John Zilcosky

Professor of German and Comparative Literature

Contact info

University of Toronto
Odette Hall 303
50 St. Joseph Street
Toronto, ON M5S 3L5

Secretary: 416-926-2324

Office Hours

Fall 2020: Wed 3-4pm and by appointment (via Zoom)
Spring 2021: on leave

Classes 2020-2021

GER 410HF: German Intellectual History
COL 5125HF: Literature, Trauma, Modernity


A.B., Harvard University
A.M., Stanford University
Ph.D., Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, University of Pennsylvania

Honorary President, ICLA Research Committee on Literary Theory
Advisory Board, Oxford Kafka Research Centre (Oxford University)
Editorial Board, Continuum Press (New Directions in German Studies series)
Editorial Board, Legenda Books (Germanic Literatures series)

Recent Prizes and Fellowships


The Allure of Sports in Western Culture (co-edited volume)Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019. 280 pp.

Uncanny Encounters: Literature, Psychoanalysis and the End of Alterity. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2016 (cloth and paperback). 264 pp.

Reviewed in Choice, “highly recommended” (John M. Jeep), Journal of European Studies (Paul Bishop), Modernism/Modernity (Dylan Trigg), The European Legacy (Joey S. Kim), Monatshefte (Caroline Rupprecht), American Imago (Maria Koundoura), Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies (Rolf J. Goebel), South Atlantic Review (Stephan K. Schindler), Psychoanalysis and History (Helen Tyson), Studies in Travel Writing (Andrew Cusack), The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory (David Wachter).

Writing Travel: The Poetics and Politics of the Modern Journey (edited volume). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. 336 pp.

See review article by Michael A. Di Giovine: “Travel, Travel Writing, and the Construct of European Identity,” Journeys: The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing 10 (2009): 109-18.

Kafka’s Travels: Exoticism, Colonialism, and the Traffic of Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003 (paperback edition, 2004). 289 pp. Winner of the 2004 MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize, awarded biennially to one outstanding monograph in the literatures and linguistics of the Germanic languages.

Reviewed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Hanns Zischler), Times Literary Supplement (Jeremy Adler), Chronicle of Higher Education (Nina C. Ayoub), H-Net Travel (Mirjam Triendl), German Studies Review (Sheila Johnson), Germanic Review (Iris Bruce), Seminar (Rochelle Tobias), Choice (E. Williams), H-Net German (Katherine Arens), German Quarterly (Imke Meyer), Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association (Ben Hutchinson), University of Toronto Quarterly (Russell Kilbourn), Modernism/Modernity (Sabine Wilke), Germanic Notes and Reviews (Pamela Saur), The Yearbook of English Studies (John Pilling), Modern Fiction Studies (Allen Thiher), Journal of European Studies (Ritchie Robertson), The Modern Language Review (Julian Preece), Colloquia Germanica (Rolf Goebel), Monatshefte (Andreas Härter), Transit (Christina Gerhardt), Studies in Travel Writing (Elizabeth Boa), and Arbitrium: Zeitschrift für Rezensionen zur germanistischen Literaturwissenschaft (Claudia Albert).


2018. “'The Times in Which We Live': Freud’s The Uncanny, World War I, and the Trauma of Contagion.” Psychoanalysis and History 20 (2): 165-90.

2018. “Kafka, Snowden, and the Surveillance State.” In Policing Literary Theory. Ed. Călin-Andrei Mihăilescu and Takayuki Murakami. Leiden: Brill. 166-77.

2017. "Hermann Hesses unheimliches Fernweh." In Fernweh nach der Romantik: Begriff -- Diskurs -- Phänomen. Ed. Irmtraud Hnilica, Malte Kleinwort, and Patrick Ramponi. Freiburg: Rombach. 75-100.

2017. "Learning How to Get Lost: Goethe in Italy." Eighteenth-Century Studies 50 (4): 417-435.

2014. "Samsa était voyageur de commerce’: trains, trauma et corps illisible." Les Cahiers de l'Herne. Special Issue on Franz Kafka (eds. Wolfgang Asholt, Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, Jean-Pierre Morel): 138-145.

2014. "Von der Überlegung: Of Wrestling and (Not) Thinking." Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 41 (1): 17-27.

2014. "Hermann Hesse’s Colonial Uncanny: Robert Aghion, 1913." New German Critique 41 (3): 199-218.

2013. "Samsa Was a Traveling Salesman.’” In Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis. Trans. and ed. Stanley Corngold. New York: Modern Library. 245-271.

2013. "Savage Science: Primitives, War Neurotics and Freud's Uncanny Method." American Imago 70: 461-486.

