L. Herbert Ballou University Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature


Gerhard Richter is the L. Herbert Ballou University Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature at Brown University. A long-serving former Department Chair, he also has been a Faculty Research Fellow at Brown's Pembroke Center, in addition to teaching as a core faculty member in the graduate certificate program at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities.

Richter was educated in Germany and the United States, earning his Ph.D. at Princeton University in 1996. He publishes in English and German, and his work has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. Richter has published nine single-authored books, seven edited books, and over 70 journal articles and book chapters. His books include Uncontainable Legacies: Theses on Intellectual, Cultural, and Political Inheritance (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021); Thinking with Adorno: The Uncoercive Gaze (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019); Ästhetische Eigenzeiten und die Zeit des Bewahrens. Heidegger mit Arendt, Derrida und Kafka (Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2019);  Inheriting Walter Benjamin ("Walter Benjamin Studies" Series, London: Bloomsbury, 2016); Verwaiste Hinterlassenschaften. Formen gespentischen 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) [Portuguese translation: Imagens de Pensamento: Reflexões dos escritores da Escola de Frankfurt a partir da vida danificada. Trans. Fabio Akcelrud Durão. São Paulo, Brazil: Nankin, 2017]; Ästhetik des Ereignisses. Sprache - Geschichte - Medium [Aesthetics of the Event: Language - History - Medium] (Fink, 2005); and Walter Benjamin and the Corpus of Autobiography (Wayne State University Press, 2000; 2nd edition, 2002). Richter is the editor of seven additional books in the area of German and European literature and critical thought, including Jacques Derrida's Copy, Archive, Signature: A Conversation on Photography (Stanford University Press, 2010). He also has edited and co-edited special issues of scholarly journals, most recently Inheriting the Frankfurt School (MLN 133:3, April 2018, Johns Hopkins University Press). Richter has translated texts such as Benjamin’s 1938 “Diary Entries” (in Benjamin’s Selected Writings, vol. 3, Harvard University Press) and Adorno’s 1969 Spiegel conversation on aesthetics and politics into English, and works such as Carl E. Schorske’s Eine österreichische Identität: Gustav Mahler into German.

Richter came to Brown in 2011 as Department Chair. Under his leadership over the next seven years, German Studies at Brown became one of the most highly ranked programs in the country with regard to scholarship and academic recognition. Before coming to Brown, Richter taught in the Department of German at the University of California, Davis for six years. He served as Director of the Graduate Program in Critical Theory and was affiliated with the Department of Comparative Literature and the Graduate Group in Cultural Studies. Prior to that, Richter taught for nine years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Department of German, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Integrated Liberal Studies Program, and the DAAD Center for German and European Studies. He also was an affiliated faculty member in the European Studies Program, the Global Studies Program, and the Visual Culture Cluster. In 2007, Richter was selected as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in Germany. Over the years, he has served as a visiting fellow at Northwestern University (School of Communication), Syracuse University (Humanities Center), University of Bonn, University of Cologne, University of Düsseldorf, University of Vienna, and the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin. Richter was a visiting lecturer at a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College Teachers at the University of California, Irvine; he delivered the Rodig Lecture and Seminar at Rutgers University; and he gave the Eugenio Donato Seminars in Comparative Literature at SUNY Buffalo. Altogether, he has presented well over 100 invited guest lectures, keynote addresses, and special seminars in the United States, Europe, and Latin America.

Richter was elected to the Executive Committee of the MLA's Division on Philosophical Approaches to Literature, which he subsequently chaired. He also was elected as a representative to the MLA Delegate Assembly. Richter serves on the Advisory Board of the International Walter Benjamin Society as well as on the editorial boards of various scholarly journals, including Postmodern Culture (Johns Hopkins University Press), Symploke (University of Nebraska Press), and Pacific Coast Philology (Penn State University Press), and of book series in critical thought such as Incitements (Edinburgh University Press) and Walter Benjamin Studies (London: Bloomsbury Academic).

During the academic year 2019-2020, he will be offering a graduate seminar in Collaborative Humanities through the Cogut Humanities Institute on "The Idea of the University" (co-taught with Peter Szendy); a graduate seminar in the German Studies Department on "Critical Styles"; and an undergraduate course in the Department of Comparative Literature entitled "The Promise of Being: Heidegger for Beginners."

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