Astrid Oesmann

Research Areas

20th Century Literature and Theater • Critical Theory • Aesthetics • Philosophy of History   

Astrid Oesmann studied German Literature and Literary Theory at the Universität Hamburg, Germany, at The Johns Hopkins University, and at Columbia University. At Rice, she serves as Program Advisor for German Studies, and she is a faculty affiliate of Jewish Studies.

She is the author of Staging History: Brecht’s Social Concepts of Ideology (2005), which argues that Bertolt Brecht’s theater opens experimental spaces to examine political ideology rather than simply representing it. Together with Matthias Rothe, she is also editor of the forthcoming volume Brecht und das Fragment, which examines fragmentary aspects in Brecht’s writings and performance practice. Currently, she is completing a book-length study, Masks, Politics, and the European Avant-garde, which focuses on the use of masks in avant-garde theater in moments of historical and social crisis during and after World War I.

Another research project concerns memory formation. Specifically, she is interested in how different aspects of Holocaust history influenced the philosophical writings of Theodor W. Adorno and Siegfried Kracauer. Expanding on her work on Adorno and Brecht, she examines how the Holocaust has altered our reception and perception of tragedy.

Her research and teaching interests include questions of how historical trauma and radical political change are represented in literature, performance, film, and art.


Selected Publications

Staging History: Brecht’s Social Concepts of Ideology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005). Paperback edition 2007.

Ed. with Matthias Rothe, Brecht und das Fragment (Berlin: Verbrecher Verlag, forthcoming in 2019).

“Inherent Estrangement: Brecht’s Reading of Shakespeare’s Tragedies,” The Brecht Yearbook 42 (2018), 21-32.

“The Melancholy Scientific Method: Writing as Ethical Memory in Sebald’s Austerlitz,” Monatshefte 106 (2014), 452-71.

“’Regeln für M.S.’ Von der Sterbelehre zur Überlebenskunst,” in Sabine Kebir (ed.), “Ich wohne fast so hoch wie er”: Margarete Steffin und Bertolt Brecht (Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 2008), 14-22.

“Disposition: From Film Theory to Human Action,” in Temenuga Trifonova (ed.), European Film Theory (London: Routledge, 2008), 180-92.

“Die Schriften: Einführung” and “Zur  Philosophie [1924-1933],” both in Jan Knopf (ed.), Brecht Handbuch (Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler 2003), 1-15 and 117-24.

Nathan der Weise: Suffering Lessing’s ‘Erziehung,’“ The Germanic Review 74/2 (Spring 1999), 131-45.

“Brecht's Trommeln in der Nacht: The Theatrical Destruction of Subjectivity and History,” The German Quarterly 70/2 (Spring 1997), 136-51.