Matthias Preuss, M.A.

Universitätsstr. 105
44789 Bochum
Room: UNI 105, 3/26

Phone: +49 (0) 234/32-27291

Title of the Dissertation

Anomalies: Literature and Ecology 1866-1900

Project Description

This thesis is devoted to the scrutiny and problematization of the documentation of ecological anomalies and the representation of ecological knowledge in literary and biological texts of the second half of the 19th century. On the one hand, it examines the poetic operations at play in the production and popularization of knowledge and the medial formatting of knowledge in ecological discourse. On the other, it analyzes the forms in which ecological knowledge emerges as a benchmark for documentary practices in literature. The project is situated in the fields of Ecocriticism, Media Ecology, and the Environmental Humanities.

As regards media theory, the dissertation explores the nexus of realistic poetologies, scientific evidence and the documentary form with respect to both the construction of nature and the artistic and technical grasping of it. As regards recent German literary history, it aims to provide, firstly, a re-reading of realistic and naturalistic texts from an ecocritical point of view and, secondly, an examination of literature (in contrast to scientific and philosophical texts) dating from a period that has not been extensively investigated in the field of Ecocriticism. As regards the history of science, the dissertation takes a closer look at a knowledge of life that is dispersed in scientific and artistic discourses after the emergence of the notion of “ecology” (1866), while considering the intricate relationship between it and the ongoing formation of ecology within and against the framework of evolutionary biology. It seeks to bring into relief the continuities of natural history and the specificity of “early” ecological thinking, before the progressive scientification of ecology, in relation to systems theory and cybernetics in the 20th century.

By working on three core problem areas – (a) realism and documentary practice, (b) politics and ecology, and (c) anthropocentrism and the Anthropocenethe thesis seeks to contribute to the theoretical and methodological framework of the Environmental Humanities, in which questions of mediation, representation, and representability, as well as questions of narration and figuration, are becoming increasingly important with respect to global climate change.

Scholarly Career

  • Since 10/2016: Doctoral Student Member of the DFG Graduate Research Group on “Documentary Practices. Excess and Privation”, Ruhr-University Bochum
  • 10/2014 to 08/2016: Research associate/Lecturer with Prof. Dr. Andrea Allerkamp (Chair for Western European Literatures), Department for Cultural Studies, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder)
  • 09/2013 to 06/2014: Teaching assistant/Visiting Graduate Student in the German and Roman Languages and Literatures Department, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD (USA)
  • 10/2010 to 08/2013: Research M.A. studies in Literary Studies: Aesthetics – Literature – Philosophy, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder)


Edited volumes

  • Allerkamp, Andrea/Preuss, Matthias/Schönbeck, Sebastian: Unarten. Kleist und das Gesetz der Gattung, Bielefeld: transcript 2017 (in print).


  • Preuss, Matthias: „Zur Ordnungswidrigkeit der Dinge. Linnés marginale Monstrosität(en) und das kalligrammatische Verfahren”, in: Förschler, Silke/Mariss, Anne: Akteure – Tiere – Dinge. Verfahrensweisen der Naturgeschichte, Köln, Weimar, Wien: Böhlau 2017
  • Preuss, Matthias: „The In/visible Stag. An Ovidian Sabotage of Descartes’ Anthropological Machine“, in: Stella, Marco/Gibas, Petr/Pauknerová, Karolína: Non‐humans and after in Social Science, Červený Kostelec: Pavel Mervart 2016, p. 117-127.
  • Preuss, Matthias/Schönbeck, Sebastian: „Abnorme Paarungen versuchen. Naturgeschichtliche Betisen in Flauberts Bouvard und Pécuchet“, in: Anderson, Sage/Edinger, Sebastian/Heller, Jakob/Edinger, Sebastian: Übergänge. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann 2016 (in preparation).
  • Preuss, Matthias: „Narrative Prellschüsse. Die spielerische Suspension allen theoretischen und kriegerischen Ernstes in ›Unwahrscheinliche Wahrhaftigkeiten‹“, in: Kleist‐Jahrbuch (KJb) 2016, p. 126-141.
  • Preuss, Matthias/Schönbeck, Sebastian: „Bêtes Studies: Flaubert’s and Balzac’s Lessons in Natural History”, in: Journal for Literary Theory 9,2 (2015), Special Edition: Cultural and Literary Animal Studies, Roland Borgards (Ed.), p. 250‐270.
  • Preuss, Matthias: Pferche. Der Gemeinplatz als Lebensraum“, in: Tierstudien 6 – Tiere und Raum (2014), p. 108 – 117.


