Stefani Engelstein
Professor of German Studies

Stefani Engelstein is a Professor of German Studies with a secondary appointment in Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies at Duke.  Her work addresses literature and science, aesthetics, gender, political theory, critical race theory, history of knowledge, and perspectives on nature, as well as other topics from 1770 to the present, particularly in the period of Age of Goethe / Romanticism.  During the 2021-2022 academic year, she is a Visiting Scholar at the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research in Berlin working on two book projects: Living Things, Human Beings: The Entanglements of the Organism and Reflections from Germany on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Difficult Pasts: An Essay in Six Cemeteries.  Engelstein has published two monographs: Sibling Action: The Genealogical Structure of Modernity (Columbia University Press, 2017) and Anxious Anatomy: The Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse (SUNY, 2008). She also co-edited the anthology Contemplating Violence: Critical Studies in Modern German Culture (Rodopi 2011).  Authors to whom she returns include Goethe, Lessing, Kleist, Blake, Mary Shelley, Hoffmann, Kant, Schelling, Darwin, George Eliot, Wagner, and Kafka.

The first of Engelstein's current projects, Living Things, Human Beings: The Entanglements of the Organism, unites interests in epistemology and anatomy to consider the complicated boundaries of the organism and their implications for social institutions in Romanticism and Idealism.  Her second book project, Reflections from Germany on National Identity and Difficult Pasts, explores German engagement with responsibility for the Holocaust and reflects on its relevance for the US, also a country with a difficult past and diverse present. 

Engelstein’s most recent book, Sibling Action: The Genealogical Structure of Modernity (Columbia University Press, 2017), investigated the genealogical sciences in the long nineteenth century.  Genealogies were developed to organize many historical systems and in the process transformed contemporary terms in such systems – whether languages, races, nations, species, or subjects – into siblings of varying degrees.  As a link between epistemology and affect, the sibling is a key to both knowledge-systems and identity politics that destabilizes genealogies from within.  Engelstein’s first book, Anxious Anatomy: The Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse (SUNY, 2008), explored theories of reproduction and healing at the turn of the nineteenth century.  It traced the concept of teleology at the root of the new discipline of biology to reveal its transformation from an explanatory principle in new epigenetic theories of inheritance to a rationalization for legitimating ideologies through the body. Engelstein also co-edited the anthology, Contemplating Violence: Critical Studies in Modern German Culture (Rodopi 2011) and her work has appeared in such journals as Critical Inquiry, the PMLA, the German Studies Review, the Goethe Yearbook, and Philosophy Today.

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On leave 2021-2022.

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