Comparative Literature

Robert Tobin

Robert Deam Tobin, Ph.D.

Henry J. Leir Chair in Foreign Languages and Cultures
Department of Language, Literature and Culture 
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

phone: 508-793-7353

Curriculum Vitae
Professional Website
German Web page


After growing up in Eugene, Oregon, Robert Deam Tobin received his A.B. in German Literature from Harvard College in 1983 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1987 and 1990 respectively. Along the way, he spent his junior year at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich and worked on his dissertation for two years at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg.

Professor Tobin is the inaugural occupant of the Henry J. Leir Chair in Foreign Languages and Cultures at Clark University as of the fall of 2008. Funded by the Ridgefield Foundation, the Leir Chair is an innovative new position designed to bring together scholars of foreign languages and cultures, reach out to other disciplines, and ensure that the study of foreign languages and cultures is present in the intellectual discussions of the community.

Tobin’s first full-time position was at Whitman College, in Walla Walla, Washington, where he worked for 18 years. At Whitman College, he served as associate dean of the faculty and chair of the humanities and was named Cushing Eells Professor of the Humanities.

Tobin's additional areas of expertise include German literature of the Age of Goethe, Thomas Mann, German film and European popular culture (especially the phenomenon known as Eurovision). His research has been funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (the DAAD) and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2000, he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Freie Universität in Berlin; in 2004-5, he was a Rockefeller Fellow in the Program for the Study of Sexuality, Gender, Health and Human Rights at Columbia University. In 2013, he will be the Fulbright Freud Visiting Scholar of Psychoanalysis at the Sigmund Freud Museum and the University of Vienna in Austria.

Current Areas of Interest

Professor Tobin’s current research interests center on questions of gender and sexuality, particularly gay and lesbian studies and queer theory. He is especially interested in how legal and medical discourses interact with literary and cultural rhetoric about sexuality, above all in the German tradition. He is currently completing a book on nineteenth-century central European discourses related to homosexuality, tentatively titled "Peripheral Desires: The German Discovery of Sex." His next project will focus on human rights and literature.