Assoc. Prof. Barbara Nagel

Germanist, research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the Program Area History of Theory


Barbara Natalie Nagel focuses on the relation between rhetoric and affect. Her research and teaching interests include the fields of gender and sexuality, theology, psychoanalysis, law with a historical focus on the Baroque, literature around 1800, and realism.

Barbara joined the faculty of the Princeton German Department in 2014; she was previously a wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin in the German Department at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

After studying comparative literature and history at the Free University Berlin, Barbara received her Ph.D. from the German Department at New York University in 2012. From 2008 to 2011, Barbara was a member of the DFG doctoral research group “Forms of Knowledge and the Know How of Living” (Frankfurt/Oder, Potsdam). Her first book Der Skandal des Literalen. Barocke Literalisierungen in Gryphius, Kleist, Büchner was published the same year (Wilhelm Fink, 2012). An edited collection Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction appeared with Fordham University Press in May 2015.

Barbara’s second monograph Ambiguous Aggression in German Realism and Beyond: Flirtation, Passive Aggression, and Domestic Violence appeared in Bloomsbury Academics’ New Directions in German Studies series in 2019; the book received enthusiastic reviews e.g. in Comparative Literature, Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, and German Studies Review. With another book project The Mighty Hater: Luther’s Reformations of Rhetoric and Affect, which has developed alongside Ambiguous Aggression, she plans to take on an earlier moment in the history of German affect.

Barbara has published in venues including Critical Inquiry, Public Books, Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, Law and Literature, Feminist German Studies, with further writing forthcoming in New German Critique. Representative topics include rape and legal fiction in Tacitus, slut-shaming metaphorologies in Goethe, gendered editorial violence in Stifter, and toxic masculinity in translations of Kleist.

In fall 2022, Barbara will be with a Humboldt Research Fellowship at the Leibniz Centre for Literary and Cultural Research, Berlin. She is also a recipient of the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin.. From 2018 to 2021, Barbara held a Robert Remsen Laidlaw ‘04 University Preceptorship.

At Princeton, Barbara is an Associate Faculty member of the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies.

Jury, Council, and Board Memberships

Barbara serves on the PMLA Advisory Committee (for pre-1800 German literature) as well as on the advisory board for Cornell University’s book series Signale: Modern German Letters, Cultures, and Thought.

Research Interests

  • rhetoric and affect in the fields of gender and sexuality
  • theology
  • psychoanalysis
  • law with a historical focus on the Baroque
  • literature around 1800
  • realism



  • Ambiguous Aggression in German Realism and beyond: Flirtation, Passive Aggression, Domestic Violence (= New Directions in German Studies) (London/ New York: Bloomsbury Academic, Oct. 2019).
    • Nominated for the MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures
    • Parts of this work have been discussed in:
      • Biotop!cs: Der Biotopia-Podcast of the Bavarian Museum for Natural History: “Auf der Balz: Wie flirten Tier und Mensch?” (March, 2022)
      • Neue Zürcher Zeitung: “Der Flirt war nie die harmlose Variante zu erzwungenem Oralsex” (Aug. 24, 2018)
      • Die Zeit Online: “Der stille Tod der Koketterie” (May 20, 2018)
      • Deutschlandfunk Kultur: “Es ist mit dem Flirten ziemlich vorbei” (May 3, 2018)
      • Der Tagesspiegel: “Der Flirt – Zwischen Terror und Ermächtigung” (April 16, 2018)
    • Reviews:
      • Feminist German Studies 37/2 by Julie Shults (fall/winter 2021)
      • German Quarterly 94/4 by Willi Wolfgang Barthold (fall 2021)
      • Weimarer Beiträge 67/4 by Sabine Biebl (fall 2021)
      • Comparative Literature by Katrin Pahl (March 2021)
      • Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie by Oliver Grill (4/2020)
      • Syndicate Lit by Paul Buchholz, Regina Karl, Nadine Hartmann, Michael Snediker, Moira Weigel (Dec. 2020 or Jan. 2021)
      • The Berlin Journal 34 (2020-21), 92-3 by Liliane Weissberg (Oct. 2020)
      • German Studies Review 43:3, 610-12 by Benjamin Sauvé (Oct. 2020)

  • Der Skandal des Literalen. Barocke Literalisierungen bei Gryphius, Kleist, Büchner (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2012).
    • Reviewed in:
      • Arbitrium 33/1 (2015), 66-70 by Oliver Bach

