Corinna Treitel

​Professor of History
Director of the Medical Humanities Minor
PhD, Harvard University
MA, Indiana University
BA, Carleton College
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  • CB 1062
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  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Corinna Treitel studies the interplay of modern science, medicine, culture, and politics. Her specialty is German history, but her curiosity stretches widely. Professor Treitel teaches courses in European history, the history of science and medicine, and medical humanities.

She helped introduce Medical Humanities as a field of study to Washington University in St. Louis in 2015. She also led the university's Frankenstein bicentennial celebration for 2017-2018.

Her first book, A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), asked why Germany, a scientific powerhouse in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, also hosted one of the Western world's most vibrant and influential occult movements. German occultists made major contributions to twentieth-century art, psychology, literature, medicine, and what we now call "New Age" spirituality. Their efforts were also an excellent example of a larger historical trend that still informs our world today: the use of scientific language, concepts, and habits to enchant the "disenchanted" modern age anew.

Her second book, Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture, and Environment, c. 1870-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2017), investigated German efforts to invent more "natural" ways to eat and farm. Vegetarianism, organic farming, and other such practices have enticed a wide variety of Germans, from socialists, liberals, and radical anti-Semites in the nineteenth century to Nazis, communists, and Greens in the twentieth. The book brings together histories of science, medicine, agriculture, the environment, and popular culture to offer the most thorough treatment yet of this remarkable story. The German case also has much to teach us about our own fascination with all things natural and "organic."

Professor Treitel is now working on a third book called Gesundheit! Practicing German Health, 1750-2000. It explores changing ideas and practices of health in German lands from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and tracks their global history.

Selected Publications

Books

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)

Articles

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

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

"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

"Food Science/Food Politics in Fin-de-Siècle Berlin," Food and the City in Europe since the Late Eighteenth Century: Urban Life, Innovation and Regulation, eds. Peter Atkins, Derek Oddy, and Peter Scholliers (London: Ashgate, 2007), 51-61.

"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.

Blogs, Interviews, Podcasts

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)

 

 

Awards

Humanities Center Faculty Fellowship, Washington University in St. Louis, 2015

National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Award, 2011-2012

Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values, Washington University in St. Louis, 2007-2008

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

Faculty Research Award, Wellesley College 2003-2004

Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant, American Historical Association, 2000

Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 1998-1999

 

Selected Courses

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

Advanced Readings in Modern German History

A Science for the Soul

A Science for the Soul

In A Science for the Soul, historian Corinna Treitel explores the appeal and significance of German occultism in all its varieties between the 1870s and the 1940s, locating its dynamism in the nation's struggle with modernization and the public's dissatisfaction with scientific materialism. Occultism, Treitel notes, served as a bridge between traditional religious beliefs and the values of an increasingly scientific, secular, and liberal society. Drawing on a wealth of archival materials, Treitel describes the individuals and groups who participated in the occult movement, reconstructs their organizational history, and examines the economic and social factors responsible for their success.

Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture and Environment, ca 1870-2000

Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture and Environment, ca 1870-2000

Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian and the Dachau concentration camp had an organic herb garden. Vegetarianism, organic farming, and other such practices have enticed a wide variety of Germans, from socialists, liberals, and radical anti-Semites in the nineteenth century to fascists, communists, and Greens in the twentieth century. Corinna Treitel offers a fascinating new account of how Germans became world leaders in developing more 'natural' ways to eat and farm. Used to conserve nutritional resources with extreme efficiency at times of hunger and to optimize the nation's health at times of nutritional abundance, natural foods and farming belong to the biopolitics of German modernity. Eating Nature in Modern Germany brings together histories of science, medicine, agriculture, the environment, and popular culture to offer the most thorough and historically comprehensive treatment yet of this remarkable story.