Astrid Oesmann

  • Oesmann
Associate Professor
Program Director
Ph.D., Columbia University
Rayzor Hall 327
Research and Teaching: 

20th-century literature and theater; film and visual arts; aesthetic theory; philosophy of history

My work centers on questions of how historical trauma and radical political change are represented in literature, performance, and art. I am also affiliated with the Jewish Studies Program at Rice.

I focus on the 20th century and explore how theater as a genre has responded to specific historical events in the context of mass culture and entertainment. Currently, I am completing a book-length study, Masks, Politics, and the European Avant-garde, which examines 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, I am interested in how different aspects of Holocaust history influenced the philosophical approaches of Theodor W. Adorno and Siegfried Kracauer. Expanding on my work on Adorno and the playwright Bertolt Brecht, I examine how the Holocaust has altered our reception and perception of tragedy.

Selected Publications: 
  • Staging History: Brecht’s Social Concepts of Ideology (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005). Paperback edition 2007.
  • “Tragedy out of Joint: Bertolt Brecht’s and Heiner Müller’s Interaction with a Genre,” The Brecht Yearbook 39 (2015), 3-19.
  • “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.
  • “From Chaos to Transformation: Brechtian Histories Im Dickicht der Städte,” The Brecht Yearbook 26 (Fall 2001), 257-76.
  • 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.