Author: rtobin

“Im übrigen liegt mir wenig an das was man in Deutschland über diesen Punct von mir denken möchte: Winckelmanns Briefe und die mannmännliche Liebe”

This essay looks at the astonishingly open way Winckelmann discussed his sexuality in letters that were published soon after his death. It will appear in the catalog of The Divine Sex, the comprehensive exhibit on Winckelmann’s sexuality opening at the

An Incomplete Rainbow

An Incomplete Rainbow. Discussion of liberalism, nationalism, sexuality and the Eurovision Song Contest in Ukraine. German version here.

Not in Tune: Ukraine, Eurovision and Gay Rights

Interview with The Day with Brent Goff (Deutsche Welle TV): on Eurovision, Ukraine, Gay Rights and Europe, May 16, 2017.

“Gays for Trump? Homonationalism Has Deep Roots”

“Gays for Trump? Homonationalism Has Deep Roots,” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide  24.3 (May-June 2017), 5-7.

Interviewed in “Freud’s Therapy Dog” for Mysteries at the Monument

“Freud’s Therapy Dog,” Mysteries at the Monument, July 10, 2015, with 510,000 viewers, according to ShowBuzzDaily.  

What to Expect from Eurovision

Quoted by Alexandra Gibbs for CNBC, 13 May 2016, “America, Here’s What to Expect from Your First Eurovision Song Contest!”

Discovering Sexuality: The Status of Literature as Evidence

This essay traces the move away from the use of literary texts as evidence in scientific discussions of sexuality. Whereas in the 1830s an author like Heinrich Hössli would rely almost exclusively on literary texts to discuss same-sex desire, 50

Die Quellen der Innovation: Heinrich Hössli und sein Zeitalter

This essay studies the sources that might have inspired the Swiss businessman Heinrich Hössli to write his monumental two-volume defense of male-male love in the 1830s. “Die Quellen der Innovation: Heinrich Hössli und sein Zeitalter,” in “Keine Liebe ist an sich

Widernaturliche Unzucht! Paragraph 175 in Deutsch-Südwestafrika

This paper examines the multiple prosecutions and appeals of Victor van Alten, who was accused of “indecent conduct contrary to nature” (Paragraph 175) with men in German Southwest Africa. The essay examines the complicated interpretations surrounding the vague law, clarifying

Sexology in the Southwest

This essay looks at the case of Victor van Alten, who was tried multiple times for violating Paragraph 175 in German Southwest Africa. It shows how the emergent discourses of sexuality were intertwined with those of colonialism. “Sexology in the

“Winckelmann: Homosexualität, schwule Kultur, Queer Theory,”

This essay, written in German, looks at the work of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the eighteenth-century founder of art history, in light of his desire for men. It focuses on four parts: (1) Winckelmann’s desire for men, well documented in his

Quoted by Frances Robinson, “Sweden Feels the ‘Euphoria’ of Another Eurovision Crown”

Quoted by Frances Robinson, “Sweden Feels the ‘Europhoria’ of another Eurovision Crown,” Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2012  

Quoted by Frances Robinson – Azerbaijan Wins Eurovision

Quoted by Frances Robinson, “Azerbaijan Wins Eurovision,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2011.

Quoted by Frances Robinson – Western Europe Seeks Eurovision Comeback

Quoted by Frances Robinson, “Western Europe Seeks Eurovision Comeback,” The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2011.

Quoted by Daniel Michaels – Scholars Sing the Praises of Eurovision

Quoted by Daniel Michaels, “Scholars Sing the Praises of Eurovision,” The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2011.

Interview on Freud Centennial – Psychiatric News

Interview on Freud Centennial for Psychiatric News 44.17 (September 14, 2009), p. 4.

Interview on Freud Centennial with Ross Reynolds of KUOW

Interview on Freud Centennial with Ross Reynolds of KUOW (Seattle Public Radio), for “The Conversation” (September 4, 2009).

Peripheral Desires: The German Discovery of Sex.

This book studies the emergence of modern categories of sexuality in German-speaking central Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It connects these emergent discourses of sexuality with Romanticism, the German embrace of the classical tradition, Jewish assimilation, nationalism

Sexuality and Human Rights.

