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Sophia Lohmann


Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Research Interests

- Literary theory, essayism, modernism, world literature, American literature of the 20th century, transcultural writing

- History of knowledge, gender and queer theory, postcolonial theory, cultural studies, aesthetics

- practices of resistance, embodiment, border discourses, ‘minor’ poetics


10/2016 – 9/2019

Master of Arts in Cultural History and Theory, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Thesis: Essayistic Transformations. Transcending Genre and Gender, the Fluid (Textual) Body and the Queer Ethics of Dialogue in Maggie Nelson‘s The Argonauts

 9/2017 – 1/2018

Postgraduate Visiting Student, MSc Comparative Literature and MSc Film Studies, University of Edinburgh

 10/2012 – 9/2016

Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature (Peter Szondi Institute) and Political Science (Otto Suhr Institute), Freie Universität Berlin

Thesis: Figurations of Transgression. Language, Gender and Insanity in Robert Musil‘s novel The Man Without Qualities

Scholarships and Awards

11/2020 Doctoral Scholarship, Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes

 3/2020 Doctoral Grant for three-year PhD program, Graduate School of North American Studies, John F. Kennedy Institute, Berlin

 10/2019 Humboldt Research Track Scholarship, Funded by the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin within the Excellence Initiative of the states and the federal government

Work experience

Since 5/2020

Head of editorial department, ROM – Gesellschaftsmagazin

 9/2020 – 12/2020

Project assistant, Anthropocene Curriculum, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

 2017– 2020

Freelance writer and editor (i.e. ZEIT online, Epitext -Blog zum Internationalen Literaturpreis Haus der Kulturen der Welt, ROM – Gesellschaftsmagazin)

10/2015 – 9/2019

Student assistant, Peter Szondi-Institute of Comparative LiteratureFreie Universität Berlin, Chair of English and Comparative Literature

The Minor Essay. Gender Knowledge, Body Politics and the Queer Poetics of Liminality in North American Essays (Dissertationsprojekt)

Dissertation in Literatur

Mentoring Team:
First supervisor: Prof. Ulla Haselstein
Second supervisor: N/A
Third supervisor: N/A

The essay is commonly characterized as an undisciplined, anti-categorical, and democratic literary form. This contrasts in part with its epistemological tradition and canonical formation as a genre associated with the ‘maleness of reason’. Since about the 1970s, writers like Susan Sonntag and Joan Didion have gained recognition as essayists and public intellectuals. Although changes set in from then on, the marginalization of women writers and topics labeled ‘feminine’ seems to persist in the historiography, framing, and practice of the essay. Consequently, the female body in general, and the marginalized body of queer and Black women in particular, has long represented the essay’s constitutive Other. The thesis’ central argument is that writers such as Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, and others challenge conventionalized aesthetics and representations of female and minoritarian subjectivity in the genre of the essay, thereby generating and reorganizing marginalized cultural knowledge. They queer the genre of the essay and simultaneously update its potential as an experimental form and poetic intervention in social and cultural discourses. Moreover, they call into question hegemonic epistemologies of the body and desire, implementing instead a ( text-)performative body politics. An investigation of these textual procedures will conceptualize the works as minor essays drawing on the concept of ‘minor literature’ (littérature mineure) by Deleuze and Guattari. The study focuses, first, on the transgression of genre traditions and gender constructions in the context of socio-cultural and epistemological dynamics and their implications for the modern history of the essay. Second, the thesis examines the liminal poetics of the texts and the often auto-ethnographic negotiations of the body both from a poetological perspective and through the lens of cultural theory. Moreover, the political and cultural context is to be considered, in which changing publishing economies, digitization, and the demand for equality and visibility on the part of underrepresented voices have led to a democratization and diversification of the essay. At the same time, a standardization of the diverse form and the essayistic spirit of exploratory, process-oriented thinking is observable, increasingly giving way to persuasive essays on the one hand, or self-referential, hyper-personal essays on the other. The focus on the minor essays, however, should also illustrate the current relevance of the essay, in which – in the face of counterfactual and anti-intellectual tendencies – both critique and visions of the (North American) society are articulated.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft