College of Arts and Sciences

Germanic Studies

Fritz Breithaupt

Fritz Breithaupt

Professor, Germanic Studies

Curriculum Vitae

Fritz's lab

Fritz in the news:



Ph.D. 1997, German literature, Johns Hopkins University

Fields of Interest

Literature and cognitive science; empathy; narrative; German & European literature, philosophy, and culture since 1700; aesthetics; intellectual history of money, Goethe

About Fritz Breithaupt

Fritz Breithaupt is professor of Germanic Studies, adjunct professor in Comparative Literature, and affiliated professor of Cognitive Science at Indiana University. He has published six books, co-edited four volumes, and has published about 50 full-length articles. His latest books provide humanities responses to work in cognitive science, addressing issues of empathy, narrative thinking, and moral reasoning. For example, he suggests that human empathy typically involves three (and not two) people. By training, he is a comparatist. His work on Goethe and the romantics, as well as on European literature and philosophy since 1740 is ongoing. He also runs a lab, the Experimental Humanities Lab, in which he uses methods of story retelling to develop a corpus of basic narratives. At Indiana University, he has served as chair of the department, was the director of the West European Studies Institute, was a co-founder of an official EU-Center of Excellence, interim dean of the Hutton Honors College, and served as acting director of several other institutes, such as the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies. He has received many honors and distinctions for his work, including an Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellowship and was the first Distinguished Remak Scholar at Indiana University. He writes frequently for the German press, especially Die Zeit and Zeit Campus. When he is not writing or teaching, he spends time with his family or catches up to his fellow cyclists.


Die Dunklen Seiten der Empathie (The Dark Sides of Empathy)

Die Dunklen Seiten der Empathie (The Dark Sides of Empathy), Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017

Empathy is considered the basis of moral action. But if we examine this more carefully, the ability to »empathize with other people« proves itself to be a prerequisite for deliberate humiliation and cruelty. Additionally, even well-meaning compassion has many unintended consequences. It is for these reasons that we must investigate especially the dark, hitherto repressed aspects of empathy in order to achieve a better society. The book invites his readers to consider these facets and in doing so leads us from narcissism and Nietzsche to helicopter parents and Angela Merkel’s refugee policy. After Cultures of Empathy, his successful first book on empathy, a topic that has been neglected in ethical discourse, Fritz Breithaupt now presents another study on this most important philosophical subject.

Kultur der Ausrede

Kultur der Ausrede. Eine Erzähltehorie (2012) (Culture of the Excuse. A Theory of Narrative)

The latest book, Kultur der Ausrede [Culture of Excuse], Suhrkamp Verlag, March 2012, proposes a theory of narrative that places narrative in structural proximity to excuse making. The making of excuses, it is proposed, may have been the evolutionary origin of narrating: to get off the hook and avoid punishment. Chapters of the book present aspects of this narrative theory, examine how early legal history and narrative may be intertwined, and provides a chapter on the relationship of literature and narrative. The book provides some starting ideas for the new proposed book, a book that nevertheless takes a different starting point with its "experimental humanities" approach. Some English language articles preceded the book, including an article for Poetics Today. Suhrkamp Verlag selected the book for the Book of the Month award.

Kulturen der Empathie/ Culturas de la Empatía (2009/2011)

Kulturen der Empathie

Fritz' third book, Kulturen der Empathie [Cultures of Empathy], Suhrkamp Verlag, May 2009 (2nd printing October 2009), improved Spanish version Cultura de la Empatia, Katz: 2011, provides a humanities response to findings in neuroscience concerning empathy. Most theories of empathy assume that the primary scene of empathy involves two people: one who has empathy with another. The book's hypothesis, however, is that human empathy derives from a scene of three individuals: One individual observes a conflict between two others and takes a side. Empathy is now possible, partly to justify one's choice. The book has been intensively reviewed by academic journals in the humanities and in psychology, and also the German print media. Die ZEIT lauds "the combination of scientific precision and highest clarity." The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung devoted a half page article (page 6 of main section) to the debate between a recent book by Giacomo Rizzolatti, the discoverer of mirror neurons, and my book. The review does not fail to note that some of the arguments are "speculative," compared to the work of an empirical scientist, but takes it seriously as a humanities response. The work is ongoing, (see, for example, recent texts for Emotion Review.

