Simon Richter

a photograph of this individual
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
Professor of German
Department Chair and Graduate Chair
Member of Graduate Groups in Comparative Literature and Religious Studies
Affiliate Faculty Member in Cinema Studies and Women's Studies
Areas of Interest: 
18th-century literature, gender studies, cultural studies, cinema studies, history of the body, Dutch literature and culture
Contact Information
Office Address: 
743 Williams Hall (inside the Germanic/Slavic Department office)
Telephone: 
215-898-8606
Email Address: 
srichter@sas.upenn.edu
Office Hours: 
W 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm, Th 4:30 - 5:30 pm; and by appointment.

Simon Richter is Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and member of the Graduate Groups in Comparative Literature and Religious Studies and affiliated with the Programs in Cinema Studies and Women’s Studies. Courses he has recently taught include:  “Water Worlds: From Noah to New Orleans”; "Thomas Mann, Nazi Germany, and the Joseph Novels";  "The Devil's Pact in Literature, Music & Film"; “The German Connection: Hollywood and Berlin"; “Religion, Literature, and the Bible in the German Enlightenment”;  and "Weimar Classicism."

Women, Pleasure, Film: What Lolas Want, a "pleasure-driven" typology of the Lola film from Marlene Dietrich to Franka Potente and beyond, is Richter's most recent book. (Click here for an article about Richter's book.) Other books include Missing the Breast: Gender, Fantasy and the Body in the German Enlightenment and Laocoon's Body and the Aesthetics of Pain. His 1996 article on "The Ins and Outs of Intimacy: Gender, Epistolary Culture, and the Public Sphere" won the Max Kade Prize for Best Article in the German Quarterly. Unwrapping Goethe's Weimar: Essays in Cultural Studies and Local Knowledge (co-edited with Susanne Kord and Burkhard Henke) appeared in late 1999 in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of Goethe's birth. Richter also edited volume seven of the Camden House History of German Literature, The Literature of Weimar Classicism (2005). A brief version of his introduction to this volume is accessible online in The Literary Encyclopedia. Camden House published Goethe's Ghosts: Reading and the Persistence of Literature, a festschrift for the esteemed Goethe scholar Jane Brown, co-edited with Richard Block, also in 2013. He has published articles in the areas of history of medicine, gay and lesbian studies, gender studies, film studies, aesthetics, opera and literature, German foodways, cinema studies, cultural studies and on authors such as Sophie von La Roche, Theresa Huber, Caroline von Wolzogen, Sophie Mereau, Winckelmann, Lessing, Heinse, Herder,  Goethe, Moritz, Schiller, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Hegel, Eichendorff, Habermas, Max Frisch, Gerard Reve, Boudewijn Büch and Rammstein.

Richter has embarked on three new research projects, as always, linked to his teaching. The first focuses on the cultural history of sustainability in Germany and northwestern Europe. In a recent course, Richter and his students attempted to answer the question: why do Germans more readily embrace the principles and practice of sustainability, even at a higher personal price? The second is concerned with the cultural history of Prussia, that other "modern" state created in the eighteenth century (the first being the United States). Richter's quixotic project is to unearth the subterranean Dutchness of Prussia. Did you know that Unter den Linden, the grand boulevard leading from the Brandenburg Gate to the soon-to-be reconstructed Berlin Palace, is not only modeled on a similar Dutch boulevard in Cleve near the Dutch border, but was laid out by the Grand Elector of Brandenburg's Dutch friend, Johann Maurits, Prince of Nassau-Siegen? And that's just the beginning! The third project is well underway. In 2009/2010 Richter won an ACLS Fellowship and a Wiler Fellowship to work on a book that will bear the title The Impropriety of Goethe: Case Studies in the Aesthetics of Adulation. In this book Richter sets out to explore our current fastidiousness about large claims made on behalf of aesthetics by focusing on cases of exorbitant response to Goethe’s person and works. Manifestations of such impropriety include the obsessive collection of Goethe “relics” by William Speck, the esoteric interpretation of Goethe by Rudolf Steiner, encounters with Goethe in Nazi concentration camps, and the cult of Goethe among German Jews around 1900, not to mention the extreme responses of Karl Philipp Moritz, Eckermann, and Bettina von Arnim. This research will take Richter to numerous archives and remote locations.

Richter is an enthusiastic undergraduate and graduate teacher. He was awarded the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2008. In summer 2005 and 2006 he initiated and directed “The Graduate School Experience,” a program designed to give a select group of rising juniors from colleges and universities a foretaste of graduate studies in German. This program was cosponsored by the DAAD and the Max Kade Foundation and continues in rotation among a handful of universities. Richter is the past president of the Goethe Society of North America, a lively organization that prides itself in cultivating younger generations of Goethe scholars, and former editor of the Goethe Yearbook. He serves on the editorial board of German Quarterly and Periodical of the English Goethe Society and has served on the editorial board of Eighteenth-Century Studies and The Journal of the History of Sexuality. He is also a member of the editorial board of the  book series of the Goethe Society of North America published by Bucknell University Press. He is a board member of the American Association of Netherlandic Studies.

Richter also speaks Dutch and has projects in the area of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia, a study of the author and Goethe aficionado Boudewijn Büch, and works on the recently assassinated filmmaker Theo van Gogh. In his spare time, Richter hones his cooking skills and improves on an ever more elaborate rijsttafel (an extravagant Indonesian spread). His two sons, Toby (14) and Sam (12), are bilingual and love reading Asterix und Obelix.

Laocoon's Body and the Aesthetics of Pain
Unwrapping Goethe's Weimar Missing the Breast 
 Weimear ClassicismGoethe's Ghosts  Lola
Curriculum Vitæ: