Ian Thomas Fleishman

University of Pennsylvania


Ian Fleishman is an Assistant Professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a PhD in French and German Literature from Harvard University, having previously studied at the Freie Universit?t in Berlin, the Sorbonne Nouvelle and the école Normale Supérieure in Paris as well as at Middlebury College in Vermont. He has published articles in Comparative Literature Studies, German Quarterly, French Studies, The Germanic Review, Mosaic, The Journal of Austrian Studies and elsewhere on subjects ranging from the Baroque to contemporary cinema.

His work focuses largely on sex and violence in order to trace the evolution of narrative form and its underlying epistemological shift from modernism to the postmodern. His first book, An Aesthetics of Injury: The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino, was the 2015 winner of the Northeast Modern Language Association Best Book Award. Examining representations of the open wound in the works of ten exemplary authors and filmmakers, his monograph exposes injury to be an essential aesthetic principle of twentieth-century narrative.

Among other projects, he is currently co-editing a collected volume on the cinema of Isabelle Huppert. This year he is serving as Visiting Professor and Academic Director for the Berlin Consortium of German Studies at the Freie Universit?t.

An Aesthetics of Injury

An Aesthetics Of Injury

An Aesthetics of Injury exposes wounding as a foundational principle of literary and filmic modernism. Theorizing the genre of the narrative wound—texts that aim not only to depict but also to inflict injury—Ian Fleishman reveals harm as an essential aesthetic strategy in ten exemplary authors and filmmakers: Charles Baudelaire, Franz Kafka, Georges Bataille, Jean Genet, Hélène Cixous, Ingeborg Bachmann, Elfriede Jelinek, Werner Schroeter, Michael Haneke, and Quentin Tarantino.

Violence in the modernist mode, an ostensible intrusion of raw bodily harm into the artwork, aspires to transcend its own textuality, and yet, as An Aesthetics of Injury establishes, the wound paradoxically remains the essence of inscription. Fleishman thus shows how the wound, once the modernist emblem par excellence of an immediate aesthetic experience, comes to be implicated in a postmodern understanding of reality reduced to ceaseless mediation. In so doing, he demonstrates how what we think of as the most real object, the human body, becomes indistinguishable from its 'nonreal' function as text. At stake in this tautological textual model is the heritage of narrative thought: both the narratological workings of these texts (how they tell stories) and the underlying epistemology exposed (whether these narrativists still believe in narrative at all).

With fresh and revealing readings of canonical authors and filmmakers seldom treated alongside one another, An Aesthetics of Injury is important reading for scholars working on literary or cinematic modernism and the postmodern, philosophy, narratology, body culture studies, queer and gender studies, trauma studies, and cultural theory.


“Cultural diagnostician Ian Fleishman trains his writing on the incomprehensible wounding of language. With an elegant sensibility for the disruptions of narrative injury and structural disintegration, he scans the agony of essential literary despair after Baudelaire and Kafka. Poignant and incisive, alert to disavowed aspects of social existence, An Aesthetics of Injury comes up against Freudian theories of castration and political deficiency. The work collects a dossier of texts that are befallen by the oversignifying tendencies of inbound catastrophe. Cixous, Genet, Tarantino, Jelinek, and others are scanned for the rhetorical lesions and narrative loopholes that constitute our modernity.”
—Avital Ronell

“An incisive and provocative contribution to the history and theory of modern narrative since Baudelaire… Fleishman shows that the image of an open wound, implying an allegoric dimension, or an aesthetic of injury, plays a vital and thus far neglected role in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature.”
—Johannes Türk

Aesthetics of Injury is insightful, beautifully written, and compelling. It will help shift many discussions in literary, film and feminist studies.”
—Kathleen Komar


Francke Foundations at Halle

View Project

“Certainty, Vision: Francke Today”

Künstlerhaus Bethanien

Upcoming Presentations

Ecological Archives (Emory University)

“Naturgeil: Ecological Utopias in Hitler Youth Films and German 'Boy Scout' Porn”

American Comparative Literature Association

“The Queer Wound in Bloom: Stigmata and Gay Male Desire in Jean Genet, Werner Schroeter and Todd Haynes”

Recent Presentations

Modern Language Association

“The Postdramatic Theory of Cixous's Tambours sur la digue: Between Brecht and Artaud”

UPenn Cinema Studies Colloquium

“Played for Real: Violence in Quentin Tarantino”

German Studies Association

“The (Cold) War between Weimar and Hollywood: Fritz Lang's Die 1000 Augen des Dr Mabuse

German Studies Association

“Nietzsche's Pupil: Benjamin's Advocacy of Infancy”

Curriculum Vitae

You can view and download Ian's curriculum vitae here.



745 Williams Hall
255 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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