penn, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, University of Georgia, Johns Hopkins, University of Minnesota, SUNY Buffalo, Syracuse, Clark, Penn State, UCLA, Northwestern, UC Irvine, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena (Germany), Universität Bonn (Germany), Universität Lüneburg (Germany), Universität Düsseldorf (Germany), Andrássy University (Budapest), Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Brazil), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.