Katrin Pahl Former Senior Fellow

Katrin Pahl
May-September 2019


Katrin Pahl received her PhD from the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to her work in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures, she serves as co-director of the Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality at the Johns Hopkins University. The arc of her research is situated in the field of affect and emotion studies with an emphasis on gender and sexuality. Three books (will) address the epistemological, aesthetic and political implications of emotionality while moving the emphasis from subjectivity to theatricality to sociability. Her first book, Tropes of Transport: Hegel and Emotion (Northwestern UP, 2012) demonstrates that a fresh analysis of Hegel’s thought offers an important resource for the theory of emotionality. It addresses emotions as transformational forces, which carry one out of oneself and to a different self, while introducing impersonal transports, such as release, juggle, acknowledging, tremble, and broken. Her most recent book, Sex Changes with Kleist (Northwestern UP, 2019) shows that Kleist responded to the historical sex change (around 1800), which consisted in the emergence of the second sex, by multiplying the sex changes. Focusing on his theater, Pahl probes Kleist’s appreciation for incoherence, his experimentation with alternative symbolic orders, his provocative understanding of emotion, and his camp humor. She argues that Kleist develops an aesthetics (or, in the terms of the IKKM, an operative ontology) of mackling. Pahl was awarded the Best Article in Feminist Scholarship Prize from the Coalition of Women in German for “Transformative Translations: Cyrillizing and Queering.” She was a Fellow of the Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion” at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2008 and gave the Kenneth Weisinger Memorial Lecture in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016.
Dated from 2019

Fields of research

– German literature and philosophy in comparative perspective (US and French)
– The theory, poetics and history of emotionality, gender and sexuality
– Contemporary theater and multi-media art

IKKM Research Project

Toward Queer Procreation: Working through Patterns of Violence. An Analysis of Literature, Theater, and Multimedia Art

My study turns to treatments of sexualized and gendered violence as they appear in contemporary theatre, dramatic literature and multi-media art practice. How do these artworks encounter and perform the psychic life of violence and its historical patterns of reproduction and transmission? How do they seek to disengage from patterns of violence and to seize the potential for freedom? I theorize their diverse practices through the lens of what I call “queer procreation.” By that I mean desires for and practices of intimacy, nurture, creation and proliferation that arise in the wake of a deconstructionist understanding of (sexual and gender) identity. “Queer procreation” serves as an alternative to “reproduction,” a term used for both biological propagation and the reiteration of social norms. Under this heading, the inquiry develops the sensorium for new, unseen, and unheard-of forms of queer life and proposes to think kinship beyond the apotheosis of the human. The figure seeks to reclaim for queer politics the affirmative force of generativity – of a creative power to transform and invent. Such creativity and future-orientedness is possible only through an active unlearning of previous patterns. I will analyze these patterns of violence locating gendered and sexualized violence and abuse within the larger assemblage in which it participates, which includes practices and lexicons of ecological, economic, political and militaristic violence.

Selected Publications


SEX CHANGES WITH KLEIST, Northwestern University Press, May 2019.

TROPES OF TRANSPORT: HEGEL AND EMOTION, Northwestern University Press, 2012.


EMOTIONALITY, a special issue of Modern Language Notes, 124:3 (2009).

Artikel: “Queer Procreation: Reading Kleist Plantwise” QUI PARLE: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 28:1 (2019): 137-166.

“The Logic of Emotionality” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, special issue Emotions, eds. Katharine Ann Jensen and Miriam L. Wallace, 130.5 (2015): 1457-66.

“What a Mess” MODERN LANGUAGE NOTES, dossier Complexity and Simplicity: Twenty-first century perspectives, eds. Claudia Breger and Benjamin Robinson, 130:3 (2015): 528-53.

“Doublings and Couplings: the Feeling Thing in Valéry and Kleist” ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR MEDIEN- UND KULTURFORSCHUNG, 2011/1: 177-84.

“The Way of Despair,” Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic, ed. Slavoj Zizek, Clayton Crockett, and Creston Davis, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011, pp. 141-158.