Karl F. and Bertha A. Fuchs Professor of German Studies and
Chair, Modern Languages and Cultures
PhD Stanford University
18th-20th century German literature, feminism and gender studies, psychoanalysis
408A Lattimore Hall
Susan Gustafson’s areas of research include 18th–20th-century German literature, aesthetic theory, family configurations, gender studies, psychoanalysis, and feminism. In her book on Lessing, she explored the representation of absent mothers and orphaned fathers in his dramas to illustrate the fundamental deep structures informing his aesthetic and dramatic production and to demonstrate that the missing mother is actually not absent, but plays a central role in Lessing’s literary work. Her book-length study of German Classicism demonstrates, in contrast to Foucault’s theories, how 18th-century poets—and particularly Goethe—were establishing their own poetry of same-sex identity and desire. Her third book, Goethe’s Families of the Heart, outlines Goethe’s representations of families based on love, including families with two fathers, two mothers, and adopted children as a counter discourse to the aristocratic and civil notions of father-dominated and economically determined families that prevailed during his time period. Gustafson’s fourth book, which is in progress, is a translation of Goethe’s plays, Stella: A Play for Lovers, and Stella: A Tragedy.
- Goethe’s Families of the Heart. Forthcoming in New Directions in German Studies book series, Bloomsbury Press.
- Men Desiring Men: The Poetry of Same-Sex Identity and Desire in German Classicism (Wayne State University Press, 2002).
- Absent Mothers and Orphaned Fathers: Narcissism and Abjection in Lessing's Aesthetic and Dramatic Production (Wayne State University Press, 1995).
- “Gender, Sexuality, and Family Entanglements: Fathers, Mothers, and Snakes in Lessing’s Laocoon,” in Rethinking Lessing’s “Limits”: Approaches to the Laokoon on it’s 250th Anniversary (1776–2016), ed. Michael Squire and Avi Lifschitz. In progress.
- “I suffered and I loved”: Narcissism and Abject Desire in Goethe’s Confessions of a Beautiful Soul, in The Self as Muse: Narcissism from 1750–1900, ed. Alexander Mathas (Bucknell University Press, 2011), 150–65.
- “‘Wo Bhogovotgitas Meister unser warten’: Finding the Self in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Der goldene Topf,” in Liber Amicorum Festschrift zum 85. Geburtstag von Katharina Mommsen (Bernstein Verlag, 2010), 141–156.
- “‘Ich suchte meinen Freund:’ Melancholy Narcissism, Writing, and Same-Sex Desire in Moritz’s Anton Reiser,” Lessing Yearbook, 2008/09, 135–59.
- “Asymbolia and Self-Loss: Narratives of Depression by Women in Contemporary German Literature,” Monatshefte, 99:1 (Spring 2007), 1–21.
- “Watching the Subject: The Mother’s Gaze in Dickens’ David Copperfield and Kafka’s Der Verschollene,” Monatshefte, 93:1 (2001), 53–72.
- “From Werther to Amazons: Cross-Dressing and Male-Male Desire in ‘Goethe’s Weimar,’” in Unwrapping Goethe’s Weimar, ed. By Burkhard Henke, Simon Richter, and Suzanne Kord (Camden House, 2000), 178–99.
Susan Gustafson teaches courses on 18th–20th-century German literature, horror films and literature, psychoanalysis, fantasy literature, and comparative literature and film. She particularly enjoys teaching the surreal stories of Kafka, Kleist, ETA Hoffmann, and Poe.
- Poe and Hoffmann (fall 2011)
- Monsters, Ghosts and Aliens (fall 2010)
- Freud and Psychoanalysis (fall 2010)
- Kafka (spring 2010)
- Bestsellers (spring 2010)
- MLC Major Seminar (spring 2009)
- Monsters, Ghosts, and Aliens (spring 2009)
- Wizards, Magic, and Fantasy (fall 2009)
- Introduction to German Literature (fall 2009)
Honors and Activities
- Editor, German Studies in America book series, Peter Lang Bern (2011- )
- Elected to the MLA Delegate Assembly, Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession (2011-2014)
- European Romantic Review, Editorial Board (2010- )
- PMLA Advisory Committee (2007-2010)
- University of Rochester Medallion for Distinguished Academic
- Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Rochester (2006)
- Appointed Karl F. and Bertha A. Fuchs Professor of German Studies (2005)
- 2004 GSA/DAAD Biennial Book Award for the Outstanding book on German language, literature, or culture for Men Desiring Men: The Poetry of Same-Sex Identity and Desire in German Classicism, Wayne State University Press, 2002. (2004)
- National Endowment for the Humanities Grant (1995)
- Florence Howe Award, Hon. Mention for: "Beautiful Statues, Beautiful Men: The Abjection of Feminine Imagination in Lessing's Laocoon." Publications of the Modern Language Association. (October 1993),1083-1097. (1992)
- Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, Bonn (1991-92)
- Charles Taft Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Cincinnati (1986-87)