Dorothee Ostmeier is Professor of German and Folklore at the University of Oregon, where she also serves as Affiliated Faculty of Comparative Literature, Women and Gender Studies, and the Center for the Studies of Women in Society (CSWS). Her research and teaching focuses on the borders between German literatures, culture and philosophies of the 18th to the 21st centuries. International reviews of her book Sprache des Dramas-Drama der Sprache. Nelly Sachs' Dramatische Szenen, recognize this study as one of the few works that analyze Sachs' cryptic dramatic writings, which she composed after escaping Nazi persecution in 1941. Ostmeier’s analysis situates Sachs’ oeuvre within the ongoing debate on obsessive memory in the face of the universal disappearance of idealist utopias.
Her recent book, entitled Gender, Sex, Liebe in Poetischen Dialogen des Frühen Zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts: Peter Hille and Else Lasker-Schüler, Gottfried Benn and Else Lasker-Schüler, Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé , Margarete Steffin and Bertolt Brecht, argues that these poetic debates of the early twentieth century anticipate contemporary feminists’ thought and its identity negotiations. Professor Eva Geulen writes: “Ostmeiers Analysen und Reflektionen zeigen, dass diese oft dialogisch engagierte Lyrik in wechselndem Maße bereits das Niveau gegenwärtiger Theoriebildung erreicht hat. Feministische Theoreme Irigarays, Butlers und anderer werden nicht auf Gedichte angewandt, sondern anregende Detaillektüren entfalten neben dem lyrischen auch das theoretische Potential der Gedichte und Texte.”
Ostmeier’s courses on fairy tales, fantasy and the uncanny tackle the moves from utopian to anti-utopian tales and have inspired several essays, as for example, on Michael Ende’s and Cornelia Funke’s fantasy texts, the film “Ever After” and the link between the Grimms’ concepts of nature and the marvelous. The essays examine how these fantasy texts and films interrogate the borders between reality and fiction and expose the psychological and social risks of crossing such borders. Ostmeier views the popular fascination with such risks as a desire for an ethics that evades the violence of authoritative structures. The recent essay “Rafik Schami’s Tales about Fairy Tales” places this topic in the context of the hybridity of postmodern storytelling. The following essays have been recently published or are forthcoming: “Frogs and Salamanders as Agents of Romanticism.” (MLN, 2014). “Politik des Wunderbaren: Nationale Identität und Utopie in ausgewählten Werken der Gebrüder Grimm. Märchen, Mythen und Moderne: 200 Jahre Kinder- und Hausmärchen der Brüder Grimm. (forthcoming Fall 2014),“The Feminine Beast: Exploitation vs. Liberation in Early 20th Century Literature.” (forthcoming Fall 2014 in Web Journal Konturen at University of Oregon).
From Fall 2002 to 2012 Ostmeier acted as Director of Graduate Studies. In 2012-2014 she served as elected College of Arts’ and Sciences’ representative on the UO’s Graduate Council. She has also served as a member of the Advisory Board of the Oregon Humanities Center, and as Humanities Representative on the Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committees. She has initiated, and for many years co-organized the German outreach program, and the manifold activities of the Healing Arts Research Interest Group at CSWS. In Fall 2013 Ostmeier was awarded the Oregon Humanities Center’s Provost’s Senior Humanist Fellowship. During her sabbatical in 2014/2015 she will launch a new book project on fantasy literature before taking over the headship of the Department in 2015.