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Professor Claudia Nitschke

Professor / Director of Studies

Professor / Director of Studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures+44 (0) 191 33 43424
Senior Fellow in the Global Policy Institute Journal
Associate Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study


I am currently working on a monograph on the conceptualisation of property in the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries: Proceeding from a selection of eighteenth-century texts (La Roche, Herder, Campe, Kotzebue etc.) which focus on the processes of colonization and its contemporary interpretation, I look at the way present-day literature and film re-evaluate and re-engage with these longstanding ideas around property and ownership. 

My most recent monograph Anerkennung und Kalkül. Literarische Gerechtigkeitsentwürfe im gesellschaftlichen Umbruch (1773–1819) examines literary notions of justice in Germany. Drawing on an extensive body of theory, ranging from game theory, political philosophy, and evolutionary psychology to cognitive science, the study demonstrates how canonical texts, authors, and genres introduced a specifically literary idea of recognition. With this distinct, interdisciplinary approach, it shows how the literary model of recognition answered to problematic shortcomings of contractarianism in the vein of Hobbes by offering a new focus on the German ideas of ‘evolution’ and socially facilitated ‘Bildung’.

My previous book Der öffentliche Vater analyses the notion of ‘fatherhood’ in selected texts by Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Arnim, Hebbel, Stifter, Fontane, Freud, Hasenclever, Werfel, and Kafka: The book follows the balancing act of the bourgeois father between power and the familial dynamics of (de)emotionalization under three premises: the paternal empowerment in a newly defined private sphere which was controlled by a comprehensive system of bourgeois values; the firm regulation/de-sexualisation of filial sexuality; and finally a close analysis of the changing functions of fatherhood in the course of the centuries.

My first monograph, Krieg und Utopie bei L. Achim von Arnim, focuses on Ludwig Achim von Arnim (1781-1831), who was experiencing the period of revolution and war around 1800 as a deeply traumatic and unsettling time. In view of his pessimistic analyses of current events, it is striking how plainly he tied the state of crisis to the auspicious prospect of national and individual rebirth: the book analyses the utopian potential attributed to the precarious historical moment within the parameters of historical semantics (Reinhard Koselleck; Niklas Luhmann). 

Before coming to Durham, I was a Praelector (DAAD) at Lincoln College, Oxford and lecturer at the University of Tübingen, where I also completed my M.A., PhD, and Habilitation.

Research Interests

Environmental Humanities; literature and the law (in particular theories of property and human rights); utopian theory and fiction; national identity, nationalism, concepts of sovereignty in literature and film

Comtemporary literature; 18th- and 19th-century literature, in particular Realism, Romanticism, 'Age of Goethe', Enlightenment

Postgraduate Supervision

I would be happy to hear from students interested in pursuing research in any of these areas. 


Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Scholarly Edition