Dr Katja Haustein

Lecturer in Comparative Literature
+44 (0)1227 823617
Dr Katja Haustein


Katja specializes in modern European literature, and has a particular interest in visual culture, the history of ideas, ethics, and aesthetics.

Before joining the University of Kent, Katja studied comparative literature, German literature, and history in Berlin, London, Paris, and Cambridge. She was a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Cambridge, a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, a Visiting Scholar at the German Institute in Rome, and the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

Katja is the Graduate Studies Lead of the School of Cultures and Languages at Kent.

Research interests

Katja has written on twentieth-century autobiography and visual culture, including Regarding Lost Time: Photography, Identity, and Affect in Proust, Benjamin, and Barthes (Oxford: Legenda, 2012/2020); on conceptions of space and the theory of myths in modern French literature and thought; on the intellectual histories of empathy, tact, and pity; and on the cultural history of milk, love, and breastfeeding in Europe. In her new book, Alone with Others: An Essay on Tact in Five Modernist Encounters (Cambridge University Press, 2023), Katja looks at tact as an intuitive and creative mode of negotiating the appropriate distance between people. She shows how tact becomes significant in times of crisis, when established codes of sociability disintegrate, and new modes of communication have to be found. Drawing on a wide range of continental European literature and thought, she reconstructs tact’s conceptual history from the late eighteenth century to the present, to then focus on three periods of socio-political upheaval that have marked the twentieth century: the First World War, the Second World War and – different, but equally significant in terms of disrupting traditional ways of living together – the student revolution of 1968. In a series of reading encounters with Marcel Proust, Helmuth Plessner, Theodor Adorno, François Truffaut, and Roland Barthes, Katja reconsiders how we engage with other people, (moving) images, and texts, and emphasizes the significance of tact as a social and hermeneutical category in our time. First reviews of Alone with Others can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement.


Katja teaches on a range of topics including autobiographical writing and visual culture, European Romanticism, transatlantic Modernism, sex and gender, testimony, exile, displacement and migration, and literature and the emotions.


Katja has supervised doctoral work in modern and contemporary French, German, English and Italian literature, film, and the medical humanities. She welcomes applications from prospective research students in her areas of expertise.

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