Susan Gustafson

Susan E. Gustafson

  • Karl F. and Bertha A. Fuchs Professor of German Studies
  • Professor of Modern Languages and Cultures
  • Head, German Program
  • Director, Literary Translation Studies (MALTS)

PhD, Stanford University

425 Lattimore Hall
(585) 275-4251

Office Hours: By appointment only



Susan Gustafson's areas of research include German literature of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries; aesthetic theory; family configurations; gender studies; psychoanalysis; and feminism. In her book on Lessing, she explored the representation of absent mothers and orphaned fathers in his dramas to illustrate the fundamental deep structures informing his aesthetic and dramatic production and to demonstrate that the missing mother is actually not absent, but plays a central role in Lessing's literary work. Her book-length study of German classicism demonstrates, in contrast to Foucault's theories, how eighteenth-century poets—and particularly Goethe—were establishing their own poetry of same-sex identity and desire. Her third book, Goethe's Families of the Heart, outlines Goethe's representations of families based on love—including families with two fathers, two mothers, and adopted children—as a counter-discourse to the aristocratic and civil notions of father-dominated and economically determined families that prevailed during his time period. Gustafson's fourth book is a translation of Goethe's play, Stella: A Play for Lovers.

Research Overview

Research Interests

  • German literature of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries
  • feminism and gender studies
  • psychoanalysis

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • GER 151:  Intermediate German (Fall 2020)
  • GER 152:  Intermediate German II (Spring 2021)
  • GER 203:  Introduction to German Literature (Fall 2018)
  • GER 206:  Freud and Psychoanalysis (Fall 2010)
  • GER 212:  Monsters, Ghosts, and Aliens (Spring 2020)
  • GER 221:  Gender, Love, and Families (Spring 2021)
  • GER 230:  Poe and Hoffmann: Uncanny Stories (Fall 2020)
  • GER 232:  Wizards, Magic, & Fantasy (Fall 2019)
  • GER 249:  Bestsellers of the New Generation (Spring 2010)
  • GER 256:  Advanced Topics in German Studies: Kafka and Kleist (Spring 2019)

Selected Publications

Books and Monographs

Articles and Book Chapters


Susan Gustafson teaches courses on German literature of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries; horror films and literature; psychoanalysis; fantasy literature; and comparative literature and film. She particularly enjoys teaching the surreal stories of Kafka, Kleist, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Poe. She also loves teaching her course on Gender, Love, and Families which explores the same-sex desires, love, and non-exclusive relationships and adoptive families with two fathers or two mothers ets. portrayed as ideal families in 18th century German literature. 

Honors and Activities

  • MLA Delegate Assembly representing 18th Century German Literature 2021-2023
  • Editor, German Studies in America book series, Peter Lang, 2010-present
  • Elected to the MLA Delegate Assembly, Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, 2011-2014
  • Editorial Board, European Romantic Review, 2010-present
  • PMLA Advisory Committee, 2007-2010
  • University of Rochester Medallion for Distinguished Academic Excellence, 2008
  • Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Rochester, 2006
  • Appointed Karl F. and Bertha A. Fuchs Professor of German Studies, 2005
  • GSA/DAAD Biennial Book Prize for "Men Desiring Men: The Poetry of Same-Sex Identity and Desire in German Classicism" (2002), 2004
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, 1995
  • Florence Howe Award, Hon. Mention for "Beautiful Statues, Beautiful Men: The Abjection of Feminine Imagination in Lessing's 'Laocoon,'" 1992
  • Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, Bonn, 1991-1992
  • Charles Taft Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Cincinnati, 1986-1987