Marton Dornbach

Visiting Assistant Professor in German
Director of Undergraduate Studies for German

Program: German
Gilman 481
Tuesday 3:30-5:30 p.m. and by appointment
Curriculum Vitae

Márton Dornbach received his PhD from the Department of German at Princeton University. He came to Johns Hopkins in 2016. His research and teaching interests encompass literature, philosophy, aesthetics, and critical theory from the Enlightenment to the present, with a side interest in Central European culture.

His first book, Receptive Spirit: German Idealism and the Dynamics of Cultural Transmission (Fordham UP, 2016), argues that the idea of mental activity at the heart of German idealist philosophy necessitated a radical rethinking of humans’ receptivity towards cultural artifacts. By examining the innovations of Kant, Fichte, F. Schlegel, and Hegel with a view to more recent developments, the book spells out the implications of the German idealist legacy for our thinking about aesthetic experience, textual communication, and literary criticism.

A recently completed book manuscript, titled The Saving Line: Critical Theory, Literary Narration, and the Double Caesura Model, reconstructs the hidden dialogue between two key texts of the Frankfurt School that deploy the concept of caesura to gain philosophical insight into literary narration: namely, Walter Benjamin’s essay “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” and Theodor W. Adorno’s excursus on Odysseus in the Dialectic of Enlightenment. Focusing on a case of critical succession that spans the divide between antiquity and modernity, the study offers a historically nuanced account of the problematic place of utopian impulses in literature and philosophical critique.

The wager of Dornbach’s current book project is that contemporary debates about humans’ place in the natural world have much to gain from a joint reconsideration of F. W. J. Schelling’s and Arthur Schopenhauer’s anthropological conceptions, as well as from re-elaborations of their insights by Martin Heidegger and Hans Jonas. Highlighting a tension in the works of these thinkers between anthropomorphic premises and lines of thought that point beyond anthropocentrism, the project makes a case for a qualified humanism that acknowledges the self-decentering impulse of human thought.

Undergraduate courses taught at Johns Hopkins

  • Panorama of German Thought: Humanity and Its Limits
  • Unheimlicher Realismus
  • Die Erfindung der Moderne
  • German Idealist Aesthetics
  • Outsiders, Outlaws, Outcasts
  • Freshman Seminar: Friedrich Nietzsche

Graduate courses taught at Johns Hopkins

  • Hölderlin and His Readers
  • Music, Poetry, Voice (co-taught with Prof. Rochelle Tobias)
  • The Frankfurt School
  • Theories of the Human in German Modernity

“Hölderlin’s Local Abstraction: The Natural-Historical Sublime in ‘Stimme des Volks’” (under review)

Dossier containing preface, annotations, and Hungarian translation of Karl Kraus’s remarks on Rosa Luxemburg in Die Fackel (July 1920), revised translation of excerpt from Rosa Luxemburg’s letter of December 1917, and translation of Karl Kraus, “Antwort an Rosa Luxemburg von einer Unsentimentalen,” Műút (August 3, 2018), web:

“Hungary’s Autocratic Turn: Local, Regional, and Global Lessons,” ISEEES Newsletter (Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Spring/Summer 2015) 6-10, web:

“F. W. J. Schelling,” “Kunstreligion,” “Georg Gottfried Gervinus” in Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia, ed. Nicholas Vázsonyi (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

“Remains of the Picnic: Post-Transition Hungary and Its Austro-Hungarian Past,” Austrian History Yearbook (Cambridge University Press, 2013) 255-291.

“Renouncing Divinity: The Philadelphia Story Viewed in a Wagnerian Mirror,” Search: Journal for New Music and Culture (2011/8) 1-39.

“The Point Well Missed: Kant’s Punctual I and Schopenhauer’s Optics of Philosophical Writing, Modern Language Notes 124.3 (April 2009) 614-637.

Review of The Theory of Inspiration: Composition as a Crisis of Subjectivity in Romantic and Post-Romantic writing by Timothy Clark, Studies in Romanticism 42.2 (2003) 289-294.

Review of Mi a romantika? [What is Romanticism?] by János Weiss, Holmi 12.9 (Budapest, 2000) 1151-1160.

Review of Heinrich von Kleist: A szavak hálójában [Heinrich von Kleist: In the Web of Words] by László F. Földényi, Holmi 12.3 (Budapest, 2000) 357-368.

Commentated translation into Hungarian of Siegfried Kracauer, “Die Photographie,” Café Babel 26 (Budapest, 1997) 73-85.


Receptive Spirit: German Idealism and the Dynamics of Cultural Transmission 2016, Fordham University Press