Department of German and Russian Studies
German and Russian Studies @ the MU logo University of Missouri
451 Strickland Hall | Columbia, MO 65211-4170
email: | phone: 573-882-4328 | fax: 573-884-8456
Faculty | Engelstein

Stefani Engelstein

Stefani Engelstein
Professor Engelstein in front of the Medical History Museum, Berlin

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park

Anxious Anatomy
Anxious Anatomy: The Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse
available from SUNY Press

Associate Professor of German
Director: Life Sciences & Society Program
Editor: German Studies Calls-for-Papers List
Education: Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, University of Chicago, 2001
     B.A. in Literature, Yale University, 1992
Office: 428B Strickland Hall
Phone: 573-882-9450 or 884-6883
Fax: 573-884-9395
On leave 2013-14

Curriculum vita (pdf)

In addition to my position in the German Department, I am also the Director of the Life Sciences & Society Program.


My research focuses on German and British literature and the life sciences in the Enlightenment and Romantic periods. I explore shifting representations of the body in disciplines such as literature, natural history, and aesthetics, and also investigate the emerging sciences that began to map human population diversity at this time such as racial theories and philology. I am interested in the significance of these shifts for emerging theories of human subjectivity, gender, volition, ethical behavior, and political organization.

At the moment I am working on a book called Sibling Logic: Genealogy, Incest, and Collective Identities, in which I suggest that, beginning in the late eighteenth century, the sibling relationship was used as a paradigmatic figure for working through issues of subjectivity and emerging collective identities in political, racial, linguistic, religious, and psychological discourses. Unlike later psychoanalytic models based on vertical lineage, sibling logic provides a potential basis for envisioning a more nuanced, multiply mediated subjectivity that accords with a networked embedment in the political world. It is because of these political implications that sibling relations and their corollary lateral affiliations became so central in the late-eighteenth century age of cultural encounter and political turmoil.

My 2008 book Anxious Anatomy: The Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse (SUNY; ) explores debates at the turn of the 19th century surrounding the human form – its reproduction, its maiming through injury and amputation, and its supplementation with prosthetics.  These concerns not only dominated natural history, but informed a variety of interrelated discourses such as surgery, art, aesthetics, and literature.   Anxious Anatomy traces the transformation of the concept of teleology from a principle in natural history necessary for understanding reproduction, into a rationalization for using the biological sciences to ground ideologies in the body – from theories of subjectivity, race, and gender, to support for republican revolution and social hierarchies.  The book provides a timely and compelling cultural history as well as provocative new interpretations of works by Goethe, Blake, Kleist, Hoffmann, Mary Shelley, and Austen.  

View "Visions of Transparency: The Human Body and Social Order," my Opening Lecture for the University of Missouri Libraries Rare Books & Special Collections exhibit, "Controlling Heredity: The American Eugenics Crusade 1870-1940" March 8, 2011.

I founded and edit the German Studies Calls-for-Papers List which provides a forum for Calls for Papers in all areas related to the field of German Studies as well as on interdisciplinary and comparative topics.

Life Sciences & Society Program Directorship

The LSSP is a vigorous and widely interdisciplinary unit that facilitates dialogue between faculty in the life sciences, science studies, history of science, philosophy of science, science and literature, science journalism, law and technology, and health ethics.

With the assistance of several networking grants from the university’s Mizzou Advantage initiative, we have established on-going interdisciplinary research groups of faculty and graduate students in science studies and in evolutionary studies.

Each year we run a public interdisciplinary symposium on topics ranging from kinship, to food taste, to the impact of brain scans on the criminal justice system. The keynote address draws an audience of 800-100 and registration extends across up to 61 departments in 16 schools and colleges at MU, and up to 22 universities and colleges. See


Courses I teach include

Graduate Courses

Sibling Incest in Theory and Literature
Enlightenment and Romantic Aesthetics
The Uncanny and the Subject
German-Jewish Culture through Literature
The Enlightenment and Romanticism

Undergraduate Courses

Capstone Seminar: German-Jewish Culture through Literature
Disciplining Bodies: Literature and the Life Sciences
Monstrous Births: Nineteenth-Century Tales of Creation
German Civilization, Beginnings to 1850. Co-taught
German Civilization, 1850-present. Co-taught
Eerie Tales
Introduction to German Literature
Contemporary German Culture

Recent Publications


Anxious Anatomy: The Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse. From SUNY Press. Series: Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century. Hard Cover 2008.  Paperback 2009.

Contemplating Violence: Critical Studies in Modern German Culture. Co-editor with Carl Niekerk. Rodopi Press. 2011.


“The Allure of Wholeness: The Organism around 1800 and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate.” Forthcoming with Critical Inquiry.

“Coining a Discipline: Lessing, Reimarus, and a Science of Religion.” Fact and Fiction: Literature and Science in the European Context. Ed. Christine Lehleiter. Advance Contract with University of Toronto Press.

“Siblings.” Revolver Kino: The New Independent Cinema of Germany and Austria. Ed. Roger Cook, Lutz Koepnick, Kristin Kopp, and Brad Prager. Forthcoming with Intellect Books.

“Civic Attachments & Sibling Attractions: The Shadows of Fraternity.” (Presidential Address of the Goethe Society of North America, 2009.) The Goethe Yearbook.18 (2011): 205-221

“Sibling Logic or Antigone Again.” PMLA.126.1 (Jan 2011): 38-54

Introduction. “Violence, Culture, Aesthetics: Germany 1789-1938.” Co-written with Carl Niekerk. Contemplating Violence: Critical Studies in Modern German Culture. Ed. Stefani Engelstein and Carl Niekerk. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik 79. Rodopi Press. 2011. 13-32.

“The Father in Fatherland: Violent Ideology and Corporeal Paternity in Kleist.” Contemplating Violence: Critical Studies in Modern German Culture. Ed. Stefani Engelstein and Carl Niekerk. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik 79. Rodopi Press. 2011. 49-66.

“The Open Wound of Beauty: Kafka Reading Kleist.” The Germanic Review. 81.4. (Fall 2006): 340-359.

Sibling Incest and Cultural Voyeurism in Günderode’s Udohla and Thomas Mann’s Wälsungenblut. The German Quarterly. Forthcoming. 77.3 (July 2004)

Reproductive Machines in E.T.A. Hoffmann. Body Dialectics in the Age of Goethe. Ed. Holger Pausch and Marianne Henn. Rodopi Press. 2003. 169-193.

The Regenerative Geography of the Text in William Blake. Modern Language Studies. 30.2 (Fall 2000): 61-86.

Out on a Limb: Military Medicine, Heinrich von Kleist and the Disarticulated Body. German Studies Review. 23.2 (May 2000): 225-244. [Winner of the 2001 Article Prize for an Outstanding Article, awarded by the DAAD and the German Studies Association.]