Christopher J. Wild

Christopher J. Wild
Professor in the Department of Germanic Studies and the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies; Associated Faculty in the Divinity School
Wieboldt 405
Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 1997
Research Interests: Early Modern and Enlightenment German Literature and Culture; Theater and Performance Studies; Religion, Philosophy, and Literature; Literary and Cultural Theory

My work is situated at the intersection of literature, theater history, philosophy, and religious thought. My research has two distinct and at times overlapping focal points: one the one hand, the role and impact of religious thought and practice in processes and phenomena considered genuinely modern and secular; and on the other hand, the mediality and formal semantics of European and German theater from its beginning in ancient Greece through Modernism.

Academic Bio

Before I joined Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago in 2008 I taught at the UNC-Chapel Hill (1997-2004) and a UCLA (2006-08).  In the intervening years I held a visiting professorship at the University of Konstanz.  My experience at public universities has given me an appreciation for the complex mission of German departments and the importance of preparing our graduate students for a whole range of careers.

My first book Theater der Keuschheit - Keuschheit des Theaters. Zu einer Geschichte der (Anti-)Theatralität von Gryphius bis Kleist (Rombach: Freiburg, 2003), which traces the profound historical transformation of theatricality that takes place in German theater from the Baroque to Classicism, made me realize the profound impact, but often overlooked impact of religious thought on Enlightenment literature culture. For the Bourgeois theater reform of dramatists from Gottsched, Lessing, Schiller, and beyond, was the result of internalization of anti-theatrical sentiment; a sentiment harbored primarily by religious critics.

Thus, my past and current projects examine the ways in which theology and religion inform developments that are generally considered genuinely modern. Most importantly, I am in the last stages of writing a book (Descartes’ Meditative Turn: The Meditations on First Philosophy and the Tradition of Spiritual Exercises) that asks the seemingly simple questions why Descartes chose a title informed by a pre-dominantly religious genre and what implications this generic affiliation has for our understanding of the practice of his thought.

The second focal point is currently embodied by a large research project, collaboratively undertaken with Juliane Vogel (University of Konstanz), on the dramaturgy of entries and exits in European theater from Greek tragedy to the modernist theater of Samuel Beckett and beyond. Once we have completed our co-written monograph I am planning to turn my attention to anagnorisis (recognition), the operation that necessarily complements the appearance of any character on stage.

I have advised students who have worked on a wide array of topics such as the modernist grotesque; the emergence of modern lyrical paradigm; conversion and Bildung in Enlightenment culture and literature; the diathetics of literature in the 18th century; the dramaturgy of the imagination in Lessing and Kleist; anagnorisis and the aesthetics of Realism.

Courses Taught

Graduate Courses

  • Kleist’s Invisible Theater
  • Living On: Figuring Survival in Baroque Thought and Literature
  • Anagnorisis and the Cognitive Work of Theater
  • Hölderlin and the Greeks
  • The Phantasm of Laocoon
  • Aesthetics: Genealogy of a Discipline
  • Media (His-)Stories of the Bible
  • Allegory: Reading Figures
  • Nero: Tyranny and Theater
  • Word and Image in Early Modern Europe
  • Theater and Anti-Theatricality
  • Walter Benjamin and the Critique of Culture
  • Karl Philipp Moritz: Theology, Aesthetics, Literature
  • Allegories of Realism
  • Antitheatricality and Allegory: Wagner and Brecht
  • Meditation and the Culture of the Self
  • Genealogies of Media Theory
  • Conversion: Between Philosophy and Religion
  • Media and Theology
  • Theater and Tragedy in the (German) Baroque

Undergraduate Courses

  • Thinking Tragedy: Friedrich Nietzsche’s Geburt der Tragödie
  • Augustine’s Confessions
  • Enlightenment Fantasies
  • Monk-Calves and Dog-Heads, Troglodytes and Hermaphrodites. Monsters in Early Modern Cultures
  • Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften
  • Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre
  • The Picaresque Novel
  • Man and Machine
  • Mapping a (Post-)Modern Metropolis                         

Lecture Courses

  • Media illegitima: Eighteenth-Century Theater Reform
  • Media History of the Reformation
  • Fairy Tales and the Fantastic

Selected Publications

Descartes’ Meditative Turn: The Meditations on First Philosophy and the Tradition of Spiritual Exercises (in progress)

Royal (Re-)Entries: Zum Auftritt in der Tragödie, co-authored with Juliane Vogel, Berlin: Theater der Zeit 2018 (under contract).

Cultures of Communication, Theologies of Media in Early Modern Europe and Beyond, co-edited with Ulrike Strasser and Helmut Puff, Toronto: University of Toronto Press 2017.

“Techne tes periagogeis: Conversion and the Art of Spiritual Navigation,” in: Werner Röcke, Ruth von Bernuth, and Julia Weitbrecht (eds.), Konversion als Medium der Selbstbeschreibung in Spätantike, Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Berlin: De Gruyter 2015 (forthcoming)  

Auftreten: Wege auf die Bühne, co-edited with Juliane Vogel, Berlin: Theater der Zeit 2014.

“Enlightenment Aesthetics and the Eucharistic Sign: Lessing’s Laocoön,” in Lee Wandel Palmer (ed.), Brill Companion to the Eucharist in the Reformation, Leiden & Boston: Brill 2013, 489–508.

Theaterfeinlichkeit und Antitheatralität, co-edited with Stefanie Diekmann, München: Fink 2011.

Theater der Keuschheit - Keuschheit des Theaters. Zur Geschichte der (Anti-)Theatralität von Gryphius bis Kleist, Freiburg: Rombach litterae 2003.