This book will study how literary texts have treated the relationship of sexuality and human rights from the Enlightenment to the present day. The first part focuses on the Enlightenment, showing that sexuality was already a concern as human rights

Doctor’s Orders: Goethe and Enlightenment Thought

“Doctor’s Orders” places Goethe’s writings—in particular, “Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre” [Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship] in the context of eighteenth-century medicine, focusing on concepts such as hypochondria, hysteria, melancholia and mania. The analysis helps the reader understand aspects of the characters that might

Warm Brothers: Queer Theory and the Age of Goethe

The seminal study of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century German literature from the perspective of queer theory, “Warm Brothers” searches out the traces of male-male desire in the cultural productions of the Age of Goethe, offering queer readings of texts written

A Song for Europe: Popular Music and Politics in the Eurovision Song Contest

One of the first English-language academic studies of the Eurovision Song Contest, this collection of essays provides analyses of the televised pop music competition in Finland, Germany, Holland, Israel, Lithuania, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the former Yugoslavia, as well as

Global Freud

This special issue of “Psychoanalysis and History” brings together important recent research on the early reception of Sigmund Freud’s work in countries as varied as Argentina, China, Mexico, the United States of America, as well as the Francophone Caribbean.   

Queering Thomas Mann’s Tod in Venedig

This essay rethinks my earlier “gay” readings of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, trying to understand the queerness of the text “Queering Thomas Mann’s Tod in Venedig,” in Thomas Mann: Neue kulturwissenschaftliche Lektüren, edited by Stefan Börnchen, Georg Mein and Gary Schmidt

World without Evil: Goethe’s Faust and the Faust Tradition

This essay looks at the three most famous works of literature in the Faust tradition (by Marlowe, Goethe, and Thomas Mann), discussing how Goethe’s Faust seems not to credit the very notion of evil that stands behind both Marlowe’s and

Early Nineteenth-Century Sexual Radicalism: Heinrich Hössli and the Liberals of His Day

This essay argues that Hössli’s 1836/8 apology for male-male love, Eros, grows out of early nineteenth-century liberal and radical thought. He is able to connect demands for the separation of church and state, the emancipation of the Jews, and the

Constructing the Nation: Faust and Faust

This essay looks at the nation in Goethe’s Faust, arguing that both the völkisch nation of Faust I and the Holy Roman Empire as Kulturnation in Faust II fail because of their inability to accommodate eros. Whether Faust’s own nation

Pathology, Poetry and Pleasure: HIV/AIDS, Confessional Writing and S/M in Un año sin amor

In the Argentine film, Un año sin amor, the protagonist Juan Perez discovers he is HIV-positive, immerses himself into the S/M scene, and publishes a memoir (with the same title as the film). This essay shows how the director of the

Bildung and Sexuality in the Age of Goethe

“Bildung and Sexuality in the Age of Goethe,” in The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature, ed. E. L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 254-71

Twins! Homosexuality and Masculinity in Nineteenth-Century Germany

This essay traces the development of ideas about male-male desire in nineteenth-century German-speaking central Europe, from a model based on ancient Greece, whereby all men might occasionally have sexual desires for a beautiful youth, through medical models that naturalized, but

Global Freud: An Introduction

This short piece regards Freud’s trip to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, as the moment when Freud went global, and then discusses how the pieces in the special issue of Psychoanalysis and History help us think about psychoanalysis today.   “Global Freud:

Fixing Freud: The Oedipus Complex in Early Twenty-First Century US-American Novels

Three recent American novels—Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder (2006), Selden Edwards’s The Little Book (2008), and Brend Webster’s Vienna Triangle (2009)—feature Freud as a fictional character. This essay locates the image of Freud in these novels in the specifically


This essay introduces readers to basic principles of the Eurovision Song Contest, arguing that the competition offers a vision of Europe as “democratic, capitalist, peace-loving, multicultural, sexually liberated and technologically advanced.”   With Ivan Raykoff, “Introduction,” in A Song for

Eurovision at 50: Post-Wall and Post-Stonewall

This essay looks at the popularity of the Eurovision Song Contest in the gay community, attempting to move beyond quick generalizations about the camp appeal of the trashy clothes and the diva-like behavior of the singers. Instead, it argues that

Faust’s Transgressions: Male-Male Desire in Early Modern Germany

This essay provides something of a survey of the evidence of same-sex desire in the early modern German-speaking world, with references to the historical Faust, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Johannes Müller, Friedrich II of Prussia, Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller,

Politics, Tragedy, and ‘Six Feet Under’: Camp Aesthetics and Mourning in Post-AIDS America

