Joseph O'Neil

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  • Associate Professor, German Studies
  • Convener, German faculty working group
  • Program director, M.A. in German Studies
  • Co-editor, Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift für Germanistik
  • German Studies
  • Modern & Classical Languages Literatures & Cultures
  • Social Theory
  • International Studies
1029 Patterson Office Tower
(1) 859-257-5283
  • Other Affiliations:
Research Interests:

Ph.D. Comparative Literature and Modern German Literature and Culture, Indiana University (Bloomington) DAAD Dissertation Fellowship, Freie Universität Berlin
M.A. Comparative Literature, Indiana University (Bloomington)
B.A. magna cum laude, University of Louisville
Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz (undergraduate direct exchange)



Figures of Natality: Reading the Political in the Age of Goethe

Inspired by Hannah Arendt's concept of natality and Carl Schmitt's concept of the political, this study examines the dynamic of birth and life in works by Lessing, Goethe, Kleist, and Schlegel and in recent post-Romantic critique in order to distinguish the birth and institution of the political as conflict and difference from the (closed or open) political economy of life. This opposition is central to both the works of the age of Goethe and their critical reception in German- and English-speaking criticism since the 1990's.    

Current research project: The Fate of Thersites: Aesthetics, Ethics, and the People, 1760-1830

Selected Publications: 

In progress: work on

  • empathy and aesthetics in Lessing's treatment of Thersites
  • war and semiotics in Kleist and Clausewitz
  • Goethe's "Joseph the Second," marriage, and the codification crisis


  • "Selfhood, Sovereignty, and Public Space in Die italienische Reise, "Das Rochus-Fest zu Bingen," and Dichtung und Wahrheit, Book Five." Goethe Yearbook 24 (2017): 105-124.
  • Review essay: "The Fate of the Martial Sublime: Studies of War in the German Lands." Colloquia Germanica 45.2 (2012): 179-98.
  • "Ghostly Births: The Spectre of Romanticism and the Future of Capitalism." Seminar 50.3 (2014): 332-52.*
  • "Meistersänger als Beruf: The Maieutics of Poetic Vocation in 'Erklärung eines alten Holzschnittes...." Goethe Yearbook 20 (2013): 59-78.*
  • "Nomos oder Medium der Erde? Zur Geopoetik der Weltliteratur." In Figuren des Globalen: Weltbezug und Welterzeugung in Literatur, Kunst und Medien. Eds. Christian Moser and Linda Simonis. Göttingen: Bonn University Press bei V+R unipress, 2014. 193-205.
  • "The Shame of the Political: Truth as Vocation in Gracián, Lacan, and Badiou." Angelaki: The Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 17.1 (2012).*
  • Jakob von Uexküll, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans and Theory of Meaning. Trans. Joseph D. O'Neil. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
    • reviewed by Franklin Ginn, "Jakob von Uexküll beyond bubbles: Umwelt and Biophilosophy." Science as Culture 23.1 (2014): 129-34.
    • "Joseph O'Neil and the University of Minnesota Press should be commended for making this text available and approachable to readers without a working knowledge of the text's original German." --Robert Geroux, review in Humanimalia 3.2 (2012): 142-47.
    •  "Those interested in the environment (or environments), animal studies (especially critical animal studies), and biology will find this new translation significant and illuminating." --Kristen Gravitte, review in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 19.1 (2012): 218-19.
    • selected blog mentions:

* indicates a peer reviewed publication

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