University of Rochester
Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Professor's book wins national prize


Susan Gustafson, professor of German and director of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University, has received the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) 2004 Book Prize from the German Studies Association.

The award is presented for the outstanding book on German language, literature, or cultural studies published during the preceding two years.

Gustafson was honored for Men Desiring Men: The Poetry of Same-Sex Identity and Desire in German Classicism, which the association says "combines literary criticism, close reading, and gender and gay studies in an original, sophisticated, and productive way."

In her book, Gustafson challenges the assumption of philosopher Michel Foucault that homosexual identity first arose in the medical, psychoanalytical, and legal discourses of the late 19th century. Referring to 18th- and early 19th-century German literature, Gustafson shows writers were already consciously developing a poetic language to express their same-sex longing a century earlier, leading to a sense of identity and community.

Focusing on the major figures of German classicism--including art historian and archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann and writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Karl Philipp Moritz--Gustafson uses correspondence, drama, novels, novellas, and poetry to examine how the men constructed themselves as subjects who desire men.

"Much can and should be said about the intellectual rigor and theoretical sophistication of Susan Gustafson's scholarship, but I think that, in addition, the award embodies well-deserved recognition of just how excitingly provocative and innovative her contributions to German literary and cultural studies are," says Claudia Schaefer, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures.

"She has always sought out distinctive and unique readings to illuminate long-held canonical works, and entreats us to engage with familiar texts in new ways," Schaefer adds. "This award is an admirable achievement of which the Modern Languages and Cultures department is truly proud."

A faculty member since 1987, Gustafson teaches courses in comparative literature, German literature and culture, and women's studies She is also the author of Absent Mothers and Orphaned Fathers: Narcissism and Abjection in Lessing's Aesthetic and Dramatic Production, a study of the role of the mother in the work of 18th century German critic and dramatist Lessing.

The German Studies Association is the international association of scholars in all fields of German studies. The DAAD Book Prize is presented to scholars working in North American institutions. It is awarded in alternate years for books in the German studies and humanities fields and in the history and social science fields.

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