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Todd Kontje


Ph.D. (Princeton)

Professor of German and Comparative Literature
Distinguished Professor

Office Hours

I received my PhD in German literature from Princeton University after having studied English and German at the University of Oregon. I taught at Columbia University for several years before moving to UC San Diego. I teach undergraduate courses in German and European literature and the occasional graduate seminar in critical theory and eighteenth-century Literature. 

Although I have written on a wide variety of authors, my work has increasingly focused questions of empire and German relations with the non-European world. German Orientalisms offers a broad historical overview of the ways in which Germany has defined itself in relation to the East (real or imagined) and in the process set itself off from other Western European nations. Thomas Mann’s World traces the interrelated themes of racial difference and the “Jewish question” in the work of this self-proclaimed representative of the German nation, with particular attention to the symbolic geography in his literary works. Imperial Fictions explores how German-language writers from the early Middle Ages to the present imagined communities before and beyond the nation-state. My new book finally, offers a fresh look at the life and work of Georg Forster (1754-1794), whom Friedrich Schlegel hailed as “a genuine cosmopolitan of German origins” (ein echter Weltbürger, deutscher Herkunft). As a participant in Captain Cook’s second voyage and one of the leading figures in the Mainz Republic, Forster was a cosmopolitan thinker who had traveled the world and a political activist in a revolutionary age. A recent article on Alexander von Humboldt’s Views of Nature (German Studies Review) continues this focus on Germany in global context and represents an early stage of a new project, tentatively titled Weimar in the World: Germany in the Global Eighteenth Century.


Georg Forster: German Cosmopolitan. Series: Germans Beyond Europe. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2022.

Imperial Fictions: German Literature Before and Beyond the Nation-State. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2018.

Thomas Mann's World: Empire, Race, and the Jewish Question. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2011.

The Cambridge Introduction to Thomas Mann. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

German Orientalisms. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2004.

A Companion to German Realism (editor, introduction). Camden House Studies in German Literature, Linguistics, and Culture. Rochester, New York: Boydell & Brewer, 2002.

Women, the Novel, and the German Nation 1771-1871: Domestic Fiction in the Fatherland. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

The German Bildungsroman: History of a National Genre. Literary Criticism in Perspective. Columbia, South Carolina: Camden House, 1993.

Private Lives in the Public Sphere: The German 'Bildungsroman' as Metafiction. University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State Press, 1992.

Editorial Boards:

Colloquia Germanica, Publications of the English Goethe Society

The German Quarterly 2011-14
Coming soon...