Irmscher, Christoph 1962–

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Irmscher, Christoph 1962–


Born November 25, 1962, in Tübingen, Germany; son of Hans Dietrich (a literary critic and professor of German) and Elisabeth (a psychologist) Irmscher; married Lauren Bernofsky (a classical composer), November 26, 1999; children: Nicholas. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Attended University College London, 1986-87; University of Bonn, Germany, M.A., 1988, D.Phil., 1991, Habilitation, 1998. Politics: Independent. Religion: Lutheran. Hobbies and other interests: Rare books, cats, gardening.


Office—Department of English, 417 Ballantine Hall, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405-7103. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany, lecturer in English, 1992-93, 1994-96; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, visiting assistant professor of English, 1993-94; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, lecturer in English, 1998-2000; University of Maryland, Baltimore County, assistant professor, 2000-03, professor of English, 2003-06; Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, professor of English, 2006—.


Modern Language Association, Nature and Environmental Writers-College and University Educators (NEW-CUE), Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.


CUE teaching award, Harvard University, 1999-2000; Literature and Language Award, Association of American Publishers, Scholarly Publishing Division 1999, for The Poetics of Natural History; American Studies Network Prize, 2000, for The Poetics of Natural History; University of Maryland fellowship, 2001; National Endowment for the Humanities grant, 2002; University of Maryland research fellowship, 2002-03; Rodney G. Dennis fellow, 2004; National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, 2005-06; Friends of the Longfellow House award, 2006.


Masken der Moderne, Konigshausen & Neumann (Wurzberg, Germany), 1992.

The Poetics of Natural History: From John Bartram to William James, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1999.

(Editor) John James Audubon, John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings, Library of America (New York, NY), 1999.

Longfellow Redux, University of Illinois Press (Urbana IL), 2006.

Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200, Houghton Library (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Contributor to works by others, including The Cambridge Companion to Canadian Literature, edited by Eva-Marie Kroeller, Cambridge University Press, 2004, and two volumes of American History through Literature, Scribner's, 2006; contributor of essays to periodicals, including Raritan, American Scholar, Canadian Literature, Soundings, and Mississippi Quarterly.


In John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings, Christoph Irmscher has assembled most of the noted naturalist's surviving journals, letters to his family and friends, essays on scenery and local customs, writings about birds, and plates from his epic work, Birds of America. In the Dallas Morning News, John Gamino wrote that the volume provides "priceless views of America and its people during those earliest years of westward expansion." Michael Rogers, a critic for Library Journal, noted that "much of Audubon's other fine writings have been overshadowed by … Birds of America." Irmscher's Writings and Drawings, however, gives Audubon's "journals, memoirs, and letters a chance to shine."

Irmscher's The Poetics of Natural History: From John Bartram to William James is a study of some of America's most noted late-eighteenth-and early-nineteenth-century naturalists, including John and William Bartram, Charles Willson Peale, P.T. Barnum, John J. Audubon, Louis Agassiz, and William James. In Nineteenth-Century Literature, a reviewer wrote that the book "moves gracefully across a broad American intellectual and historical landscape" and praised Irmscher's "stylistic mastery."

Irmscher told CA: "As a cultural historian and literary critic, I exist at several removes from the original fire that created the words and images I analyze. Nonetheless, my writing is defined by a quest for ‘luminous details,’ as Ezra Pound has called them—for those rare moments in which radiant meaning emerges from the sheer mass of accumulated fact, like the rose pattern driven by the magnet into a pile of dead iron filings. Another important inspiration comes from Thoreau and his advice, dispensed in his essay on the ‘Natural History of Massachusetts,’ to take the insect's view: to get down, and learn to live, comfortably, on the same level with the things that we are describing. The loving eye of the amateur may hold more than the stern gaze of the professional classifier, a lesson I learned from the early American naturalists assembled in my [The] Poetics of Natural History. For me, one of the most beautiful verbs to characterize the scholar's activity is ‘wondering,’ because it rekindles the sense of awe (about who we are and where we are) so easily lost between the footnotes."

He later added, "My most recent work has been connected with the recovery of nineteenth-century popular poetry, specifically the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular poet in American history and once one of the most widely read and admired poets worldwide."



Writers Directory, 23rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2007.


American Literature, September, 2000, Michael Branch, review of The Poetics of Natural History: From John Bartram to William James, p. 626.

Choice, November, 1999, D. Bardack, review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 561; March, 2007, R.E. Gibbons, review of Longfellow Redux, p. 1171.

Dallas Morning News, February 6, 2000, John Gamino, review of John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings, p. 9J.

Hudson Review, autumn, 2000, Dean Flower, review of The Poetics of Natural History and John James Audubon, p. 505.

Imprint, spring, 2000. Margaret Welch, review of John James Audubon, p. 39.

Journal of American History, September, 2000, Mark V. Barrow, Jr., review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 662.

Journal of American Studies, April, 2001, Richard H. King, review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 163.

Journal of the History of Biology, winter, 2000, Charlotte M. Porter, review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 589.

Library Journal, November 15, 1999, Michael Rogers, review of John James Audubon, p. 103.

Nature, September 16, 1999, Juliet Clutton-Brock, review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 214.

New England Quarterly, December, 2000, Nina Baym, review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 654.

Nineteenth-Century Literature, December, 1999, review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 420.

Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1999, review of John James Audubon, p. 75.

South Atlantic Review, winter, 2001, Barbara J. Cicardo, review of The Poetics of Natural History, p. 180.