Gerhild Williams

Gerhild Williams

Barbara Schaps Thomas & David M. Thomas Professor in the Humanities
PhD, University of Washington
research interests:
  • Early Modern German and French Literature
  • Magic, Daemonologies, Witch Theory
  • Media and Culture
  • Reformation Movements
  • Translation Theory and Practice
  • Travel Narratives
  • Volksbuch/Novel
  • Early Modern Media and the Evolution of the Novel

contact info:

office hours:

  • Mondays, 3:00 to 4:00 pm
    Wednesdays, 1:30 to 2:30 pm
    by appointment
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mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1104
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

​Professor Williams has published widely on German and French literature and culture from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period (1100-1700), specializing more recently in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Williams has been working in translation theory and practice, the early modern witch phenomenon, the early modern Volksbuch, and the development of the novel. She has explored the impact and influence of newspapers and other early modern media on the production of novels. Some of her recent publications include books, edited and co-edited volumes, translations, and articles on the Prosaromane of Fortunatus, Melusine, Dr. Faustus, Wagner, and on the seventeenth-century writers Johannes Praetorius and Eberhard Werner Happel. Currently, she is working on the influence of Ottoman power and culture on German prose texts and on the globalizing impact of the Ottoman imperial ambition and cultural hegemony during the seventeenth century.

Fall 2021 Courses

Variations of the Magical: Exploring the Supernatural in European Literature (Comp Lit 376C)

In this course, we will examine the strange, the wondrous, and the magical in a variety of texts. We will enter worlds where animals, plants, and objects talk and interact freely with humans. We will explore the world of fairy tales (Grimm, Andersen), vampires (Carmilla), Harry Potter (vol. 1), and various ghost stories whose magical realities inspire our fantasies. These narratives introduce us to and lead us into spaces beyond our everyday experiences thereby changing our thinking about what is real.

    Methods of Literary Study: The Theory and Practice of Literary Translation (Comp Lit 551)

    This course combines a review of translation theories with a study of translation practices. We will investigate how translations reflect changing literary and cultural values. In addition, we will examine how the nuances of language and culture (source and target) influence the translator's choice of whom and what kind of text to translate. Guest translators will be invited to discuss their work. Requirements: Class presentation of a literary translation of your choice; to be turned into a paper. You must choose a text that has at least two previous translations, which you will evaluate and critique as you work on your own translation and which will be part of your paper. Poetry is preferable; should you choose prose, you must select a challenging text. The paper must include an outline/brief discussion of your methodological assumptions.

      Selected Publications

      Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel (Eberhard Werner Happel, 1647-1690). Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 2014.

      Mothering Baby: On Being A Woman in Early Modern Germany. GSW trans. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2010

      Ways of Knowing in Early Modern Germany: Johannes Praetorius as a Witness to his Time. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006

      On the Inconstancy of Witches: Pierre de Lancre's Tableau de l'inconstance des mauvais anges et Demons (1612). Harriet Stone and Gerhild Williams, trans. Tempe, Arizona: Center for Medieval Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2006

      From our podcast:

      Hold That Thought Podcast
      Ottoman Eurasia in Early Modern German Literature

      Ottoman Eurasia in Early Modern German Literature

      Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel

      Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel