Thomas Pfau

Office Hours: 

Tuesday 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. & by appointment.

Thomas Pfau

Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English

External Address: 
312 Allen Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Box 90015, Durham, NC 27708-0015
(919) 681-3098

Thomas Pfau is the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English, with secondary appointments in Germanic Languages & Literatures and in the Duke Divinity School. A native of Germany, Prof. Pfau began his academic career in 1980 as a student of History and Literature at the University of Constance. In 1982, he came to the U.S. where, at UC-Irvine, he joined the Graduate Program in Comparative Literature and Theory. In 1985, he continued his studies in the Comparative Literature Program at SUNY-Buffalo where he received his Ph.D. in 1989 with a dissertation on self-consciousness in Romantic poetry and theory (Wordsworth, Shelley, et al.). Since then, his interests have gradually broadened to include topics in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, philosophy, and intellectual history. Besides translating and editing two volumes of theoretical writings by Hölderlin and Schelling, he also edited three essay collections on English Romanticism, as well as special issues of South Atlantic Quarterly (1996) English Romantic Review ( 2010, 2011), and Modernist Cultures (2005). To date, he is the author of three monographs: Wordsworth's Profession (Stanford UP, 1997) Romantic Moods: Paranoia, Trauma, and Melancholy, 1794-1840 (Johns Hopkins UP, 2005) and Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge (Notre Dame UP, 2013). He has published some thirty-five essays in numerous essay collections and scholarly journals on a wide range of writers, including Rousseau, A. Smith, Kant, Wordsworth, Wollstonecraft, Coleridge, Shelley, Goethe, Beethoven, Eichendorff, Schleiermacher, Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin and other writers and philosophers.


  • Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo 1989
  • M.A., University of California at Irvine 1985

Judgment and Action Fragments toward a History. Ed. T Pfau and V Soni. Northwestern University Press, December 15, 2017. (Collection)

Pfau, T, and Mitchell, R. Romanticism and Modernity. Routledge, November 2011.

Romanticism and Modernity. Ed. T Pfau and R Mitchell. Routledge, 2011. (Collection)

Pfau, T. Romantic Moods: Paranoia, Trauma, and Melancholy, 1790-1840. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. (Monograph)

Pfau, T. Lessons of Romanticism: A Critical Companion. an anthology of twenty-one essays, Durham: Duke UP, 1998.

Pfau, T. Idealism and the Endgames of Theory: Three Essays by F. W. J. Schelling. State U of New York P, 1994. (Monograph)

Pfau, T, and translator, . Friedrich Hölderlin: Essays and Letters on Theory. State U of New York P, 1987.


Pfau, T. "Rational Theology and the Catholic Critique of Modernity, 1780-1830." The Oxford Handbook on European Romanticism. Ed. HKC Paul and London. October 2014.

Pfau, T. "Wagner hören im Zeitalter kultureller Überdetermination: Adorno’s Versuch über Wagner." Jenseits von Bayreuth: Richard Wagner Heute. Ed. S Boernchen and G Mein. Fink Verlag, March 2014.

Pfau, T. "’A certain mediocrity' Moral Sentiments and Early Behaviorism in A. Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments." Romanticism and the Emotions. Ed. J Faflak and R Sha. Cambridge UP, February 2014.

Pfau, T. "A certain mediocrity: Adam Smith’s moral behaviorism." Romanticism and the Emotions. January 1, 2012. 48-75. Full Text

Pfau, T. "The Appearance of Stimmung: Play as Virtual Rationality." Stimmung: zur Wiederkehr einer ästhetischen Kategorie?. Ed. A Gisbertz. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, March 2011. (Essay)

Pfau, T. "William Paley." Blackwell Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature, 4 vols. Ed. F Burwick and N Goslee. Blackwell, 2011. (Essay)

Pfau, T. "The Bildungsroman." The Blackwell Encylopedia of Romantic Literature. Ed. F Burwick, N Goslee, and D Hoeveler. London: Blackwell, 2011. 124-132. (Essay)

Pfau, T. "Bildung: Etiology, Function, Structure (with some reflections on Beethoven)." Die Romantik: ein Gründungsmythos der EuropEuropäischen Moderne. Ed. U Gaier. Bonner Universitätsverlag, 2010. 123-41. (Essay)

Pfau, T. "Between sentimentality and phantasmagoria: German lyric poetry, 1830–1890." German Literature of the Nineteenth Century, 1832-1899. January 1, 2010. 207-250.



Pfau, T. "“Botched Execution” or Historical Inevitability: Conceptual Dilemmas in Brad S. Gregory's The Unintended Reformation." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 46.3 (September 2016): 603-628. Full Text

Pfau, T. "A Modern Coleridge: Cultivation, Addiction, Habits." STUDIES IN ROMANTICISM 55.1 (2016): 134-138.

Pfau, T. "Formative Fictions: Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Bildungsroman." NOVEL-A FORUM ON FICTION 48.1 (May 2015): 136-139. Full Text

Pfau, T. "History without Hermeneutics: Brad Gregory’s Unintended Modernity." The Immanent Frame (November 2013).

Pfau, T. "Meta language and visual experience in The Stechlin." German Quarterly 86.4 (October 1, 2013): 421-443. Full Text

Pfau, T. "Meta-Language and Picture Experience in Der Stechlin." GERMAN QUARTERLY 86.4 (October 2013): 421-443. Full Text

Pfau, T. "A Note on the pre-History of European Nihilism: Eroticism and Damaged Life in Don Giovanni." andererseits: Yearbook of Transatlantic German Studies 2 (October 2013).

Pfau, T. "review of Tilottama Rajan, Romantic Narrative (Johns Hopkins UP, 2010)." The Eighteenth Century: Theory & Interpretation (October 2013). (Review)


Selected Grants

Romancticism & Modernity (North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, 2009 Conference) awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2008 to 2009