Dirk von Petersdorff

Modern German Literature, Jena
Fellowship: 01.10.16–31.03.17


Dirk von Petersdorff was born in Kiel in 1966. He is a poet and a professor of modern German literature at the Friedrich Schiller University, Jena. He is a member of the Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz. In 2011/12, he served as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin. In 2013, he was a Writer-in-Residence at Washington University, St. Louis, and held a lectureship on poetics at the University of Tübingen (together with Hans Magnus Enzensberger). Among others, his fictional work was awarded the Kleist Prize.

Fields of Research

Romanticism (Graduate School “Modell Romantik,” Jena); Goethe; Songs from the 18th Century to the Present; History of Modern Aesthetics; What is ‘Postmodernism?’; Creative Writing

Project outline

The ‘Collective Being’ Goethe. Poetry Collections as Autobiographical Constructions

This project analyzes collections of Goethe’s poetry edited by himself. I treat these collections as autobiographical constructions, as they impose a specific order on Goethe’s poems, which are related to different autobiographical contexts. The composition of a poetry collection obliges its editor to draw a “Summa Summarum” (Goethe) of life. In doing so, it generates considerable inconsistencies. Goethe described himself as internally pluralized, as a ‘collective being,’ uniting many different voices. This project analyzes the tension, manifest in Goethe’s collections, between the coherence of an individual and the heterogeneity of his or her perspectives: a) with regard to the structure of Goethe’s poetry collections (selection criteria; forming groups and assigning titles; sequencing) and paratexts (self-commenting poems and mottos); b) with regard to systematically-related poems, namely concerning the concepts of love articulated in these collections and the engagement with religion.

Publications (Selection)


  • Lebensanfang. Eine wahre Geschichte. München: C.H. Beck 2007.
  • Nimm den langen Weg nach Haus. Gedichte. München: C.H. Beck 2010.
  • Sirenenpop. Gedichte. München: C.H. Beck 2014.


Academic Publications: 

  • Mysterienrede. Zum Selbstverständnis romantischer Intellektueller. Tübingen: Niemeyer 1996. 
  • Fliehkräfte der Moderne. Zur Ich-Konstitution in der Lyrik des frühen 20. Jahrhunderts. Tübingen: Niemeyer 2005. 
  • Geschichte der deutschen Lyrik. München: C.H. Beck 2008.
  • Wie schreibe ich ein Gedicht? Kreatives Schreiben: Lyrik. Stuttgart: Reclam 2013.