Katrin Pahl

Katrin Pahl

Professor of German
Director of Undergraduate Studies for German

Program: German
Gilman 414
Sabbatical AY19-20

Katrin Pahl received her PhD from the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to her work in MLL, she serves 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. Three books (will) address the epistemological, aesthetic and political implications of emotionality while moving the emphasis from subjectivity to theatricality to sociability.

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.

Her forthcoming book, Sex Changes with Kleist (Northwestern UP, 2019) shows that Kleist responded to the historical sex change (around 1800), which consisted in the emergence of the second sex, 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.

Shifting the emphasis to the social, Pahl currently pursues two research projects, one on queer procreation and one on patterns of (sexualized) violence in mental and social ecology. 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.” She was a Fellow of the Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion” at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2008 and gave the Kenneth Weisinger Memorial Lecture in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016.


  • Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
  • Kleist
  • Impossible Intimacy: on Bachmann and Jelinek
  • German Theater: Drama, Performance, Theory
  • Break and Continuity: German Thought around the French Revolution
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Beautiful Soul and Romantic Irony: Feeling, Gender, Theory
  • Poetic Rhythm: Hölderlin, Klopstock, Celan
  • Sprachbiographien: Intercultural Literature


  • 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

“Queer Procreation: Reading Kleist Plantwise,” QUI PARLE: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 27:2 (2018)

“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.