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.