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Katherine Arens

PhD, German Studies and Humanities,
Stanford University

Office: EPS 3.128


Photo of Arens at meeting
Arens at the breakfast for teaching award winners,
at the 1998 MLA in San Francisco.
Photo from the MLA Newsletter (Spring, 1999).

I am a professor in the department, a member of the Program in Comparative Literature and of the Center for Women's and Gender Studies, also affiliated with the Center for European Studies, the Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, and the Program for Science, Technology, and Society. I have been at UT since 1980, and have spent a lot of my time developing interdisciplinary courses and research, particularly those bringing literary theory and the disciplines together. My major concentration is probably best described as intellectual history (Geistesgeschichte), and so my work runs on both sides of a line separating traditional literary-historical studies (Enlightenment through Impressionism, and Austria through the twentieth century) and more theoretical and philosophical work (German Idealism, philosophy of language, literary and cultural theory, Lacanian theory and identity politics, WGS theory, and the like). This combination of theory and cultural studies has also led me to do work on reading theory and applied linguistics as well -- I want to see new ways that culture, identity, and the politics of cultural identity can be researched and taught. My publications thus span categories (for details, click below). The list of courses I have taught are on topics that range from contemporary theory, feminism, Freud, and Lacan back to Kant and Hegel, and particularly graduate theory core courses for all three of my departments (for titles and class materials, click on "Courses Taught").


Janet Swaffar and I have a book just appeared at the MLA: Remapping the Foreign Language Curriculum: A Multi-Literacies Approach (October 2005). This text takes literary and learning theory together to suggest how literature, culture, and language might more profitably be taught to undergraduates.

I am following up with a second book-length study of the relationship between theory and institutional frameworks of teaching and scholarship, this time as relevant to the graduate curriculum (and, to varying degrees, to the undergraduate major curriculum). Based around the notion of a "cognitive apprenticeship," I argue and exemplify how the canon wars have led to an almost complete abandonment of the position of literary studies as systematic architectures of knowledge production and evaluation -- a tacit shift towards an almost exclusively ethically based curricular practice that priveges immmanence and voice, and hence particular interpretive communities and/or performance practices, where the older canons privileged hegemonic and often disembodied discourses.

With Carlos Amador, I have just completed a book-length manuscript tentatively entitled Decanting Kant: The Cultural Politiics of the Theory Wars. It works out an alternate geneaology for the twentieth century "theory wars" in a genesis out of the institutional and cultural politics of the nineteenth century. It offers a new optic as to what is at stake in the current disciplinary fractures and shifts, a new archaeology of knowledge that calls into question the self-definitions of today's purportedly alterior, anti-hegemonic strategies for knowledge and community identity production.

I am wrapping up a monograph project on performances in the Austro-Hungarian and Austrian public spheres since 1760-- with "performances" meaning not only stagings, but also performances of identity spaces pecular to the blended cultural space that today is dismissed as "Central Europe." Tentatively entitled The Persistence of Kasperl in Memory, this set of case studies provide evidence for the existence of a very different kind of public sphere in Vienna and the Empire's cities than is accommodated in the too-simple vision of Dialectic of the Enlightenment and the Frankfurt-School or systems-theory-inspired view in play in German studies. This Austro-Hungarian and Austrian public sphere is a decidedly nationalist state which does not, however, accept its identity as a mono-culture, as most of today's theory would assume.

On the side, I am trying to publish a wonderful bagatelle from the history of women's literature in the germanophone world: Mayerling: The Woman's View, a translation and commentary of a memoir written by the mother of Mary Vetsera, who died with Austro-Hungary's Crown Prince Rudolph in 1889. It's the Victorian memoir we've been missing in German literature for a long time!

For details on what else I've done, including the dissertations I've supervised, check out Arens' CV.

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