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Patrizia C. McBride

Director of the Institute for German Cultural Studies & Professor

Patrizia C. McBride

Goldwin Smith Hall, Room 188



My research and teaching span German-language literature and culture from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, with a special emphasis on theories of modernity and modernism, the intersection of aesthetics, philosophy, and political theory, visual and media studies, and Austrian literature and culture, especially fin-de-siècle Vienna. My scholarship revolves around three main themes: the development of narrative within literary and visual media; the ways in which the reflection on art and society in the twentieth century contributed to the politicized practice of the avant-garde; and the increasing concern, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with grasping literature and the arts in terms of the ideological, rhetorical, and material effects produced by the media that carry them. My first book, The Void of Ethics: Robert Musil and the Experience of Modernity (Northwestern University Press, 2006), examines Robert Musil’s engagement with narrative as a lens for analyzing the rise of totalitarianism in the 1920s and 1930s. In my second book, The Chatter of the Visible: Montage and Narrative in Weimar Germany (The University of Michigan Press 2016), I trace the path-breaking notion of storytelling developed under the rubric of montage by Weimar-era artists associated with Dadaism, Constructivism, and the New Objectivity in high and low-brow genres and media (besides literature, film, photography, graphic design, advertising, and typography).

I am currently working on a monograph that examines the tense relation between literature and the book in German-language culture during the first decades of the twentieth century. Although the emergence of mass culture at this time has frequently been chronicled through the lens of film, photography, and radio broadcasting, one should not forget that newspapers and periodicals constituted the most widespread spare-time activity, so much so that the 1920s have been dubbed “the decade of the press.” My book focuses on the role literature played in debates and practices that sought to address the democratizing and polarizing effects of print, especially after the Great War. The norms and attitudes that regulated ‘the great sea of print’ harked back to the Romantic era, when the book’s new bond with literature had made it possible to bring order to the reading revolution of the 1800s by catalyzing practices of connecting, interpreting, archiving, sorting, and memorializing that taught readers to relate to print media in ways that exceeded literature itself. My study looks at how the expectations and norms that were naturalized in literature’s special alliance with the book became unbundled in works by Brecht, Balázs, Benjamin, Kracauer, Keun, Musil, Lasker-Schüler, Hausmann, Herzfelde, Huelsenbeck, Polgar, Tucholsky, and Heartfield.  I am especially interested in appraising the ways many of these writers and theorists set out to revitalize the verbal arts by reconfiguring literature as a ‘slow’ yet active medium that enlists print’s material features in strategies designed to pierce through the contemplative illusionism and feigned immediacy of old and new media (especially bourgeois theater and narrative film). Other questions I examine concern the status of literary form in relation to the small prose writing proper to journalism (feuilleton, reportage), the relation between truth, journalistic reporting, and literary storytelling, and the renaissance of a rhetorical understanding of literature in the bourgeoning field of advertising.

Office Hours

By appointment only


  • German Studies
  • Institute for German Cultural Studies

Graduate Fields

  • Film and Visual Studies
  • Germanic Studies


  • 18th to 20th-century literature and culture
  • Modernism and theories of modernity
  • The intersection of literary theory, philosophy, and political theory
  • Visual and media studies
  • Austrian literature and culture, especially fin-de-siècle Vienna.


Spring 2020



  • The Chatter of the Visible.  Montage and Narrative in Weimar Germany. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016.
  • Legacies of Modernism: Art and Politics in Northern Europe, 1890-1950. Co-edited with Richard McCormick and Monika Zagar. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  • The Void of Ethics. Robert Musil and the Experience of Modernity. Evaston, IL.: Northwestern University Press, 2006.


  • "Berlin Dada and the Time of Revolution." Forthcoming, PMLA (May 2018).
  • "Else Lasker-Schüler’s Early Prose Texts and the Small Form." Modern Language Notes, special issue, "Avant-Garde Revisited: Else Lasker-Schüler," ed. Andrea Krauss, 132 (April 2017): 625-38.
  • Montage/Collage." German Aesthetics: Fundamental Concepts from Baumgarten to Adorno. Eds. J.D. Mininger and Jason Peck. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. 204-9.
  • "Erfahrung und Erzählung: Walter Benjamin und Kurt Schwitters." Von den Rändern zur Moderne. Studien zur deutschsprachigen Literatur zwischen Jahrhundertwende und Zweitem Weltkrieg. Eds. T. Lörke, G. Streim, R. Walter-Jochum. Würzburg: Königshaus und Neumannm 2014. 307-21.
  • "Konstruktion als Bildung: Rethinking the Human in German Constructivism." The Germanic Review, 88 (2013).
  • "Rethinking the Academic Journal in the Digital Age." German Studies Review 35.3 (2012): 465-469. Special issue on new directions in German Studies.
  • "Narrative Resemblance: Weimar Germany’s Photography and the Modernist Photobook of Hannah Höch." New German Critique, Fall 2011. 169-97.
  • "Learning to See in Irmgard Keun’s Das kunstseidene Mädchen." The German Quarterly, 84.2 (Spring 2011): 220-38.
  • "Montage and Violence in Weimar Culture: Kurt Schwitters’ Reassembled Individuals." Violence, Culture, Aesthetics: Germany 1789-1938. Eds. Carl Niekerk and Stefani Engelstein. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011. 245-65.
  • "De-Moralizing Politics: Bertolt Brecht’s Early Aesthetics." Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 82.1 (2008): 85-111.
  • "’Ein schreibender Eisenkönig’? Robert Musil und Walther Rathenau." Musiliana, vol. 14. Eds. Annette Daigger and Peter Henninger. Frankfurt a.M./Berlin/Bern/New York: Peter Lang, 2008. 1-17.
  • "The Game of Meaning: Collage, Montage, and Parody in Kurt Schwitters’ Merz." MODERNISM/Modernity 14.2 (April 2007): 249-72.
  • "The Future’s Past. Modernism, Critique, and the Political." Legacies of Modernism: Art and Politics in Northern Europe, 1890-1950. Eds. Patrizia McBride, Richard McCormick, and Monika Zagar. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2007. 1-13.
  • "The Value of Kitsch. Hermann Broch and Robert Musil on Art and Morality." Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature, 29. 2 (Summer 2005): 88-106.
  • "‘In Praise of the Present’: Adolf Loos on Style and Fashion." MODERNISM/Modernity 11.4 (November 2004): 745-67. 
  • "Whose Community? Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party, Count Leinsdorf’s Wisdom, and the Logic of the Political." Modern Austrian Literature 34.1/2 (2001): 37-51.
  • "On the Utility of Art for Politics: Musil’s ‘Armed Truce of Ideas.’" The German Quarterly 73.4 (Fall 2000): 366-86.
  • "The Paradox of Aesthetic Discourse: J.M.R. Lenz’s Anmerkungen übers Theater." German Studies Review 22.3 (October 1999): 397-419.