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 came to Clark University in the fall of 2008 as the inaugural occupant of the Henry J. Leir Chair in Language, Literature and Culture. Funded by the Ridgefield Foundation, the Leir Chair is an innovative new position designed to bring together scholars of different languages and cultures, reach out to other disciplines, and ensure that the study of language, literature and culture 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 areas of expertise include gay and lesbian studies, queer theory, gender studies, human rights, and German and European cultural studies. He has written extensively on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Mann, and Sigmund Freud, as well as the Eurovision Song Contest. 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 was 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 most recent book is Peripheral Desires: The German Discovery of Sex (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015) situates the emergence of discourses of modern sexuality in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German-speaking central Europe. In this book, Tobin studies literary, political, and scientific texts to show that modern categories of sexuality, like "homosexuality" and "heteroseuxality," have roots in such diverse cultural phenomena as the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the classical Greek tradition, Jewish emancipation, nationalism, colonialism and the women's movement. His next project will focus on human rights and literature.