Jeffrey A. Hertel

Jeffrey A. Hertel

Assistant Professor of German
“It is through beauty that mankind wanders to freedom.”
— Friedrich Schiller

Faculty Information

Additional Faculty Information for Jeffrey A. Hertel


Ph.D. in German, Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies

M.A. in European Studies, Indiana University Bloomington

B.A. in German, History, and Psychology, Indiana University Bloomington

Research areas

German theatre, literature, and philosophy in the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries including focuses on Goethezeit, Romanticism, Vormärz, and the Weimar Republic; popular culture and Enlightenment; affect studies; modern German society

Academic Presentations

Invited Talk: “Between Function and Fantasy: August von Kotzebue, the Jena Romantics, and the Modulation of German Satire, 1790-1803.” Carolina-Duke Works in Progress. University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2018.
“ ‘Ein lustiger Guerillakrieg.’ Politicized Court Fools and the Vormärz Theatrical Public Sphere.” Modern Language Association Conference. Seattle, Washington, 2020.
“Teaching Enlightenments.” Roundtable participant, Moments of Enlightenment: Symposium for Jonathan M. Hess. University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2019.
“Heinrich Laube’s Gottsched und Gellert and Liberal Schlacht-Drama: Witz and the Theatrical Public Sphere in the Vormärz.” German Studies Association Conference. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2018.
“‘Von nun an ist der Staat zugleich die höchste Poesie.’ Satirizing the Viennese Märzrevolution.” Austrian Studies Association Conference. Chicago, Illinois, 2017.


Hanging on a wall in my parents’ home is a picture of me in preschool, dressed up in a yellow argyle sweater and sporting a paisley tie. Some years later, on the occasion of my attaining a Ph.D., my mother reminded me of this picture, telling me that even as a young boy, I had wanted to be a doctor. While I haven’t much experience with a scalpel, forceps, or HIPAA regulations, I find myself blessed to have achieved that childhood goal, and in a way much more amenable to what it is that inspires me in this world.
I decided to pursue a doctorate in German Studies because I believe German literature and philosophy, refracted through its history in the modern period, offer us a key to understanding the fundamental condition of mankind in the world we inhabit today. Sometime in my years as an undergraduate, I came to see that it was something specific about the way in which the German language works, namely its capacity to precisely describe whatever it is that is being discussed, that enabled the German poets and philosophers of yore to gain such insight into the human condition.
It became apparent to me as I was learning the language that I was not just learning grammar, vocabulary, and the cultural quirks of the Germans: I was learning at the same time who I was. Since I was first learning the language in high school, there had been, in some sense, a little German version of myself growing in my mind, seeing the world anew from learning to talk about life, the universe, and everything in it through a new language. This enabled in some ways a second chance for me to attain consciousness. As children, we gain consciousness and self-awareness organically, through the process of growing up in the world around us. In learning a second language, we undergo this process of self-discovery a second time, but this time around, we do so deliberately.
As a teacher of German letters and the German language at Hillsdale, I relish the opportunity to help students along their own path of self-discovery through the language. This self-discovery was one of the most treasured experiences I ever had in my academic life, and it is an honor to assist others as they do the same. In learning a foreign language, we learn not just how to say different things, but also to reflect on those values that we as human beings treasure most of all.