Der Ich-Effekt des Geldes

Der Ich-Effekt des Geldes (The Ego-Effect of Money) (2008)

The second book, Der Ich-Effekt des Geldes: Zur Geschichte einer Legitimationsfigur [The Ego-Effect of Money], appeared at Fischer Verlag in August 2008 in paperback. Fritz' assumption is that certain concepts, such as "the self," only exist by exerting pressure on people to conform and to prove these concepts. The self, he suggests, became at some point in the eighteenth century such an ego-compulsion, a compulsion to prove the self. In particular, the book examines the connection between the concepts of money and the self from the mid eighteenth century to the present. It is during this period that concepts of both money and self are propelled into the center of many discourses and practices, and it is the assumption of his study that their rapid development can best be understood if they are seen in light of each other. In short, the hypothesis is that both concepts help each other surpass their particular limitations: "money" enables the self to justify itself both formally and materially, and "the self" provides a site and the structure for accumulation. The book is organized by moments of crisis within the concepts of self and money. In fact, evidence for the hypothesis of a co-history can be adduced from the fact that these crises and re-articulations occur simultaneously and in a related manner in the years around the 1770s, 1797, 1848, 1871, 1900, 1919, 1955, and 1979.

Jenseits der Bilder

Jenseits der Bilder: Goethes Politik der Wahrnehmung (2000) (Beyond Images: Goethe's Politics of Perception)

His first book, Jenseits der Bilder: Goethes Politik der Wahrnehmung [Beyond Images: Goethe's Politics of Perception] appeared in 2000 (Rombach Verlag) in a series edited by Gerhard Neumann. The book attempts to determine the political dimensions of Goethe's varying theories of perception in both his literary and scientific writings. Goethe is perhaps the first author who considered "viewing" to be a culturally coded act. While most readers consider(ed) Goethe's changing theories of perception simply as inconsistent, the hypothesis is that his constant revisions are part of his program to prevent the totalization of one single theory of perception and the reduction of possible realities to the one reality. For Goethe, the corrective power of the aesthetic is the political. In his review of the book, Géza von Molnár generously writes that my "presentation of the Elective Affinities . . . will hold a place of equal importance with Walter Benjamin's."


