Robert Deam Tobin is the inaugural occupant of the Henry J. Leir Chair in Foreign Languages and Cultures at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he teaches comparative literature with an emphasis on German Studies. Known especially for his publications on Goethe and Thomas Mann, his scholarship focuses on the interconnections between literature and medicine, sexuality, gender, and human rights.
After graduating from South Eugene High School, Robert Tobin received an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1983, an M.A. in German from Princeton University in 1987, and a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1990. While an undergraduate he took part in Wayne State University’s junior year abroad program at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. As a graduate student he studied for two years at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg. He wrote his dissertation, “The Healing of Wilhelm Meister’s Soul: Medical Discourse in the ‘Bildungsroman,’” with Stanley Corngold.
Professor Tobin has held the Henry J. Leir Chair in Comparative Literature at Clark University since 2008. He was hired at the rank of professor with tenure.
Robert Tobin began his teaching career at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1989. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1994 and professor in 2002. In 2007, he was named the Cushing Eells Professor of the Humanities.
Awards and Fellowships
In 2020, Professor Tobin, along with his colleagues Joseph Cullon (WPI) and Stephanie Yuhl (College of the Holy Cross) received the Key to the City of Worcester for the publication of LGBTQ+ Worcester For the Record with the Worcester Historical Museum.
In 2019, he was awarded the Steinbrecher Senior Faculty Award at Clark University.
Professor Tobin received a fellowship for dissertation research from the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst or German Academic Exchange Service) in 1987. He was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Free University in Berlin in 2000. He won a Rockefeller Fellowship in the Program for the Study of Sexuality, Gender, Health and Human Rights at Columbia University in 2004-5.
In 2013, he was the Fulbright Freud Visiting Scholar of Psychoanalysis in Vienna.
He has also received support from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to participate in summer seminars and institutes for faculty. In 2011, he received funding from the DAAD to support a conference called “The German Discovery of Sex” at Clark University.
At Whitman College, Robert Tobin was named a Garrett Fellow for teaching and research in 1996. He was awarded the George Ball Award for Excellence in Advising in 1998 and the Edwards Award for the Integration of Teaching and Scholarship in 2008.
Administrative Experience and Service to the Profession and Community
At Clark University, he has worked on the Freud Centennial Planning Committee, the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, the Planning and Budget Review Committee, the Personnel Committee, and the Research Board.
At Whitman College, Professor Tobin served as Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Division Chair of the Arts and Humanities, and Associate Dean of the Faculty.
In national professional organizations, he has been a delegate to the Modern Language Association Delegate Assembly three times, most recently representing gays and lesbians in the profession. He has been elected to the Executive Committee of the Division of Eighteenth- and Early-Nineteenth-Century German Literature of the Modern Languages Association (2004-2008). He was an officer of the GL/Q Caucus of the MLA from 2007-2009, serving as president of the caucus in his final year.
In Washington State, Robert Tobin served on the Governor’s Task Force on Human Rights in 1993. He completed several terms on the board of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, an HIV/AIDS service organization in Walla Walla, and was twice president of the board.