Stefanie Heine

Stefanie Heine

Associate Professor

Primary fields of research

  • Modern and contemporary literature
  • Intermediality
  • Literary theory
  • Materiality and embodiment
  • Writing processes and practices of reading
  • Anthropocene approaches and ecocriticism


In my research, I focus on interrelations between the material dimensions of art and the human body and between production and reception processes as well as the tensions between representation and incorporation.

In my latest book Poetics of Breathing, I investigated how breathing and its rhythms—liminal, syncopal, and usually inconspicuous—became a core poetic and compositional principle in modern literature. Works across genres and languages allude to breath and incorporate pneumatic rhythms, from sound carried on the breath to silent pauses—often reflecting in the process on their own mediality, production, and reception. Poetics of Breathing is an investigation of the writing processes and literary works of key figures in the history of breath writing. After a critical examination of the rhetorical history of pneuma, I turned to in-depth comparative readings of paired figures, allowing their specific respirational poetics to emerge in conspirational dialogue with each other: Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Robert Musil and Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett and Sylvia Plath, and Paul Celan and Herta Müller. Focusing especially on those moments where the physiology of breathing and the physicality of literature interpenetrate and interrupt each other, Poetics of Breathing reads breathing texts as human–nonhuman assemblages. Respiratory writing, reading, and listening all involve moments of exposure, encounters with the outside and with the other, destabilizing allegedly clear-cut boundaries between the organic and inorganic. A challenge to historical and contemporary discourses that tie breath to the transcendent and the natural, Poetics of Breathing traces a decoupling of breath from its traditional association with life, and asks what literature might lie beyond.

Intersections between the animate and inanimate are also the starting point for my new project on inorganic aesthetics. Rethinking the idea of aesthetic organicism, I want to investigate entanglements between organic and inorganic matter, form, and phenomena in different artforms. As firsts steps, I edited the special journal issue Mineral Poetics (figurationen 1/22) and wrote the book Tangential Terrains: Cormac McCarthy's Geoaesthetics (forthcoming).




I have taught numerous courses in Comparative Literature covering topics like “Mineral Literature and Poetics”, “Narcissus’ Echo”, “Trauma Literature”, “ Breath, Voice, and Rhythm in Poetry and Poetics”, “Criticism, Cooperation, Coproduction”, “Aesthetic Permanence and Fleetingness”, “Literature of Revolt”, “Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener”, “Childhood Literature”, “Poetics of Pop-Songs” or “Visual Arts in Literature of the 19th and 20th century”.


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