Florian Klinger deals in what he calls “questions” in philosophy and literature, involving texts in his native German as well as other languages. This approach naturally fits with his graduate training in comparative literature and philosophy; it also relates to his artistic background—he holds a concert diploma in violin—and to his early engagement with literature.

“I used to be a musician, and I have always been an ardent reader of poetry,” says Klinger. “An intellectual preoccupation with aesthetic questions drew me to texts in ancient rhetoric and poetics as well as philosophical aesthetics first. From there, I made my way into more defined problems of both literary poetics and philosophy.”

As Klinger’s academic work evolved, he continued to draw on his artistic interests. The influence of his performance background goes beyond an artist’s awareness of the audience or of the euphony of a poem; it has also given him a sensitivity to the multifaceted nature of literary works: “Apart from theoretical concerns with questions that derive directly from musical experience, I also, as a reader of literature, fine-tune my ears to the nonsemantic, the more musical parameters of language—such as rhythm, tonality, phrasing, and so on.”

Klinger joined the UChicago faculty this fall as a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in Germanic Studies and the College. Neubauer professorships are awarded to junior scholars across the University who are expected to have a transformative impact on their respective fields. Klinger says he is grateful for the resources, such as additional time for research, that come with the title: “It gives me the chance to do more of my own work; it’s a little bit of extra freedom, and I really appreciate that.”

After completing two books—the second, on artistic form in the painterly process using the German painter Gerhard Richter as an example, will be published in February 2013—Klinger is eager to embark on the next phase of his research. He plans to examine “poetic ‘force’ (energy, motion, kinetic energy) in literary texts at the beginning of the twentieth century,” work that aligns with a graduate seminar he will teach in the spring. Yet he is careful to keep an open mind about what research the next year will bring. “It depends a lot on the people I meet and dialogue with, and that’s part of the thrill of being here,” he says. “I am excited about the chance to let myself be influenced and disturbed. I think that in the humanities, productive disturbance is one of the most important resources we have.”


Claudia Brittenham is Assistant Professor in Art History and the College. After receiving her PhD and BA from Yale, she held fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies and the University of Michigan, where she also was an assistant professor. Her research focuses on ancient art from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, with a particular interest in issues of identity, cultural exchange, materiality, and politics. Her dissertation, “The Cacaxtla Painting Tradition: Art and Identity in Epiclassic Mexico,” was awarded Yale’s Frances Blanshard Prize and Theron Rockwell Field Prize for excellence. Before returning to Yale for her doctoral degree, she was the assistant curator for Eastern Hemisphere collections at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC. 

Frances Ferguson, the Ann L. and Lawrence B. Buttenwieser Professor in English Language and Literature and the College, previously taught at Johns Hopkins University, where she was the Mary Elizabeth Garrett Professor in Arts and Sciences. Her work is primarily concerned with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature and literary theory, although she also is interested in issues of gender and sexuality. Her current project examines the political perspectives of Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Bentham, with a specific focus on how their analyses of children and education informed those views. Ferguson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010 and received the Keats-Shelley Association’s Distinguished Scholar Award in 2011. Her books include Solitude and the Sublime: Romanticism and the Aesthetics of Individuation (1992) and Pornography, The Theory: What Utilitarianism Did to Action (2005). She holds a PhD from Yale.

Itamar Francez officially joins the faculty in Linguistics and the College as Assistant Professor after serving as Collegiate Assistant Professor in the University of Chicago’s Society of Fellows. Prior to that, he held postdoctoral positions at UChicago, the University of Konstanz, the University of Manchester, and Yale. Francez’s research interests include semantics and pragmatics, syntax-semantics interface, and the philosophy of language. He attended Stanford for his PhD, writing a dissertation entitled “Existential Proposition.” His BA is from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he focused on English and general studies. 

Patrick Jagoda is Assistant Professor in English Language and Literature and the College, where he was previously appointed as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in New Media. He holds a PhD from Duke, where he also earned a graduate certificate in information science and information studies. He is interested in many different types of media—including twentieth- and twenty-first-century fiction and film, as well as digital games—but his primary focus is on how the concept of “the network” informs our understanding of these cultural entities, a theme he addressed in his dissertation, “Network Aesthetics: American Fictions in the Culture of Interconnection.” Jagoda also uses technology to facilitate new learning experiences and has been engaged in an ongoing collaborative project with Melissa Gilliam (Professor in Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Pediatrics) to use digital storytelling and game production to promote sexual health in adolescents. 

Florian Klinger, the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in Germanic Studies and the College, received his MA and PhD in comparative literature from Stanford. He also holds an MA in comparative literature, philosophy, and Latin American studies from Freie Universität Berlin, and an Artist Diploma in violin from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München. His dissertation, published in Germany in 2011 under the title Urteilen (Judging), investigates the structure of human judgment in the post-Kant era of modernity. His teaching interests include ancient and modern philosophy and literature, poetry and poetics, pragmatism, and theories of force. 

David Simon, Assistant Professor in English Language and Literature and the College, obtained his PhD in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a student fellowship at the Townsend Center for the Humanities and an award for outstanding teaching. His dissertation, “Careless Engagements: Literature, Science, and the Ethics of Indifference in Early Modernity,” explores the ways in which literary forms responded to emergent techniques in experimental science during the seventeenth century. In addition to his academic work, he has reviewed contemporary fiction for the Nation and won an award for “best fiction manuscript by an undergraduate” for the creative-writing thesis he produced while pursuing his BA at Brown.

Christopher TaylorAssistant Professor in English Language and Literature and the College, studies the hemispheric Americas, particularly the British West Indies, in the nineteenth century. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, where he won awards for best graduate essay in American literature and excellence in teaching. He completed his BA at New York University, where he also received an award for best English thesis. His dissertation, “Empire of Neglect: Caribbean Literature, British Liberalism, and New World Asylums, 1776–1888,” engages with economic history, political theory, and literary studies in its analysis of Creole literature as a means of anti-imperialist resistance. Similar themes were explored in the recent conference “Transnationalism: A Useful Category of Analysis?” which he co-organized while at Penn. 

Sonali Thakkar, Assistant Professor in English Language and Literature and the College, received a PhD from the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society and a certification from the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia, where she also held a Mellon Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. She earned an MA in rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley; as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, she specialized in international relations, peace and conflict studies, English, and literary studies. This complex educational background informs her scholarship, which examines the cultural memory of the Holocaust in the context of literary works dealing with postcolonialism and migration. Her dissertation is entitled “Continental Drifters: Holocaust Memory, Decolonization, and Postwar Migration to Europe.”

Photography by Chris Kirzeder

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