Catriona MacLeod

MacLeod Headshot
Vice Provost for the Arts; Frank Curtis Springer and Gertrude Melcher Springer Professor in the College and the Department of Germanic Studies
WB 404
Office Hours: By arrangement
Ph.D. Harvard University, 1992; M.A. University of Glasgow, 1986
Teaching at UChicago since 2019
Research Interests: History of Art; Gender and Sexuality Studies; German Literature and Culture of the 18th-19th Centuries; Literature and Art; Literature and Media; Cinema

My scholarship is in the area of German eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, aesthetics, and the visual arts. Recent publications have focused on various aspects of intermediality, including narrative theory, ekphrasis, and description; objects and stuff; “minor” and “miniature” genres; and the presence of sculpture in literature and film. Much of my recent work has been devoted to word and image studies and material culture in the context of German Classicism and Romanticism.

Intellectual Profile

I am completing a new book project, Romantic Scraps: Cutouts, Collages, and Inkblots, which explores how Romantic authors and visual artists cut, glue, stain, and recycle paper; generating paper cuts, collages, and ink blot poems in profusion, and even combining them in what are for their time striking new hybrid forms such as the picture books of fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) and medical doctor and poet Justinus Kerner (1786-1862).  The book has been supported by a fellowship in 2018 from the ACLS. I am the author of Embodying Ambiguity: Androgyny and Aesthetics from Winckelmann to Keller (Wayne State University Press). My most recent book, Fugitive Objects: Literature and Sculpture in the German Nineteenth Century, appeared in 2014 with Northwestern University Press and was awarded the Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize for best book in Romanticism Studies. I also co-edited the volume Un/Translatables: New Maps for Germanic Literatures, which appeared in 2016.  That project resulted in two articles on displaced philologies connecting Kafka with his first translators into English, Edwin and Willa Muir, with reference to their role in Scottish modernist language debates over vernaculars.

My collaborations with art historians include most recently a spring 2019 conference, Romantic Prints on the Move, which highlighted the rich collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as the holdings of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Past Secretary of the International Association of Word and Image Studies, I am the co-editor of three volumes in the area of interarts scholarship: Elective Affinities: Testing Word and Image Relationships (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009), Efficacité/Efficacy: How to Do Things with Words and Images? (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011), and Water and Sea in Word and Image/L’Eau et la mer dans les textes et les images (Amsterdam: Brill, 2023). I’m currently editor-in-chief of the journal Word & Image. I served as President of the Goethe Society of North America from 2019-2022.

Working with Students

At the University of Pennsylvania, I was the 2011 recipient of the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching in the School of Arts and Sciences and also served for many years as the Undergraduate Faculty Director at Penn’s Wolf Humanities Center. I've advised some 20 Ph.D.s in Germanic Studies, Comparative Literature, and History of Art, on topics such as: literary montage; contemporary film adaptations of classical texts; dance in nineteenth-century German-Jewish literature; masochistic aesthetics; Dante and German Romanticism; female fragility in the fin-de-siècle; Romantic organs; panoramas.

Selected Publications

  • Fugitive Objects: Sculpture and Literature in the German Nineteenth Century.  (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014.)
  • Co-Editor (with Bethany Wiggin), Un/Translatables: New Maps for Germanic Literatures (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2016).
  • “Blind Spots of Narration?  Ekphrasis and Laocoön Digressions in the Novel.”  In Ekphrastic Encounters: New Interdisciplinary Essays on Literature and the Visual Arts, ed. Richard Meek and David Kennedy (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018), 109-25.
  • “Displaced Vernaculars: Edwin and Willa Muir, Kafka, and the Languages of Modernism,” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 93.1 (2018): 48-57.
  • “Invisible Sculpture, Latent Violence, and Monumental Parody in Mädchen in Uniform.”  Special issue of Seminar, ed. Ilinca Iurascu, Revisiting Mädchen in Uniform: Media, Texts, Contexts, 1930-2015, 55.2 (2019): 128-43.
  • “Flirting with Sculptural Indecency: Theodor Storm’s Realist Psyche.”  In Sculpture, Sexuality and History: Encounters in Literature, Culture and the Arts from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, ed. Jana Funke and Jen Grove (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 105-24.
  • “Schattenriss (Silhouette)”Goethe-Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts, vol. 1, no. 1, Jan. 2021, pp. 74-82, doi:10.5195/glpc.2021.20.
  • Cut-Ups on the Edges of the Photographic Century,” in Before Photography, ed. Kirsten Belgum, Vance Byrd, und John D. Benjamin (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021), 129-56. 
  • Co-editor (with Armand Erchadi, Véronique Plesch, and Nathalie Roelens), Water and Sea in Word and Image/L’Eau et la mer dans les textes et les images (Amsterdam: Brill, 2023). 
  • Stifter’s Natives and Wandering Exotica: The Circulating Canons of “Die Narrenburg,” The Germanic Review 99.1 (2024): 92-105.


The Romantic Book


The Romantic Mountain

The Fragment

Fascist Cinemas