This essay argues that the HBO television series Six Feet Under is so powerful because it draws on a rich and sophisticated tradition of mourning developed in the gay community in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. It links the series to Tony

Kertbeny’s ‘Homosexuality’ and the Language of Nationalism

This essay provides one of the few close readings of Karl Maria Kertbeny’s open letter of 1869, in which he for the first time in any language combines the prefix “homo-“ with the root “sex” in order to create a

The Emancipation of the Flesh: The Legacy of Romanticism in the Homosexual Rights Movement

Using the work of Friedrich Schlegel, Karl Gutzkow and Heinrich Hössli, this essay argues that Romantiism, with its glorification of love, desire and sexuality—and also with its endorsement of female love, desire and sexuality—helped pave the way for the emergence

Semiotik der Sexualität. Zur Entstehung eines deutschen Diskurses der Homosexualität im 19. Jahrhundert

Written in German, this essay provides an outline of the emergence of modern discourses of sexuality in Europe, focusing on questions of the mind-body problem, gender, identity, and the nineteenth-century homosexual community’s acceptance or rejection of these discourses of sexuality.

Postmoderne Männlichkeit: Michael Roes und Matthias Politycki

Written in German, this essay explores the representation of masculinity in the works of two contemporary German novelists, Michael Roes and Matthias Politycki.   “Postmoderne Männlichkeit: Michael Roes und Matthias Politycki.” Zeitschrift für Germanistik Neue Folge 2 (2002) 324-333.

Making Way for the Third Sex: Male-Male Desire in Thomas Mann’s Early Short Fiction

This essay looks at the “queer” characters in Mann’s early fiction, prior to Death in Venice—characters such as Paolo Hofmann in “The Will to Happiness,” Johannes Friedemann in “Little Mr. Friedemann,” Christian Jacoby in “Little Louise,” Detlev Spinell in “Tristan,” and

Venus von Samoa: Rasse und Sexualität im deutschen Südpazifik

The German Empire embarked upon its colonial project just as sexological research was becoming ever more prominent in German culture and scholarship.This essay, written in German, focuses on the German colonization of Samoa as it looks for an overlap between

The Love that is Called Friendship and the Rise of Sexual Identity

This essay tracks the increasing desexualization of the category of “friend” in German culture from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Whereas eighteenth-century depictions of friendship were full of sexual ambiguity that was noted at the time, nineteenth-century depictions of

Okzidentalismus: der verquerte Orientalismus im schwul-lesbischen deutschen Film

Written in German, this essay investigates how Orientalism and the distinction between the West and its Others play out in such queer German films as Jochen Hick’s Via Appia (1990), Wieland Speck’s Westler (1985), Monika Treut’s My Father Is Coming

Masochism and Identity

While “homosexuality” and “masochism” both emerge in sexological discourses around the same time, homosexual identity has taken a more concrete and politically potent form than masochistic identity. Beginning with examples of female masochists who go to physicians precisely in order

Morality and German Film

This brief review essay reports on the offerings of the 2000 Berlin Film Festival, including Wim Wenders’s Million Dollar Hotel, Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss’s Zurück auf Los, and Jochen Hick’s No One Sleeps. “Morality and German Film: The Berlinale 2000.” Film and

Prescriptions: Medicine and Literature

This essay studies two important theoretical terms that relate both to medicine and literature: (1) Derrida’s pharmakon, which is both a poison and a cure, and which also stands in for writing itself; (2) semiotics, which is now typically understood

Freundschaftsdämmerung: Johannes Müller, Sigismund Wiese, Friedrich Ramdohr und Heinrich Hössli

This essay examines the decline of the sexually ambiguous category of “friendship.” In the eighteenth century, a friendship discourse flourished in German literature. A male author could publicly declare that he wanted to be another man’s wife. Contrary to quick

The Life and Work of Thomas Mann: A Gay Perspective

Slightly shorter than the piece on Death in Venice in the 1994 Norton anthology, this essay develops my thinking on the role of male-male desire in Thomas Mann’s famous novella. It concludes that the novella “may in fact achieve some insights into

Thomas Mann’s Queer Schiller

Starting with an entry in Klaus Mann’s diaries about a discussion with his father at the dinner table about Schiller’s possible homosexuality, this essay delves into a queer reading of Schiller’s Don Carlos. Ultimately the essay concludes: “Arguing that this creative