Johannes Wankhammer

Assistant Professor
Johannes Wankhammer
Office Hours
12:30 – 2:30 pm
Office Hours by Appointment via Calendly
Courses Offered

Spring 2024

GER 324

Topics in Germanic Literatures: Literary Austria after 1945

GER 521

Topics in German Intellectual History: Ecological Marxisms

Fall 2024

GER 213

Origins of Critical Thought: What Can I Know?


Johannes Wankhammer focuses on critical and aesthetic theory, the cultural history of attention, and the environmental humanities. His scholarship draws on the conceptual repertoire of German aesthetics to address questions of contemporary social and cultural import. These include the origins and future of critique, the evolution of notetaking and writing practices, and quandaries of representation and knowledge posed by the unfolding climate disaster. Johannes’s research draws inspiration from eighteenth-century literature and thought, especially a constellation of writers and philosophers who predate the classical period of German culture around 1800, such as G. W. Leibniz, A. G. Baumgarten, and G. Ch. Lichtenberg.

His first book Creatures of Attention: Aesthetics and the Subject before Kant (Cornell University Press, 2024) offers a conceptual deep history of contemporary concerns with attention and self-control. The book traces the discovery of attention (Aufmerksamkeit) as a mental faculty in the German eighteenth century and argues that early aesthetics emerged in large part as a critical reflection on Enlightenment paradigms of attention.

Johannes’s current book project ventures an environmental history of German aesthetics. Proceeding from the claim that ecological concerns have been integral to aesthetic thought since its eighteenth-century emergence, the project interweaves two lines of inquiry: First, it excavates the material conditions of aesthetic experience in changing environmental practices (land use, landscape architecture, urbanization); second, it charts an undercurrent of ecological thinking that evolved within German aesthetic thought from Baumgarten to Adorno and contemporary aesthetics of resonance and relationality. The book offers a new history of German aesthetics, presenting the tradition as a laboratory for articulating and representing entanglements between human and extra-human worlds.

Before joining the Princeton German Department, Johannes taught at Reed College for a year as Visiting Assistant Professor. He earned his PhD in German Studies from Cornell University, where he was awarded a Mellon Graduate Fellowship at the Society for the Humanities. He holds additional degrees in Comparative Literature and German Studies from Binghamton University and the University of Graz, Austria.

Johannes’s work on eighteenth-century poetics and aesthetics and on ecocritical topics appeared in journals such as The Germanic Review, Modern Language Notes, literatur für leser:innen, and the Goethe Yearbook. In 2021, he edited a special issue of MLN on “Scenes of Writing” with Bryan Klausmeyer and Andrea Krauss.

Selected Publications