Peter McIsaac

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Peter McIsaac

Associate Professor of German

University of Michigan
German Department
3132 MLB
812 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, MI

Office Location(s): 3132 MLB
Phone: 734.763.9636
Fax: 734.763.9363

  • Affiliation(s)
    • German Studies, Museum Studies
  • Fields of Study
    • Post-1750 German literature and culture
    • Museum studies
    • Digital Humanities
    • Science and technology studies
    • German film
  • About

    Peter M. McIsaac's scholarship and teaching takes place at two junctures: the intersections of modern German literature and culture and Museum Studies, and digital humanities approaches to nineteenth-century German periodicals. Among his publications are the books Museums of the Mind: German Modernity and the Dynamics of Collecting (2007) and Exhibiting the German Past: Museums, Film, and Musealization (co-edited with Gabriele Mueller, 2015). He was a co-editor of a special issue of New German Critique on contemporary German literature (2003), and his articles have appeared in The German Quarterly, Monatshefte, Seminar, German Life and Letters, Literatur für Leser, and The International Journal of Cultural Policy. He serves on the editorial board of the multi-disciplinary journal imaginations. His most recent article, “Embodying the Romantic Collector in post-Romantic Writing” (Seminar, 2014) reads Walter Benjamin’s essay on the collector Eduard Fuchs as a means of illuminating the paradoxical career of the collector in European Romantic and Realist writing.

    McIsaac is currently writing a book-length manuscript on the "secret" German pre-history to Body Worlds, a contemporary exhibition of human corpses that has broken attendance records and generated controversy around the world. Portions of this project and related manifestations of anatomy display in German literature and culture are available in the 2007 Museums & Difference (ed. Daniel Sherman) and the forthcoming volume, Fact and Fiction: Literature and Science in the German and European Context (ed. Christine Lehleiter, 2015).

    Since 2012, McIsaac has also been engaged in collaborative Digital Humanities project that uses computer-based approaches to analyze entire runs of mainstream nineteenth-century periodicals such as Deutsche Rundschau, Westermanns Illustrirte Monatshefte, Die Grenzboten, and Die Gartenlaube. McIsaac uses a variety of techniques including databases of index metadata and Latent Dirichlet Allocation and dynamic topic modeling as a means of gaining new insight into the most read material in nineteenth-century German culture. The first installment of this work appeared in the volume, Distant Readings: Topologies of German Literature in the Long Nineteenth Century (eds. Lynne Tatlock and Matt Erlin, 2014).

    Additional work in progress focuses on the visual archive of Gottfried Benn's early poetry, shifts in German cultural policy resulting from EU integration and globalization, and the use of digital technologies in German-speaking galleries and museums.

    At York and Duke Universities, McIsaac taught on a wide range of topics, including the history of the museum, science and technology in 19th- and 20th-century German literature and culture, 20th-century Berlin and Fin-de-Siècle Vienna. His innovative work with iPods and other instructional technologies was cited in Newsweek and University Business magazines in 2005. Likewise in 2005, he received the Richard K. Lublin Distinguished Teaching Award from Trinity College of Duke University.

    Before coming to Michigan, McIsaac served as the Director of the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies at York University.

    Click here for a complete list of publications 

  • Education
    • Ph.D., Germanic Languages and Literatures, Harvard
  • Awards
    • Fellow, J.H. Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University [2007-2008]
    • Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professorship, Duke University [2004-05]
    • Richard K. Lublin Distinguished Teaching Award, Trinity College of Duke University[2005]
    • Randall and Barbara Smith Faculty Enrichment Award, Duke University, [2002]
    • Fulbright Research Fellowship, USIA, Cologne, Germany [1990-1991]
  • Selected Publications:
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Book Chapters