Thomas G. Schestag Professor of German Studies

Schestag studied philosophy, German, and Comparative Literature in Berlin, Paris, and Strasbourg. He received his doctorate at the University of Zurich in 1988 and his habilitation at the University of Frankfurt in 2003. He has taught at universities in Germany (including Bochum, Bonn, Frankfurt, and Munich), Japan, Hungary, and the U.S., including Johns Hopkins, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, and Virginia. In the fall of 2013 he was the John P. Birkelund Fellow in the Humanities at the American Academy in Berlin. He joined the faculty of Brown's German Department in January 2014.

Brown Affiliations

research overview

Thomas Schestag's research interests include the relation between literature and philology; theories of names and naming; the intersection of poetry, philosophy, and political theory; the theory and practice of translation; and the question of a sense for language that precedes the preconceptual notion of a linguistic common sense.

research statement

Professor Schestag's research interests range across European literatures, with an emphasis on German, French, English, and Greco-Roman antiquity and a focus on literary theory as well as on the theory and practice of translation. In German literature, his research and teaching interests span the period from the Reformation to the present, with an emphasis on late 18th- and early 19th- century philosophy, philology, and literature, as well as on poetry and politics in 20th-century literature and thought.

Schestag is the author of para- Titus Lucretius Carus, Johann Peter Hebel, Francis Ponge –zur literarischen Hermeneutik (Munich: Klaus Boer Verlag, 1991); Parerga: Friedrich Hölderlin; Carl Schmitt, Franz Kafka; Platon, Friedrich Schleiermacher,Walter Benjamin; Jacques Derrida. Zur literarischen Hermeneutik (Munich: Klaus Boer Verlag, 1991); Asphalt [on Walter Benjamin's theory of names and language] (Munich: Klaus Boer Verlag, 1992; buk [on topography in Paul Celan's poetry] (Munich: Klaus Boer Verlag, 1994); Mantisrelikte [on the figure of the Praying Mantis in the works of Jean-Henri Fabre, Maurice Blanchot, and Paul Celan] (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 1999); Die unbewältigte Sprache. Hannah Arendts Theorie der Dichtung [on Hannah Arendt's theory of poetry and its relevance for her consideration of language in the philosophical sphere as well as in politics] (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 2006 [an English translation of this book, to be published by Johns Hopkins University Press, is in preparation]; Realabsenz, Schatten. Flauberts Erziehung: zur Éducation sentimentale; mit einem Anhang: sensus tacitus (Berlin: August Verlag, 2011); Lesen – Sprechen – Schreiben (Kritzeln) [including three essays: on Celan's poem JETZT; on Baudelaire translating Poe; and on written and scribbled traces of one of Benjamin's drug experiments] (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz Verlag, 2014).

Edited volumes: Guest editor of Der Prokurist 18 : fila sonantia. Fragmente orphischer Entomologie [Fragments of an Orphic entomology] (Vienna/Lana: edition per procura, 1996); guest editor of Debrecener Studien zur Literatur 3: "geteilte Aufmerksamkeit". Zur Frage des Lesens (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1997). Francis Ponge, L'Opinion changée quant aux fleurs / Änderung der Ansicht über Blumen (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 2005) [critical edition of a previously unpublished dossier by the French writer Francis Ponge, along with translations, a philological commentary, and an essay – Worte, wie Blumen –]. A subsequent edition of another unpublished dossier by Francis Ponge – Le Soleil – is currently in preparation. In addition, Schestag wrote an extensive introduction – Piedestal – to a new German edition of Balzac's Théorie de la démarche / Theorie des Gehens (Zurich: Edition Howeg, 1997).

Professor Schestag has published numerous articles on a variety of topics. His essays on German literature include "Sem" [on Luther's theory and practice of translation], in Sêma – Wendepunkte der Philologie , ed. Joachim Harst and Kristina Mendicino; "The Highest" [on Hölderlin's Pindar-fragment Das Höchste ], in The Solid Letter. Readings of Hölderlin , ed. Aris Fioretos; "Lampen (Fragment)," in Übersetzen: Walter Benjamin , ed. Christiaan L. Hart Nibbrig; "Brockes. Freundschaft und Pest bei Heinrich von Kleist," in Kleist lesen , ed. Marianne Schuller and Nikolaus Müller-Schöll [partial English translation in Eighteenth Century Studies 32 (1999), special issue on Politics of Friendship , ed. Peter Fenves]; "versi-" [on Rilke's poem Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes ], in Interpretationen. Gedichte von Rainer Maria Rilke , ed. Wolfram Groddeck; "Novelle. Zu Gottfried Kellers Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe," in Anführen – Vorführen – Aufführen , ed. Volker Pantenburg and Nils Plath; "Bibliographie – für Jean Paul" in MLN 113 (1998); "'[…] und eigentlich noch viel jünger.' Kafkas Jargon", in Freund, Feind und Verrat. Das politische Feld der Medien , ed. Cornelia Epping-Jäger/Torsten Hahn/Erhard Schüttpelz; "Men Schen. Schnitte durch ein Gedicht Paul Celans," in MLN 119 (2004).

Among his essays and articles on philosophy and philology are "Komische Authentizität," in Theorie der Komödie – Poetik der Komödie , ed. Ralf Simon; "Schattenhaft" [on scenes of writing in Nietzsche], in Schreibprozess , ed. Peter Hughes/Thomas Fries/Tan Wälchli; "Philologie, Erkenntnis," in Neue Rundschau (2008) [an English translation, by Nils F. Schott, appeared in Telos 140 (2007)]; "Interpolationen. Benjamins Philologie" and "Philologische Gedichte," in philo:xenia 1 (2009); "Lektürekurs," in Bologna-Bestiarium , ed. Unbedingte Universitäten (2013); "Wiederbringung. Leibniz' Unvorgreiffliche Gedancken," in Sêma – Wendepunkte der Philologie .

As a translator, Professor Schestag has published four books by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe in German: Die Fiktion des Politischen , Dichtung als Erfahrung , and musica ficta , and Die Nachhahmung der Modernen (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 2003 and 2009). He also is the translator of Peter Fenves, Der späte Kant. Für ein anderes Gesetz der Erde (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2010) and of Hugh Raffles, Insektopädie (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz Verlag, 2013); other translations include texts by Stéphane Mallarmé, Maurice Blanchot, Francis Ponge, and Jesper Svenbro. His own texts have been translated into English, French, Hungarian, Japanese, and Russian.

Recent lectures, keynote addresses, and guest seminars include institutions such as Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Yale, Cornell, Berkeley, the University of Munich (Germany), the University of Bonn (Germany), the Kunsthochschule Bern (Switzerland) and University of Zurich (Switzerland), as well as the American Academy in Berlin.