Katrin Pahl

Katrin Pahl

Professor of German

Contact Information

Research Interests: German literature and philosophy in comparative perspective (US and French); the theory, poetics and history of emotionality, gender and sexuality; contemporary theater; Hegel; Kleist

Education: PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Katrin Pahl received her PhD from the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to her work in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures, she has served for many years as co-director of the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. The arc of her research is situated in the field of affect and emotion studies with an emphasis on gender and sexuality.

Her first book, Tropes of Transport: Hegel and Emotion (Northwestern UP, 2012) demonstrates that a fresh analysis of Hegel’s thought offers an important resource for the theory of emotionality. It addresses emotions as transformational forces, which carry one out of oneself and to a different self, while introducing impersonal transports, such as release, juggle, acknowledging, tremble, and broken.

Sex Changes with Kleist (Northwestern UP, 2019) shows that Kleist responded to the historical sex change (the emergence of the second sex and ensuing condemnation of same-sex desire) by multiplying the sex changes. Focusing on his theater – on the theatricality of his interventions and on the way his dramatic texts unhinge major tenets of classical European theater – Pahl probes Kleist’s appreciation for incoherence, his experimentation with alternative symbolic orders, his provocative understanding of emotion, and his camp humor. She proposes that sex might change again if we learn, with Kleist, to see what has long remained invisible and to speak to what could otherwise continue to remain unintelligible: queer female desire.

Pahl currently pursues two research projects, one on queer procreation and one on patterns of (sexualized) violence. Under the heading of procreation, rather than reproduction, the first inquiry develops the sensorium for new, unseen, and unheard-of forms of queer life. This involves thinking kinship beyond the apotheosis of the human. In the other study, Pahl analyzes contemporary political theater, narrative, and multimedia art in order to trace the interrelation of sexualized and ecological violence, war, migration, and psychic life.

Pahl was awarded the Best Article in Feminist Scholarship Prize from the Coalition of Women in German for “Transformative Translations: Cyrillizing and Queering” and has given the Kenneth Weisinger Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a Fellow of the Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion” at the Freie Universität Berlin and a Senior Fellow at the International Research Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy (IKKM), Weimar.

Selected Courses


  • Haitian Revolution, German Responses
  • Contemporary Theater: Gender/Violence
  • German Theater: Drama, Performance, Theory
  • Kleist im Kontext
  • Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
  • Impossible Intimacy: on Bachmann and Jelinek
  • Break and Continuity: German Thought around the French Revolution
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Beautiful Soul and Romantic Irony: Feeling, Gender, Theory


  • Wege aus der Krise: Politisches Theater Heute
  • Flucht und Migration: Literarische Erkundungen
  • Sex und Macht
  • Introduction to the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Making Modern Gender
  • Bodies and Pleasures
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Classic German Theater
  • Berlin Ost-Ost-West
  • The Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism
  • Wassermänner und Meerjungfrauen

Selected Publications

“Improbable Intimacy: Otobong Nkanga’s Grafts and Aggregates,” THEORY AND EVENT, special issue “Matterphorical,” eds. Zulaikha Ayub and Daniela Gandorfer, 24.1 (Jan. 2021).

“Raging with Care: The Poet’s Liquid Fire,” Hölderlin’s Philosophy of Nature, ed. Rochelle Tobias, Edinburgh University Press, 2020, pp. 44-57.

“Queer Procreation: Reading Kleist Plantwise,” QUI PARLE: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 28:1 (2019): 137-166.

“Koboldartig beieinander: Märchenhaftes Geschlecht im Lustpiel Amphitryon,” Unarten. Kleist und das Gesetz der Gattung, eds. Andrea Allerkamp, Matthias Preuss and Sebastian Schönbeck, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2019, pp. 155-167.

“Trommelschläger: Kleists Camp und Shakespeares Puns,” KLEIST-JAHRBUCH 2017:135-49.

“The Logic of Emotionality,” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, special issue Emotions, eds. Katharine Ann Jensen and Miriam L. Wallace, 130.5 (2015): 1457-66.

“What A Mess,” MODERN LANGUAGE NOTES (MLN), dossier Complexity and Simplicity: Twenty-first century perspectives, eds. Claudia Breger and Benjamin Robinson, 130:3 (2015): 528-53.

“Von hinten,” Kleist revisited, ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and Friederike Knüpling, München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2014, pp. 269-78.

“Nicht ganz so menschliche Geselligkeit und der Kaffeter,” Kollektivität nach der Subjektkritik. Geschlechtertheoretische Positionen, ed. Gabriele Jähnert, Karin Aleksander, and Marianne Kriszio, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2013.

“Mourning Kafka” DISCOURSE: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, 33.3 (2011): 342-366.

“Doublings and Couplings: the Feeling Thing in Valéry and Kleist,” ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR MEDIEN- UND KULTURFORSCHUNG, 2011/1: 177-84.

“The Way of Despair,” Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic, ed. Slavoj Zizek, Clayton Crockett, and Creston Davis, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011, pp. 141-58.

“‘Geliebte, sprich!’—wenn Frauen sich haben,” Penthesileas Versprechen: Exemplarische Studien über die literarische Referenz, ed. Rüdiger Campe, Freiburg: Rombach Verlag, 2008.

“Transformative Translations: Cyrillizing and Queering,” TRANSIT: A Journal of Travel, Migration and Multiculturalism in the German-Speaking World, 2:1 (2006).

“Speculative Rhythm,” Hegel and Language, ed. Jere O’Neill Surber, Albany: SUNY Press, 2006, pp. 233-48.

“A Reading of Love in Hölderlin’s Andenken,” The German Quarterly, 78:2 (2005).

 “I Shudder to Think in Transition: Between Cixous and Hegel,” OXFORD LITERARY REVIEW, 24 (2003): 131-46.