2012. "Unheimliche Begegnungen: Abenteuerliteratur, Psychoanalyse, Moderne." In Literarische Entdeckungsreisen: Vorfahren - Nachfahrten – Revisionen. Ed. Hans-Jörg Bay and Wolfgang Struck. Weimar: Böhlau Verlag. 203-220.

2011. "Kafka’s Poetics of Indeterminacy: On Trauma, Hysteria, and Simulation at the Fin de Siècle.” Monatshefte für deutschsprachige Literatur und Kultur 103: 344-359.

2011. "'Samsa war Reisender’: Trains, Trauma, and the Unreadable Body." In Kafka for the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Stanley Corngold and Ruth Gross. Rochester, NY: Camden House. 179-206.

2010. "On Claudio Magris’ ‘Frontiers of Identity." In Memories, Identities, Migrations. Ed. Martin Stiglio. Toronto: Istituto Italiano di Cultura. 64-70.

2008. "Uncanny Encounters: Adventure Literature, Psychoanalysis, and Ethnographic Exhibitions." In Literature and Science / Literatur und Wissenschaft. Ed. Monika Schmitz-Emans and Manfred Schmeling. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. 139-157.

2008. "Writing Travel." Introduction to Writing Travel: The Poetics and Politics of the Modern Journey. Ed. John Zilcosky. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1-22.

2007. "Inventing Reception: Genius and Judgement in Kant’s Critique of Judgement." Neohelicon 34: 93-99.

2007. "Von Zuckerbaronen und Landvermessern: Koloniale Visionen in Schaffsteins Grüne Bändchen und Kafkas Das Schloss." In Kafkas Institutionen. Ed. Arne Höcker and Oliver Simons. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag. 119-144.

2006. "Orientierungslosigkeit und Nostalgie in Sebalds Austerlitz." Text+Kritik (Sonderband: Literatur und Migration): 120-30.

2006. "Lost and Found: Disorientation, Nostalgia, and Holocaust Melodrama in Sebald’s Austerlitz.” Modern Language Notes (MLN) 121: 679-98.

2005. "Poetry after Auschwitz? Celan and Adorno Revisited." Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 79: 670-91.

2005. "Modern Monuments: Nietzsche, T.S. Eliot, and the Problem of History." Journal of Modern Literature 29: 21-33.

2004. "The Writer as Nomad? The Art of Getting Lost." Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 6: 229-41.

2004. "Sebald’s Uncanny Travels." In W.G. Sebald: A Critical Companion. Ed. Jonathan Long and Anne Whitehead. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press. 102-20.

2004. "Wildes Reisen: Kolonialer Sadismus und Masochismus in Kafkas Strafkolonie." Weimarer Beiträge 50: 33-54.

2003. "Lost in America." The New Republic 229: 38-41.

2003. "Boundless Entertainment?" (review essay on Hanns Zischler’s Kafka Goes to the Movies). H-German, H-Net Reviews.

2002. "Kafka’s Remains." In Lost in the Archives. Ed. Rebecca Comay. Toronto: Alphabet City Press. 630-643.

2002. "Surveying the Castle: Kafka’s Colonial Visions." A Companion to the Works of Franz Kafka, Ed. James Rolleston. Rochester, NY: Camden House. 281-324.

2002. "The End(s) of the Exotic: Franz Kafka, Modernist Inwardness, and the Travel Novel, Richard and Samuel." La Porta D’Oriente: Viaggi e Poesia. Ed. Paola Mildonian, Maria Alzira Seixo, Lourdes Câncio Martins. Lisbon: Edições Cosmos. 165-76.

1999. "The Traffic of Writing: Technologies of ‘Verkehr’ in Franz Kafka’s Briefe an Milena." German Life and Letters 52: 365-81.

1998. "The Revenge of the Author: Paul Auster’s Challenge to Theory." Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 39: 195-206.

1997. "Franz Kafka, Perverse Traveler: Flaubert, Kafka, and the Reiseaufzeichnungen." Journal of the Kafka Society of America 21: 80-87.

1996. "Of Sugar Barons and Banana Kings: Franz Kafka, Imperialism, and Schaffstein’s Grüne Bändchen." Journal of the Kafka Society of America 20: 63-75.

1994. "Botho Strauss." Afterword. "Pairs, Passersby." By Botho Strauss. Conjunctions 23: 266-267.

1991. "Kafka Approaches Schopenhauer’s Castle." German Life and Letters 44: 353-369.


1995. Botho Strauss, "Saved" (translated from the German by J. Zilcosky). Harper’s Magazine 291: 36-37.

1994. Botho Strauss, Pairs, Passersby (excerpts) (translated from the German by J. Zilcosky). Conjunctions 23: 255-265.