  • The Mighty Hater: Luther’s Reformations of Rhetoric and Affect (Current book project)

Edited Volume, peer-reviewed

  • Barbara N. Nagel, Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz, and Lauren Shizuko Stone, Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015).
    • Reviewed in:
      • MLN 130:5 (2015), 1266-9 by Henrik S. Wilberg
      • Oxford Literary Review 39:1 (2017) by Simon Morgan Wortham
      • Monatshefte 109:2 (2017), 296-8 by Damianos Grammatikopoulos
      • Studies in American Culture 40:1 (Oct. 2017), 147-9 by Becky McLaughlin
      • Culture, Health, and Sexuality 19:7 (2017), 811-13 by Joni Meenagh

Refereed Journal Articles

  • “The Child in the Dark: On Child Abuse in Robert Walser,” in: New German Critique 146 (Aug. 2022).
  • “Goethe’s Stalker Snails,” in: Feminist German Studies 36/2 (winter 2020), 1-26.
  • “Versioning Violence: On Gender, Genetics, and Jealousy in Adalbert Stifter’s Mappe,” in: Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 140 (July 2020).
  • “Slut-Shaming Metaphorologies – On Sexual Metaphor in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister,” in: Critical Inquiry 46/2 (winter 2019), 304-24.
  • “The Tyrant as Artist. Legal Fiction and Sexual Violence under Tiberius,” in: Law and Literature 25/2 (summer 2013), 286-310.
  • “’Revelation through the Flesh’ – The Spirit of Matter in Büchner,” in: CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 13.3: New Perspectives on Material Culture and Intermedial Practice, ed. by Jan Mieszkowski, Haun Saussy (Sept. 2011).

Reviewed Journal Article

  • “Lutherstil,” in: Intrajekte 14 (special issue “Rhetorik und Stil,” ed. by Eva Geulen and Melanie Möller) (spring 2022).
  • “Flirt als semiotische Krise bei Henry James, Thomas Mann, Jean Genet,” in: Figurationen 19/2 (2018), 25-42.
  • “Ambige Aggression – Häusliche Gewalt im Realismus,” in: Weimarer Beiträge 61/2 (fall 2015), 181-201.

Peer-Reviewed Book Chapters

  • “The Coward’s Paradox: Pip’s Weak Resistance,” in: Handsomely Done: Aesthetics, Politics, and Media after Melville, ed. Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz (Northwestern University Press, 2019), 89-111.
  • “‘Almost Nothing; Almost Everything’: An Introduction to the Discourse of Flirtation” (with Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz and Lauren Shizuko Stone), in: Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction, ed. Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz/ Barbara Natalie Nagel/ Lauren Shizuko Stone (New York: ­Fordham University Press, spring 2015), 1-10.
  • “Three Terrors of Flirtation,” in: Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction, 101-05.
  • “Doing It as the Beasts Did: Intertextuality as Flirtation in Gradiva,” in: Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seduction, 136-42.

Review Article

  • “The Kleist We Need,” in: Public Books (March 2020).

Further Book Chapters and Articles

  • “Freidigkeit – Zur Protestantisierung der Parrhesie bei Luther” (with Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz), in: Bella Parrhesia: Begriff und Figur. Studien zur Ästhetik und Politik der freien Rede in der Neuzeit, ed. Rüdiger Campe and Malte Wessels (Freiburg: Rombach, 2018), 63-83.
  • “Analogie: Martin Lutero,” in: I filosofi e gli zingari, ed. Leonardo Piasere and Gianluca Solla (Canterano: Aracne, 2018), 39-46.
  • “Die Gewalt zieht Kreise” (with Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz), in: Der Freitag 20 (2018).
  • “‘Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten…’ Bitten um Deutung in Kafkas und Fontanes Liebesbriefen,” in: Was heißt Deutung? Verhandlungen zwischen Recht, Literaturwissenschaft und Psychoanalyse, ed. Susanne Lüdemann and Thomas Vesting (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2017), 227-43.
  • “Enjambement des Rests. Poetische Überlebensökonomien in Jean Pauls Wutz,” in: Sprachen des Sammelns. Literatur als Medium und Reflexionsform des Sammelns, ed. Sarah Schmidt (Munich: Fink, 2016), 507-12.
  • “Tautologie (Luther),” in: Rom rückwärts. Europäische Übertragungsschicksale, ed. Judith Kasper and Cornelia Wild (Munich: Fink, 2015), 56-60.