Single-Author Articles & Chapters (* = peer-reviewed)
  • 51.* “Empathy and Aesthetics,” forthcoming in: Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft (ZÄK) (2018).
  • 50. “Poetizität der Gefühle,“ forthcoming in: Ralf Simon, Ed., Poetizität, 2018.
  • 49. „Die Bühne als Geburtsort kollektiver Empathie. Zur Genese der Bewusstseinsmobilität,“ forthcoming in: VASS 51 (2018)
  • 48. “Optimal Vulnerability: The Grimm Fairy Tales as Product of Serial Reproduction,” expanded and revised version of 44, submitted for consideration.
  • 47.* „The Bad Things we Do with Empathy,“ forthcoming in: Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (2018).
  • 46. „Staunen als Belohnung der Neugier. Wunder, Überraschung und Frage in narrativer Hinsicht“, in Myreille Schneider, Nicola Gess and Hugues Marchal, Eds. Poetiken des Staunens: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, forthcoming 2018.
  • 45.* „How Money Legitimizes Inequality,“ in: Yearbook for Comparative Literature 2014[2017]. LINK
  • 44. „Narrative der Verwundbarkeit. Das Märchen in der Aufklärung“, forthcoming in: Frauke Berndt & Daniel Fulda, Eds., Narrativität im 18. Jhd (working title), Meiners Verlag. LINK
  • 43 „Die einfache Form der Narration,“ in: Albrecht Koschorke, Ed., Komplexität und Einfachheit. DFG Kolloquium 2015, Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 2017, S. 104-125. LINK
  • 42 „Why Empathy is not the Best Basis for Humanitarianism,” Global Cooperation Research Papers (2015). LINK
  • 41.* “Empathic Sadism. How Readers Get Implicated,” in: Lisa Zunshine, Ed., Oxford Handbook for Cognitive Literary Studies, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015, 440-462. LINK
  • 40.a* “Goethe’s Conscience,” in Modern Language Notes (MLN), April 2014, 549-562.
  • 40.b “Goethes Gewissen,” in: Simon Bunke & Katerina Mihayalova, Eds. Gewissen. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf das 18. Jahrhundert, (Würzburg: K & N, 2015) 135-148.
  • 39. “Kein Alibi, keine Ausrede – Siegfried Kracauer und der Tod des kriminellen Subjekts,“ in Wolfram Eilenberger, Ed., Der Tatort und die Philosophie, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta. 2014, 127-143.
  • 38. “Empathy for Empathy’s Sake: Aesthetics and Empathic Sadism,” in: Aleida Assmann and Ines Detmers, Eds. Empathy and its Limits. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 16 pages.
  • 37. “Vom Ich-Zwang zum Ausreden-Ich,” in: Dieter Thomä, Ed., Das Ich und sein Image, Transcript: Bielefeld, 2014, 28-44.
  • 36. *“Mignon’s Poem: Song or Narration?” in: Goethe-Yearbook 2013, 79-89. LINK
  • 35. “Das romantische Gewissen,” in: Klaus Viehweg und Martin Winkler, Eds. Die Aktualität der Romantik, Frankfurt, New York 2012.
  • 34. *“A Three-Person Model of Empathy” in: Emotion Review 4 (January 2012), 84-91. LINK
  • 33. “Von Gott gerufen werden: Narration und Ausrede,” in: Stefan Börnchen, Georg Mein, Martin Roussel, Eds., Namen, Ding, Referenzen, München 2012, 77-90.
  • 32. *“The Birth of Narrative from the Spirit of the Excuse. A Speculation,” in: Poetics Today 32 (spring 2011), 107-128.
  • 31. “Narcissus, the Self, and Empathy. The Paradox of Modern Literature”, in: Alexander Mathäs, Ed. Narcissism in the Eighteenth Century, Bucknell University Press, 2011, 39-60.
  • 30.* “Machines of Turning Actions into Reactions: The Case of the German Novella,” in European Romantic Review 21 (2010), 601-614. Republished in: Romanticism and Modernity, Thomas Pfau and Robert Mitchell, eds., London: Taylor & Francis, 2011. LINK
  • 29. „Die Produktion des Nicht-Wissens vom Selbst: Autobiographie bei Goethe und Hegel,“ in: Hans Adler and Rainer Goedel, Eds., Formen des Nicht-Wissens im 18. Jahrhundert, München: Fink Verlag, 2010, 311-324.
  • 28. “Empathie als Parteinahme: Anagnorisis bei Goethe und Stifter,” in: Empathie und Narration, Claudia Breger and Fritz Breithaupt, Eds., Freiburg: Rombach, 2010, 187-204.
  • 27.* “How is Empathy Possible? Four Models,” in: Paula Leverage, Howard Mancing, Richard Schweickert, Jennifer Marston William, Eds., Theory of Mind and Literature, West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 2011, 273-288.
  • 26.* “How I feel your Pain: Lessing’s Mitleid, Goethe’s Anagnorisis, Fontane’s Quiet Perversion,” in: Deutsche Vierteljahrschrift (DVjs), September 2008, 400-423.
  • 25.* “Einspruch gegen die Selbstregulierung: Geld- und Kunstsysteme um 1871,”in: Modern Language Notes 123 (2008) 570-590
  • 24. “Identifying with Oneself: Autobiography before and after Hegel,” forthcoming in: Volker Kaiser and Renate Voris, Eds, Autobiography, U of Virginia Press—currently uncertain
  • 23.* “The Invention of Trauma in German Romanticism,” in: Critical Inquiry (Fall 2005) 77-101 LINK
  • 22.* “Der reine und der unreine Markt: Pathologien des Ökonomischen in Kellers Der grüne Heinrich,” in Publikationen zur Zeitschrift für Germanistik: Markt literarisch (2005) 99-114
  • 21.* “Homo Oeconomicus: The Rhetoric of Currency and a Case of Nineteenth Century Psychology,” in: Nineteenth-Century Prose (2005), Vol. 32. No 1, 6-26
  • 20. “Rituals of Trauma: How the Media Fabricated 9/11,” in: Steven Chermak, Frankie Y. Bailey, and Michelle Brown, Eds., Media Representations of September 11 (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishing, 2003) 67-81 LINK
  • 19. “Wie ist Gesellschaft möglich? Geld und Medien bei Lessing und Simmel,“ in: Wolfgang Albrecht und Richard E. Schade, Eds., Mit Lessing zur Moderne: Soziokulturelle Wirkungen des Aufkärers um 1900 (Kamenz: Schriftenreihe des Lessing-Museums, 2004) 67-80
  • 18.* “Emil Staiger und das Anthropologische,” in: Monatshefte (Spring 2003) 7-16
  • 17. “Homo Oeconomicus,” in: Jürgen Fohrmann and Helmut J. Schneider, Eds., 1848 oder das Versprechen der Moderne (Würzburg: K & N, 2003) 85-112
  • 16.* “Warum das Ich Eigentum braucht: Locke, Rousseau, Moritz, Hölderlin,” in: Athenäum. Jahrbuch für Romantik (2002) 33-68
  • 15. “History as the Delayed Disintegration of Phenomena,” in: Gerhard Richter, Ed., Benjamin’s Ghosts: Interventions in Contemporary Theory and Cultural Studies (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002) 191-203
  • 14.* “Goethe and the Ego,” in: Goethe Yearbook XI (2002) 77-111 LINK
  • 13. “Non-Referentiality: A Common Strategy in Goethe’s Urphänomen and Wittgenstein’s Language Game,” in: Wittgenstein Studies (2002) 73-89
  • 12a. “Kleist’s Anecdotes and the Rise of History,” in: Volker Kaiser, Ed., Facing the Void. Kleist's Primal Scenes, Camebridge, Mass: Harvard University Press---currently uncertain/unlikely
  • 12b. “Kleists Anekdoten und die Möglichkeit von Geschichte”, in Wolfgang Wirth, Jörn Wegner, Eds., Literarische Trans-Rationalität, Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2003, 335-352
  • 11. “Wie Institutionalisierungen Freiräume schaffen (Kleists Marquise von O..., Die heilige Cäcilie und einige Anekdoten,” in: Nikolaus Müller-Schöll and Marianne Schuller, Eds., Kleist Lesen, Bielefeld 2003, 209-42
  • 10. “Das Indiz: Lessings und Goethes Laokoon-Texte und die Narrativität der Bilder” in: Michael Hein, Michael Hüners und Torsten Michaelsen, Eds., Ästhetik des Comic (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2002) 37-51
  • 9.“Urszenen der Ökonomie: Von Peter Schlemihl zur Philosophie des Geldes,” in: Marianne Schuller and Elisabeth Strowick, Eds., Singularitäten (Freiburg: Rombach 2001) 185-205
  • 8.* “Anonymous Forces of History: The Case of Infanticide in the Sturm-und-Drang,” in: New German Critique 79, (Winter 2000) 157-176 LINK
  • 7.*“The Ego-Effect of Money,” in: Martha B. Helfer, Ed., Rereading Romanticism, (Amsterdamer Beiträge zur Germanistik 2000), 227-57
  • 6.*“The Culture of Images: Goethe’s Elective Affinities,” in: Monatshefte 92.3 (Fall 2000) 302-320
  • 5.*“Dies- und jenseits des Endes der Geschichte, Helena,” in: Modern Language Notes, (April 1999), 528-550 LINK
  • 4.*“Money as a Medium of Communication and Money as Individuation,” in: New Orleans Review 24, (Summer 1998), 23-31 (Conference proceedings of Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies)
  • 3.*“Platons Paradox des Bildes und die Instabilität des Wortes in Goethes Iphigenie auf Tauris” in: Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte, (June 1995), 205-230
  • 2.*“Echo. Zur neueren Celan-Philologie,” in: Modern Language Notes 110, (April 1995), 631-657 (review article) LINK
  • 1.*“Die Inversion der Tautologie: Die Waage und die Gerechtigkeit in Brechts Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe,” in: The Other Brecht II, (Brecht-Yearbook 18, 1993), 84-103
  • Co-authored Articles or Chapters:

