• Dominik Zechner
  • Dominik Zechner
  • Assistant Professor
  • Degree: Ph.D., New York University
  • Office: 15 Seminary Place, Room 4128
  • Campus: College Avenue Campus
  • Office Hours:

    Tuesdays, 2:00 - 3:00pm, by appointment over Zoom

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Research Interests:

Dominik Zechner studied philosophy, film theory, performance studies, and media studies in Vienna before pursuing a Ph.D. in German literature at New York University, where he completed a Mellon-funded dissertation on Franz Kafka. Before joining Rutgers, he was the Artemis A.W. and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University’s Pembroke Center. He is a specialist in literary theory, philology, and the philosophy of language. His wider research and teaching activities focus on psychoanalysis, poetic expression, modern prose, theories of pedagogy and pedagogical narratives, and pop culture.

Prof. Zechner has published four books, including two monographs. His book The Violence of Reading: Literature & Philosophy at the Threshold of Pain (Palgrave Macmillan 2024) offers a critical tour de force that expounds the scene of reading as the privileged site for mediations between language and pain. The act of reading produces an overwhelmed body exposed to various forms of linguistic duress. Most notably, the reader experiences a departure from phenomenal reality as the scene of reading causes the referential function of language to collapse. This collapse takes the form of a constitutive wounding of a reading body that remains painfully suspended between empirical demands and the pull of language. Pursuing this line of argument, the book explores a broad set of texts and contexts ranging from the rhetoric of masochism to depictions of literary suicide.

Zechner is also the author of Kafka und das Problem der Endlichkeit (“Kafka and the Problem of Finitude,” Sonderzahl 2024). Published to honor the centennial of Franz Kafka’s passing in 1924, the book discusses the narratological, formal, rhetorical, philosophical, and theological implications of the depiction of finitude in Kafka’s texts. Illuminating the hypothesis that Kafka’s writings stage a complex tension between language and death, it deems the literary work of art a form-of-survival that constitutively transgresses finitude’s boundary. Kafka routinely problematizes the linguistic representation of death, demonstrating that each closure of dying is survived by a linguistic capacity, a trace, an echo, a lament that will speak on and thereby challenge the authority of death.

Furthermore, Zechner is the co-editor of two collected volumes. Forces of Education: Walter Benjamin and the Politics of Pedagogy (Bloomsbury 2023) comprehensively investigates Benjamin’s early writings on school reform and educational critique. A second essay collection, Thresholds, Encounters: Paul Celan and the Claim of Philology (SUNY 2023), is dedicated to the relationship between Celan’s poetry and the Western philosophical tradition. In addition, Zechner is the editor of a special issue of Modern Language Notes (“What is a Prize?” vol. 131.5, 2016) that analyzes the rhetoric of literary prizes and their surrounding economy of prestige, and the co-editor of a special issue of parallax (“Initiations: The Pitfalls of Beginning,” vol. 28.3, 2022), dedicated to the problem of textual openings and first lines.

He has widely published on issues in psychoanalysis between Freud and Lacan, the philosophy of language (Nietzsche, Benjamin, Adorno, Hamacher), modern prose styles (Kafka, Musil, Bernhard), and post-war poetry (Celan, Brinkmann, Jandl). His research has appeared in differences, humanities, Journal of Romance Studies, Modern Language Notes, Oxford Literary Review, parallax, The German Quarterly, The Yearbook of Comparative Literature, Translation & Literature, Triëdere, Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik, and other venues.

Together with Jan Mieszkowski, Zechner is the founder of the Rutgers-Reed Philological Seminar, a collaborative venture between the German departments at Rutgers University and Reed College. The Seminar’s biannual meetings take the form of one-day online colloquia and deliberate the linguistic dynamics that are the condition of possibility and impossibility of our collective existence. Rather than organizing the discussions around particular concepts or themes, the Seminar focuses on an idiomatic expression that serves as a jumping off point for each gathering. Idioms that have served as topics include: “Together as One,” “Apropos of Nothing,” “End of Story.”


Research Fellowship at aka: Arbeitskreis Kulturanalyse, Vienna, Austria, 2024

Post-doctoral Research Fellowship, Pembroke Center, Brown University, 2019–20

Mellon Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities, 2018–19

Teaching and Research Fellowship, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, 2018

Young Scholars Prize, International Walter Benjamin Society, 2018

Outstanding Teaching Award, College of Arts and Science, NYU, 2016

Otto Mainzer Fellowship, Graduate School of Arts and Science, NYU, 2016

Joint Study Fellowship, University of Vienna/NYU Tisch School of the Arts, 2011–12



The Violence of Reading: Literature and Philosophy at the Threshold of Pain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2024).

Kafka und das Problem der Endlichkeit (Sonderzahl, 2024).

Thresholds, Encounters: Paul Celan and the Claim of Philology, with Kristina Mendicino (State University of New York Press, 2023).

Forces of Education: Walter Benjamin and the Politics of Pedagogy, with Dennis Johannßen (Bloomsbury, 2023).

Edited Journal Issues:

Initiations: The Pitfalls of Beginning, co-ed. Kristina Mendicino, parallax 28.3 (2022).

The Bestowal: What Is a Prize? Modern Language Notes (MLN) 131.5 (Comparative Literature Issue, December 2016).

Articles (selected):

“Törleß and the Scene of Reading,” humanities 12.6 (2023): online.

“Coming to (Language): Introduction,” with Kristina Mendicino, parallax 28.3 (2022 [2023]): 257–263.

“Ashes: DeLillo’s Departure from the Referent,” parallax 28.3 (2022 [2023]): 278–290.