  • “How to Disappear Completely? The Poetics of Extinction“, October 2016, International Symposium “Texts, Animals, Environments. Zoopoetics and Environmental Poetics”, Castle Herrenhausen, Hannover
  • “Mangelerscheinungen. Zu den politischen und ökologischen Randbedingungen imaginärer Inseln“,m July 2016, Lecture Series “Begrenzung. Zu Aktualität und Perspektiven einer Wissensordnung der Kulturwissenschaften”, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder)
  • “The Erosion of Genre. Slow Death as Form of Life“, March 2016, ALCA Annual Meeting 2016, Section: “Zoopoetics: Forms of Life”, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • “Gräuel entdecken. Demonstrationen im Käthchen“, September 2015, International Conference “Unarten. Kleist und das Gesetz der Gattung“, Kleist Museum, Frankfurt (Oder)
  • “Die Ordnungswidrigkeit der Dinge. Carl von Linnés marginale Monstrosität(en)“, June 2015, Conference “Akteure, Tiere, Dinge. Verfahrensweisen der Naturgeschichte“, Ottoneum, Kassel
  • “Spinning Theory. Arachne’s Traces and the Entanglement of Zoopoetics“, March 2015, ACLA Annual Meeting 2015, Section: “What is Zoopoetics?“, Seattle, WA, USA
  • “Fallen & Fehlen: Der poetologische Einsatz in Unwahrscheinliche Wahrhaftigkeiten“, October 2014,  4th Scientific Kleist Colloquium, Kleist Museum, Frankfurt (Oder)
  • “Abnorme Paarungen versuchen. Naturgeschichtliche Betisen in Flauberts Bouvard et Pécuchet“, September 2014, with Sebastian Schönbeck,  Final Conference of the DFG Graduate Program “Lebensformen + Lebenswissen”: “Übergänge“, Literaturwerkstatt, Berlin
  • ”Inhibited Animotion: The Twofold Character of a Commonplace”, March 2014, ACLA Annual Meeting 2014: “Capitals”, Section: “Traffic in Animals”, New York University, New York City, NY, USA
  • “An in/visible stag. Reapproaching Descartes with Agamben“, November 2012, International Conference “Non‐human in Social Science III: Past Trajectories ‐ Future Prospects”, Universita Karlova, Prague, Czech Republic

University Courses

  • Summer term 2016: „Robinsonades. The (Im)Possibility of Islands and the Phantasm of Insulation“ B.A. Seminar (in English), Literary Studies/Cultural Studies, European University Viadrina
  • Winter term 2015: „Oikos – Logos – Kritik. Ecocriticism zur Einführung“ (Oikos – Logos – Critique. An Introduction to Ecocriticism), B.A. Seminar with Writing Fellows, Literary Studies/Cultural Studies, European University Viadrina
  • Summer term 2015: „Katastrophen. Desaströse Literatur und der apokalyptische Ton“ (Catastrophes. Disastrous Literature and the Apocalyptic Tone), B.A. Seminar, Literary Studies/Cultural Studies, European University Viadrina
  • Winter term 2014: „Zoopoetik. Zur literarischen Produktion und Produktivität des Nichtmenschlichen“ (Zoopoetics. On the Literary Production and Productivity of the Non-Human), Literary Studies/Cultural Studies, European University Viadrina


  • Co-organization of the 3-day International Conference „Unarten. Kleist und das Gesetz der Gattung“ (Bad Habits/Non-Species. Kleist and the Law of Genre), 24. – 26. Sept. 2015.