  • 10 Fritz Breithaupt, Binyan Li, Torrin Liddell, Eleanor Brower, & Sarah Whaley, “Fact vs. Affect in the Telephone Game: An Examination of Surprise in Story Retelling,” submitted for consideration.
  • 9 Martin Kolmar und Fritz Breihaupt, “Postfaktische Autoritäten”, in: Kursbuch, March 2017, 17-28.
  • 8.* Fritz Breithaupt, Eleanor Brower, Sarah Whaley, “Optimal Eventfulness of Narratives,” in: CMN 2015 (computer models of narrative). LINK
  • 7.* Andrew Hamilton and Fritz Breithaupt, “These Things Called Event: Toward a Unified Narrative Theory of Events,” forthcoming in: Sprache und Datenverarbeitung (SDV) 37 (2013), 65-87.
  • 6.* Fritz Breithaupt, Kevin M. Gardner, John K. Kruschke, Torrin M. Liddell, and Samuel Zorowitz (2013), “The Disappearance of Moral Choice in Serially Reproduced Narratives”, in: Mark A. Finlayson Bernhard Fisseni, Benedikt Löwe Jan Christoph Meister, Eds., 2013 Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative, Saarbrücken: Dagstuhl Publishing, pages 37-44. LINK
  • 5. Claudia Breger & Fritz Breithaupt„Empathie und Erzählung. Einleitung“, in: Empathie und Narration, Claudia Breger and Fritz Breithaupt, Eds., Freiburg: Rombach, 2009 (16 pages)
  • 4.* Claudia Breger & Fritz Breithaupt „Emotion, Empathie, Identifizierung: Ein Dialog,“ in: Jahrbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache (Intercultural German Studies) 2009
  • 3. Claudia Breger & Fritz Breithaupt, “Empathie und Erzählung, in: Deutsche Vierteljahrschrift (DVjs), September 2008, 351-354
  • 2. Tony Ardizzone, Fritz Breithaupt & Paul Gutjahr, “Decoding the Humanities”, in: The New Direction for Teaching and Learning (2004) No 98, 45-57 (special volume: Joan Middendorf, David Pace, Eds., Decoding the Disciplines: A Model for Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking)
  • 1. Fritz Breithaupt & Richard Raatzsch, “Goethe and Wittgenstein – To See the Unity of the World in Its Manifoldness,” in Wittgenstein Studies (2002) 7-17
  • Germanic Studies
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