Study Guide

Hans Robert Jauss Biography

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Basic Information


Hans Robert Jauss


Herr Jauss, H-Ro, The Wide Receiver, Jauss the House, RJ, the Monster of Münster


Männlich—a.k.a. male

Home town

Göppingen, Württemberg, Germany—a town known for its toy industry and its surplus of refugees during World War II.

Work & Education


I had wicked good credentials, so getting a job wasn't too tough. (I "forgot" to put the whole Obersturmführer thing on my résumé—my bad.) I had a long teaching career in Romance Studies—that's the study of romance languages, not sweet lovin'—at such formidable institutions as University of Münster, University of Giessen, and the University of Constance. I also guest lectured everywhere, from Yale and Berkeley to the University of Leuven and the Sorbonne.

While teaching, I also achieved several academic coups, such as editing important medieval texts and forming groundbreaking research groups such as "Poetics and Hermeneutics." Not to brag, but my legacy as a teacher is that I made literary history matter just as theory was rearing its ugly head. I kept it real in a world getting full of scary French jargon.


Teaching was the family trade, you might say, so I naturally gravitated toward academia. My Gymnasium learning was at Esslingen and Geislingen. (In Germany, a Gymnasium is place of academic learning and not a stinky place where you do P.E.). My academic career was uninterrupted by a stint on the, um, Russian Front (brr…). Even as I fought off those crazy Communists, I managed to study in Prague—we Nazis were occupying the place, so that all worked out well.

Being in the SS landed me straight in prison after the war—that's gratitude, eh? Like a juggernaut, I went straight from the clink to the university, where I studied heady subjects like Romance philology and the history and culture of German people. Hope you're still with me, because I then went on and earned my doctorate at the University of Heidelberg. I'll spare you the title, but my dissertation was totally on Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.


Political views

Oh, you know, just the normal stuff. Nothing special. Next question!

…Oh. So what you want to know about my years fighting for Nazi world domination. Well, um, okay, so it's not like I'm alone here. Fellow super-smart guys Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man were also former Nazis. It's a thorny subject.

Wait, what? You want to know about my time in the SS?

Okay, yeah—looks like the jig is up. Here are the deets: So I kinda sorta volunteered for the Waffen-SS, and my particular group was responsible for some atrocities in Eastern Europe. When the war was over, I tried to make like I hadn't done much of anything, but that didn't stop the authorities from throwing me in a camp for hardcore Nazis until 1948. I like to say that this was all just some silliness in my past, but, um… you decide.

Religious views

Like a lot of God-loving Germans, we were Lutherans, although I left the Church in 1933. That's about where it ends, but I like to pretend we were actually Pietists. Pietism is sort of old fashioned, but it's a righteous deal. Pietists are sort of like Puritans, since they have a strong belief in the importance of personal behavior and individual holiness. Doing a good deed here and there doesn't mean diddly. It's about consistent behavior, faith, and belief. We're talking big picture here. 

No wonder I wanted people to think I was actually that cool.

Activities & Interests


Romance Philology
Medieval texts
Cross-Disciplinary Scholarship
Literary History
Theodor Adorno
Everyday Experience (so underrated)
Humans Communicating with Each Other
The Lived World


The author as genius
Art for art's sake
Books as doorstops
Literary objects
Being isolated
Resistance to change


Having a moving aesthetic experience
Question-and-answer sessions
Remaining active
Thinking about influence
Considering the present in terms of the past
Being provocative
Changing paradigms
Interpreting stuff


The Constance School
The Reader Receivers
Reformed Nazi Literary Theorist Support Group
Romance Philologists
The Proust Roost
Poetics and Hermeneutics
The Book is Not an Object Reading Group
Readers Make Things Happen
The New Literary Analysts
Horizon Gazers
The Münster Monsters

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