Dr. Joela Jacobs is Assistant Professor of German Studies. She earned her Ph.D. in Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago, where she subsequently held a postdoctoral position as Humanities Teaching Scholar. Prior to coming to the US from Germany, she studied at the Universities of Bonn, St. Andrews, and the Freie Universität Berlin to receive her M.A. in German and English Philology.
Dr. Jacobs' research focuses on 19th-21st century German literature and film, Animal Studies, Environmental Humanities, Jewish Studies, the History of Sexuality, and the History of Science. She has published articles on monstrosity, multilingualism, literary censorship, biopolitics, animal epistemology, critical plant studies, and contemporary German Jewish identity.
Currently, she is working on a monograph that examines a preoccupation with non-human forms of life in the micro-genre of the literary grotesque (die Groteske) around 1900 that begins with Oskar Panizza's neo-romantic work in the 1890s, becomes a central element of modernism with authors such as Hanns Heinz Ewers and Salomo Friedlaender, and culminates in Franz Kafka's unique oeuvre. This genre creates a field of artistic experimentation that allows for the transgression of categories such as species, race, and gender by introducing a non-human perspective on sexual and linguistic normativity. The vegetal, animal, and liminal human figures at the center of these grotesque texts challenge biopolitical measures of control through, for instance, their non-conformity with standard human language. This linguistic limitation is reinforced by the genre’s response to mechanisms of literary censorship, which resulted in new modes of expressing political dissent during modernity’s language crisis. One of these central strategies is the texts' provocative use of grotesque humor vis-à-vis normative conceptions of what it means to be human, which also marks the genre's distinct historical scope, as it perceptively critiques the rise of 'the New Human' from 19th century physiognomy to the wake of the Nazi rule.
Dr. Jacobs enjoys being in the classroom, both to teach the intricacies of German literature and language and to explore interdisciplinary connections surrounding fundamental questions about life and living beings with students. She has taught a wide range of courses on all levels of the German college curriculum and in adult education on topics such as German environmentalism, transatlantic perspectives on national trauma, (a)typical emotions in poetry, fairy tales, Kafka's oeuvre, expressionist film, and German Jewish literature. As a certified Teaching Consultant, she is always interested in talking pedagogy and classroom technology.