Margareta Ingrid Christian

Margareta Ingrid Christian
Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Studies
Wieboldt 126
Office Hours: On Leave; By Appointment Only
Ph.D., Princeton University, 2012
Research Interests: Intersections of Literature, Art Writing, and History of Science; Art Historiography; Dance; Aesthetics; Poetry; Modernism; Historical Semantics; Environmental Humanities.

My work is situated at the intersection of literature, art writing, and the history of science. I am interested in how literature and art are enfolded in culture, so that my work combines philological attention, detailed work with language, with broader cultural and disciplinary perspectives.

Intellectual Profile

I joined the department in 2014 after receiving my Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2012, and completing my tenure as a Mellon Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University where I was also affiliated with the Department of History of Art and Architecture.

My book, Objects in Air: Artworks and Their Outside around 1900 (University of Chicago Press, 2021), is a literary study of art historical texts. It draws on the history of science to examine air as the material space surrounding an artwork, its “milieu,” “surroundings,” and “environment” by looking at the linguistic efforts of Aby Warburg, Alois Riegl, Rainer Maria Rilke, and the dance theorist and choreographer Rudolf Laban. The book investigates the artwork’s external space as an aesthetic category in its own right and asks: What is the medium of the artwork’s externalism? It contends that air, the medium of continuity par excellence, is the site of aesthetic ecologies; it is where artworks enact the permeable boundaries between art and life.

My second book project centers on literary scenes of dwelling. Related articles in preparation include a comparative study of Paul Scheerbart’s Glass Architecture and Siegfried Ebeling’s Space as Membrane and an essay on dense dwelling in Hofmannsthal’s “Reitergeschichte” and Camillo Sitte’s City Planning According to Artistic Principles. In 2016, I organized an international conference on “Habitation: Literature and Architecture” here at the University of Chicago.

In 2017-18, I was a Faculty Fellow at the Franke Institute for the Humanities. My work has been funded by the DAAD, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Work with Students

Students working with me have written on topics such as the work of the biologist and cultural philosopher Raoul Heinrich Francé; the figure of the sovereign and the scholar in Kafka and Musil; the Barnes Foundation wall ensembles and the influence of John Dewey; space and femininity in Weimar Germany; film in the history of German public health; and magnetic influence in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tales.


Objects in Air: Artworks and Their Outside around 1900, University of Chicago Press, 2021.
           *DAAD/GSA Book Prize for the Best Book in Literature / Cultural Studies, 2022

“Telluric Poetics: The City and Its Natural Histories in Thomas Kling’s Poem “‘Manhattan Mundraum,’” German Studies Review (2020) 43:3, 571-592. 
            *DAAD/GSA Article Prize for the best article in German Studies Review in 2020

“Cell and Cosmos: Siegfried Ebeling’s Environmental Architecture” in: Milieus of Minutiae: Contextualizing the Small in Science, Philosophy, and Literature, eds. Christiane Frey, Elizabeth Brogden, University of Virginia Press, forthcoming. 

“Air, Ether, Atmosphere: Space in Rilke’s Duineser Elegien,” Oxford German Studies (2020) 49:3, 228-48.

Umgebung / Umwelt. Art History’s Aesthetic and Biological Milieus,” in: Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art, eds. Hannah Baader, Gerhard Wolf, in collab. with Sugata Ray. De Gruyter, forthcoming.

“Cameraless Photography and Its Imponderable Media,” History of Photography (2018) 42:4, 319-337.

“Wind: Turbulenzen der Zeit - Klimatographie in Robert Musils Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften,in: Phänomene der Atmosphäre. Ein Kompendium Literarischer Meteorologie, eds. Urs Büttner, Ines Theilen. Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler, 2017.

“Aer, Aurae, Venti: Philology and Physiology in Aby Warburg’s Dissertation on Botticelli,” PMLA 129.3 (May 2014): 399–416.

Co-translation of G: An Avant-Garde Journal of Art, Architecture, Design, and Film, 1923-1926, Michael Jennings and Detlef Mertins, eds., Steven Lindberg and Ingrid Christian, trans., Los Angeles: Getty Research Press, 2010. 

Review of Constructing the Viennese Modern Body: Art, Hysteria, and the Puppet, by Nathan J. Timpano. German Studies Review (2020), 43:1, 175-177.


  • Vienna 1900 and the Making of the 20th Century
  • “Maniacs, Specters, Automata:” The Tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann
  • The Pleasure of Literature: The Novella
  • Literature as Self-Help: The Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Biocentrism: The Concept of Life in German Literature and Art around 1900
  • Dwelling: Literature and Architecture
  • Crisis Narratives in Recent German Literature and Film  
  • Aesthetic Ecologies
  • The Novel in Contemporary German Literature
  • Aby Warburg and the Origins of Kulturwissenschaft