Corinna Treitel

Corinna Treitel

William Eliot Smith Professor
Chair and Professor of History
Affiliate Professor of Performing Arts
Affiliate Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
PhD, Harvard University
MA, Indiana University
BA, Carleton College

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    Washington University
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Professor Treitel studies German-speaking Europe since 1800. She teaches courses on European history, world history, and Health Humanities.

Her research focuses on science, medicine, and popular culture. She has published on everything from occultism and modernism to natural foods, organic farming, and biopolitics. Her current research investigates the puzzle of health consciousness. Health consciousness is that voice in your head that tells you to brush your teeth, exercise, and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. How did it get there? Treitel’s book uses the German case to explore a group of movements—medical enlightenment, popular hygienic education, Lebensreform (life reform), health communication, and wellness—that worked hard over the past 200 years to put it there.

Treitel enjoys collaborative and transdisciplinary work. In 2015, she helped introduce Medical Humanities as a field of study to her university. Today, she co-leads Science in the Public Square, a transdisciplinary group studying (mis)trust in scientific authority as a recurrent social phenomenon.

Professor Treitel welcomes applications from graduate students in German and European history as well as in the history of science and medicine.

Selected Publications


Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture and Environment, c. 1870-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004)

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters

"German Health Narratives between Life Reform and Medical Enlightenment, 1890-1930," Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies (2023), 69-93

"Nutritional Modernity: The German Case," Osiris 35 (2020), 183-203

"The Wife as Family Physician: Making and Moving a Health Epistemology for Women," Social History of Medicine (2019), 1188-1210

"How Vegetarians, Naturopaths, Scientists, and Physicians Unmade the Protein Standard in Modern Germany" in Setting Nutritional Standards: Theory, Politics, Practices, ed. Elizabeth Neswald, David F. Smith, and Ulrike Thoms (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2016), 52-73

"Artificial or Biological? Nature, Fertilizer, and the Origins of German Organic Agriculture" in New Perspectives on the History of Life Sciences and Agriculture, eds. Denise Phillips and Sharon Kingsland (Cham: Springer, 2015), 183-203

"Nature and the Nazi Diet," Food and Foodways 17 (2009): 1-20

"Max Rubner and the Biopolitics of Rational Nutrition," Central European History 41 (2008): 1-25

"The Culture of Knowledge in the Metropolis of Science: Spiritualism and Liberalism in Fin-de-Siècle Berlin" in Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit in Berlin, 1870-1930/Science for the Public in Berlin, 1870-1930, ed. Constantin Goschler (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000), 127-154.

Edited Volumes

Frankenstein at 200: It's Alive! , Special Issue of The Common Reader 10 (Fall 2018)

In the Media

Vegetarianism was Part of Social Reformism, Interview with Julia Malitska for Baltic Worlds (June 2022)

"Triumph of the Till: The Organic Food Movement's Nazi's Past," World Policy Journal (Summer 2018), 83-87

Eating Organic in Nazi Germany, Hold That Thought Podcast, Washington University in St. Louis  (September 7, 2016)

Happy Birthday, Frankenstein!, Center for the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis (December 7, 2015)

Contagion! Back to the Past, Institute for Public Health, Washington University in St. Louis

Organic Origin Story, Center for the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis (April 23, 2015)


Fellowships and Grants

Co-Leader with Talia dan-Cohen, Programmatic Grant on "Science in the Public Square," Incubator for Transdisciplinary Futures, Washington University in St. Louis, 2022-2024

Co-Leader with Sari Altschuler, Exploratory Seminar on "Rethinking Health and the Humanities during / after COVID," Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard University, June 2022

National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Award, 2011-2012

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies Fellowship, Harvard University, 2004-2005


Health and Disease in World History

Modern Europe

The First World War

Modern European Women

Modern Germany

Nazi Germany

What is Medical Humanities?

The History of the Body

Frankenstein: Origins and Afterlives

Graduate Readings in Modern German History

Graduate Seminar in Modern European History

From our podcast:

Hold That Thought Podcast

Eating Organic in Nazi Germany

Corinna Treitel shares the story of the Nazis' obsession with natural foods and compares their ideas about nutrition to how we think about it today.

Eating Nature in Modern Germany

Eating Nature in Modern Germany