Margareta Ingrid Christian

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: Literature, Art Writing, and History of Science; Art Historiography; Aesthetics; Poetry; Environmental Humanities; Dance.

My work traces the porous boundaries between disciplines, the circulation of ideas across seemingly distant frameworks. 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 grew up in Romania, was educated at Harvard (AB) and Princeton (PhD), and I also spent two years studying in Berlin. After a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Tufts University, I joined the University of Chicago in 2014.

"My book, Objects in Air: Artworks and Their Outside around 1900 (U Chicago Press, 2021) won the DAAD/GSA Best Book Prize in Literature/Cultural Studies in 2022 and the Gordon J. Laing Prize in 2024 for the most distinguished contribution to the University of Chicago Press by a faculty member. The book is a literary study of art historical texts. It is about artworks that continue beyond their material confines and about air as the embodiment of their continuity. The book traces evocations of air within and without an artwork, that is, evocations that cut across the separate domains of artwork as image and artwork as material object. 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 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.

Current research projects include one on modes of dense sociality in literature and art history at the turn of the 20th century and one on literary evocations of domestic (female) labor. Together with Urs Büttner, I am in the process of editing a Companion to Rilke’s Book of Images. Forthcoming and in-progress work includes articles on Camillo Sitte, Ludwig Hohl, and Rilke.  

My work has been funded by the DAAD, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.



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
            *Gordon J. Laing Prize of the University of Chicago Press, 2024

“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. 

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.

“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

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

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. 

Work with Students

Students working with me have written on topics such as the work of the biologist and cultural philosopher Raoul Heinrich Francé; Kafka and Musil; the Barnes Foundation and John Dewey; space and femininity in Weimar Germany; E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tales; the Garden City movement; Fritz Lang. 


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