Matthew Miller - Colgate University - Faculty Directory

Colgate Directory


Matthew Miller

Assistant Professor of German
German, 110 Lawrence Hall
p 315-228-6181
Since joining the Colgate faculty in 2010, I have been teaching an array of courses in German language and culture; German literature, theater, and cinema; and Colgate’s Core Curriculum. What connects these activities is the commitment to establishing a community of collaborative learners in the space of the liberal arts classroom. Whether it be the analysis of a contemporary German theater performance (485), working through Kant’s seminal “What is Enlightenment?” essay in the language of its origin (351), interpretative discussions of the enigmatic films of Berlin School cinema (325), grappling with literary manifestations of migration across the catastrophic turbulence of German history in the 20th century (479), playful experiments with German syntax (201), probing the cultural surplus of ancient Greek literature in search of the good society (Core 151) or framing modernity in terms of 1) philosophical discourse, 2) social, economic, technological, and political fact, and 3) aesthetic phenomena (Core 152), I approach the liberal arts classroom as an opportunity to experience and affirm the value of humanities-based inquiry.

The study of German is the gateway to a fascinating creative and intellectual culture and it remains central to my work. A longstanding interest in German literature and philosophy informs my teaching and research endeavors alike. I believe the rich tradition of critical thought in German can serve as a source of the imagination's continual renewal for individuals and communities in an increasingly complex and confusing world. In the 21st century, the fabric of our everyday lives and longer term dreams has become increasingly saturated in changing forms of mediation. This situation places a premium on the powerful interpretative strategies that the humanities — and German studies especially — have developed for understanding self and other; for promoting literacy in the creative arts; for communicating effectively and acting ethically in cross-cultural and multilingual contexts; and for interrogating matrices of power, unmasking their ideological dimensions, and exposing their repercussions: in sum, for the study of the human in its various cultural manifestations in different historical, political, and economic contexts.

German intellectual culture has left a huge, but sometimes unacknowledged imprint on higher education in the United States. Not only does the German concept of Bildung (cf. the work of Wilhelm von Humboldt) inform the model of the liberal arts education embraced by Colgate. Core courses such as Colgate’s “Legacies of the Ancient World” are unthinkable without the work of (often “Grecophilia-driven”) German scholars excavating and reconstructing Western antiquity, whereas the discourse of modernity would be unrecognizable to us without Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin and Adorno … In addition to these local examples of how the history of German thought, literature, and culture has shaped academic inquiry, German studies may continue to help frame inquiries across academic disciplines to grapple with the multiple and unwieldy cultural imaginaries through which we orient ourselves in the world. Germany today, moreover, does not simply figure prominently as Europe’s largest country and most powerful economy; contemporary German-speaking Europe also presents a microcosm of what we have come to describe as the globalizing tendencies of the post-Cold War age. Nor is the increasingly sprawling diversity of newly interconnected populations across nation-states confined to Germany, Austria, or Switzerland (as addressed in the German 201-202 Global Engagements courses). The New Europe presents itself generally as an unprecedented experiment in transnational sovereignty and identity. The Danube river constitutes one fascinating stretch thereof explored by the “Legacies of the Second World” working-group — the first at Colgate to join the Central New York Humanities Corridor. From its beginnings in the German Black Forest to the Romanian and Ukrainian shores where it meets the Black Sea, the Danube flows through and/or borders 10 countries, while its watershed covers four more. The riverine region figures both as a historically contested multilingual, multicultural, and multinational space — and an instantiation of our “global present” traversed at “The Black and Blue Danube Symposium” on March 1-2, 2013 at Colgate. This work has also led to the establishment of a new course for the Communities and Identities part of Colgate's Core Curriculum: Core 184: The Danube

Teaching Experience

Courses taught at Colgate:
  • Core 151: Legacies of the Ancient World
  • Core 152: Challenges of Modernity
  • Core 184c: The Danube
  • German 101 and 102: Beginning German I and II
  • German 201 and 202: Intermediate German I and II
  • German 325: Transnationalism in Contemporary German Culture
  • German 341: Advanced Conversation and Composition
  • German 351: Introduction to German Literature
  • German 457: German Literature and Culture
  • German 479: 20th Century Literature: Modernity and Migration in German Culture
  • German 485: German Drama: History, Theory, Practice
  • Adviser to independent studies and honors theses in German
  • Freiburg Study Group director
Previous teaching appointments:
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of German, Bowdoin College, 2009-10
  • Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Columbia University, 2007-2009


  • 20th to 21st-century German literature and film
  • 18th to 21st-century German theater
  • Critical and aesthetic theory (from Kant through Adorno)


  • Danubian studies 
  • Modernity, modernism, and the avant-gardes 
  • The political and cultural history of East Germany
  • Transnational cinema in the New Europe
  • Futurity studies
  • German language


Book projects:
  • Book manuscript: Mauer, Migration, Maps: The German Epic in the Cold War (in preparation)
  • Co-edited anthology (with Marijeta Bozovic): Watersheds: The Poetics and Politics of the Danube River (in preparation)


  • “Zu einem Europa der Flüsse: Die Donau im transnationalen Film der Gegenwart,” Tomislav Zelic and Jure Zovko, eds., Europa? Zur Kulturgeschichte einer Idee, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2014 (reviewed work in an anthology, forthcoming).
  • “Bottled Messages for Europe’s Future?: The Danube in Contemporary Transnational Cinema,” Helga Mitterbauer and Carrie Smith-Prei, eds., Central European Aesthetics, University of Toronto Press, 2014 (reviewed work in an anthology, forthcoming).
  • “Atlantic Transfers of Critical Theory: Alexander Kluge and the U.S. in Fiction,” Konrad Jarausch and Harald Wenzel, eds., Different Germanies, Berghahn Books, 2014 (reviewed work in an anthology, forthcoming).
  • "Facts of Migration, Demands on Identity: Christian Petzold's Yella and Jerichow in Comparison," The German Quarterly (Winter 2012) 55-76.
  • “Critical Storytelling and Diabolical Dialectics: Alexander Kluge and the Devil’s Blind Spots,” Germanic Review 85.4 (Winter 2010) 318-339.
  • “Literarische Zwischenöffentlichkeit: Alexander Kluges Erzählerische Reaktionen auf die deutsche Wendezeit,” Thomas Ernst, Patricia Gozalbez Cantó, Sebastian Richter, Nadja Sennewald and Julia Tieke, eds., SUBversionen: Zum Verhältnis von Politik und Ästhetik in der Gegenwart, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2008, 129-146.
  • “Der Auftrag des Chiasmus im Revolutionsdrama: Heiner Müller mit Georg Büchner Lesen,” Theater der Zeit: “Theaterwissenschaftliche Beiträge 2006” – Beilage zum Heft 5 (2006): 8-11.

Book reviews:

  • Qian, Kefei: Die Donau von 1740 bis 1875. Eine kulturwissenschaftliche Untersuchung. Logos Verlag Berlin: Verlag für wissenschaftliche Publikationen, 2014, The German Quarterly (in preparation).
  • Eshel, Amir: Futurity: Contemporary Literature and the Quest for the Past. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013, The German Quarterly 86:4, Fall 2013, 513-515.


"Literary Forms of Dialectics in the Works of Alexander Kluge and Heiner Müller"


BA, Swarthmore College, 1997;  MA, MPhil, PhD, Columbia University, 2007