Karsten Olson

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German, Scandinavian & Dutch
425 FolH

9 Pleasant St. SE

I am a fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch. I have taught a wide range of classes, from cultural studies courses at the European University Viadrina as a visiting instructor, to the German language sequence at the University of Minnesota, as well as TAing for literature, history and film courses. Current Research: What is the relationship between the many and media? An often-explored line of inquiry to this question is tracing how media shapes consciousness, both on an individual as well as communal, structural level. In Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, he argues that it is to a large extent newspapers which first allowed individuals to imagine themselves as part of a new kind of collective, namely a nation, connected to other individuals they have and will never meet through a shared temporal and linguistic fabric. But do the many shape media? Is there, as Walter Benjamin suggests in “The Author as Producer,” a collective dissatisfaction with current media and an anticipation of medias to come? My dissertation examines the mutually constituting relationship of many/media in eras of extreme social and media plasticity, namely at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th century, in the hopes of arriving at both a better understanding of our own moment of social and media instability and change as well as to recover forgotten potentialities and imaginings of the many. Previous Research: My previous research focuses on the economic underpinnings on the legal-constitutional writings of the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School is often accused of a narrow, overly theoretical approach, one which is interested exclusively in the “cultural” (culture here understood in the sense of an elitist “high culture”) at the expense of a more grounded, historical materialist understanding of society. By emphasizing the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of the Frankfurt School while highlighting the pervasive material concerns of lesser-known theorists such as Franz Neumann and Otto Kirchheimer, I hope to work to dispel this myth of the ungroundness of Critical Theory.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • MA: Germanic Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2013.
  • BA: German, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2006.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School
  • 18th century Moral and Economic Philosophy
  • Democracy and Constitutional Law
  • Crowds
Courses Taught
  • Surveillance and Social Control (Primary Instructor at the European University Viadrina)
  • Introduction to Cultural Studies (TA at the European University Viadrina)
  • Introduction to German Cinema (TA)
  • German Culture and Civilization 1700 to the Present (TA)
  • German 3511W Vikings Knights and Reformers (TA)
  • German 1004 (Primary Instructor)
  • German 1003 (Primary Instructor)
  • German 1002 (Primary Instructor)
  • German 1001 (Primary Instructor)
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Graduate Representative on Academic Staff Search Committee: 2017
  • Liberal Arts Curriculum Design Workshop: Workshop co-sponsored by Carleton, St. Olaf and the UMN, designed to foster collaboration and inform advanced graduate students of the specific needs of liberal arts colleges , 2016
  • Research Assistant at the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin: Assisted in the publication of Begriffsgeschichte und historische Semantik. Ein kritisches Kompendium. , 2014 - 2015


  • Conference Presentation at GSA San Diego: Presented “Representing a Shattered world: Structural Disintegration in Lenz’s Die Soldaten ” at the “Crises of Capital and Aesthetic Form” Seminar, 2016
  • Conference Presentation at University of Minnesota: Presented “A Revolutionary's Defense of Bourgeois Law” at "Theorizing Crisis. The Economic Thought of the Frankfurt School", 2014


  • Mears Fellow: Promoting the study of German at primary and secondary schools in Minnesota: 2016 - 2017
  • Graduate Student Representative: 2015 - 2016
  • Graduate Student Conference co-organizer: 2012 - 2013
  • GSD Mini-Colloquium co-organizer: 2011 - 2012
  • Critical Theory and Fascism: Franz Neumann’s Behemoth: Olson, Karsten, Sage, Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory, Vol I: Key Texts and Contributions to a Critical Theory of Society, TBD, Forthcoming 2017.
  • Historical-Sociology vs. Ontology: The Role of Economy in Otto Kirchheimer and Carl Schmitt’s Essays Legality and Legitimacy.: Olson, Karsten, Sage, History of the Human Sciences, 29.6 96-112, 2016. Link
  • Hella Lindemeyer Mears Fellowship in German Studies, 2016 - 2017
  • Graduate Research Partnership Program, Summer 2016
  • Consortium for the Study of the Premodern World Dissertation Fellowship, Spring 2016
  • Gerhard Weiss Fellowship, Summer 2015
  • Elizabeth Folsom Rathert Graduate Fellowship In German Studies, 2011 - 2012