“Kant avec Musil,” Robert Musil im Spannungsfeld zwischen Psychologie und Phänomenologie, eds. Artur R. Boelderl and Barbara Neymeyr (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2023), 330–349.

“Dis-positions: Introduction,” co-authored with Kristina Mendicino, Thresholds, Encounters: Paul Celan and the Claim of Philology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2023), 1–11.

“For Shame of Language,” Thresholds, Encounters: Paul Celan and the Claim of Philology, co-ed. Kristina Mendicino (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2023), 231-256.

“Editors’ Introduction,” co-authored with Dennis Johannßen, Forces of Education: Walter Benjamin and the Politics of Pedagogy (London: Bloomsbury, 2023), 1–14.

“Chronicle of Benjamin’s School and Student Years,” co-authored with Dennis Johannßen, Forces of Education: Walter Benjamin and the Politics of Pedagogy (London: Bloomsbury, 2023), 15–25.

“Sublime Sufferings: ‘Linguistic Pain’ and the Problem of Representation,” Journal of Romance Studies 22.4 (Winter 2022): 337–360.

“Sprache, mag sein,” Triëdere: Zeitschrift für Theorie, Literatur und Kunst 23 (2022): 49–60.

“Erinnerungsmomente in der Lyrik Brinkmanns,” The German Quarterly 95.1 (2022): 52–71.

“A Philology of Survival: Adorno, Benjamin, Hamacher,” Philosophy Today 66.1 (Winter 2022): 95–114.

“Rückkehr zur Philologie,” Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 51.4 (2021): 827–831.

“The Promise of Oblivion: A Rhetorical Predicament in Sacher-Masoch, Nietzsche, and Beyond,” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 32.2 (Summer 2021): 94–121.

“Prothetische Körper,” Körperglossar, eds. Heidi Wilm, Gerhard Unterthurner, Timo Storck, Ulrike Kadi, and Artur Boelderl (Wien: Turia & Kant, 2021), 123–27.

“De-posing the Uncanny,” Oxford Literary Review 42.2 (Winter 2020): 314–318.

“The Phantom Erection: Freud’s Dora & Hysteria’s Unreadabilities,” Performing Hysteria: Contemporary Images and Imaginations of Hysteria, ed. Johanna Braun (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2020), 87–102.

“Inventive Languages: Walter Benjamin, Ernst Jandl, And the Possibility of Back-Translation,” Translation & Literature 29.3 (2020): 317–337.

“Precarious Futures: Kafka’s Prose of Survival,” The Yearbook of Comparative Literature 63 (2020): 113–137.

“Ausstellen, Entsetzen: Thomas Bernhards Museumsroman Alte Meister,” Museales Erzählen: Dinge, Räume, Narrative, eds. Johanna Stapelfeldt, Ulrike Vedder, and Klaus Wiehl (München: Fink, 2020), 203–222.

“Kittler and Heidegger: The Trouble with Ent-fernung,” The Technological Introject: Friedrich Kittler between Implementation and the Incalculable, eds. Jeffrey Champlin and Antje Pfannkuchen (New York: Fordham, 2018), 123–136.

“The Prize-Bearers: A Brief Introduction,” MLN 131.5 (December 2016): 1155–1163.

“Thomas Bernhard, Prizefighter,” MLN 131.5 (December 2016): 1218–1235.

“Aporias of Survival: Kafka’s Alien Incursion,” Experimental Practices 1: Narrating Life – Experiments with Human and Animal Bodies in Literature, Science and Art, ed. Stefan Herbrechter and Elisabeth Friis (Leiden and Boston: Brill/Rodopi, 2015), 191–210.

Book Reviews:

“Achim Geisenhanslüke, Der feste Buchstabe: Studien zur Hermeneutik, Psychoanalyse und Literatur,” Monatshefte 115.1 (2023), 99–101.

“Rochelle Tobias, Pseudo-Memoirs: Life and Its Imitation in Modern Fiction,” Arcadia 57.2 (2022): 360–365.

“Sergej Taškenov, Thomas Bernhards Prosa: Krise der Sprache und des dialogischen Wortes,” Gegenwartsliteratur 19 (Oktober 2020): 417–419.

“Werner Hamacher, Sprachgerechtigkeit,” MLN 135.3 (April 2020): 802–805.

“Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman,” rezenstfm.univie.ac.at (December 2013): online.


“Unter Einfluss” [“Under the Influence,” by Christopher Wood], Einfluss, Strörmung, Quelle: Aquatische Metaphern der Kunstgeschichte, eds. Ulrich Pfisterer and Christine Tauber (Bielefeld: transcript, 2019), 327–346.

“Lesen nach Freundschaft oder Wie ich zur Germanistin wurde – bevor sie mich rausschmissen und wieder reinließen” [“Reading for Friendship; or, How I became a Germanist before they kicked me out and let me back in,” by Avital Ronell], Lesen: Ein Handapparat, eds. Hans-Christian von Herrmann and Jeannie Moser (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 2015), 99–110.

Courses Taught

The Problem of Language (Fall 2024)

Capitalism and Its Discontents (Fall 2024)

How to Disappear Completely (Spring 2024)

Kafka: In the Maze of Existence (Spring 2024)

Reading, in Theory (Spring 2023)

Justice and Violence (Fall 2022)

Philosophy and the Event of Literature (Fall 2022)

What Was the University? (Spring 2022)

German Thought in the 20th Century (Fall 2021)

Amerikabilder (Fall 2021)

Echoes of the Kafkaesque (Spring 2021)

Margins of Philology (Spring 2021)

What is German? (Fall 2020)

Diskurspop (Fall 2020)