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Robert Cowan


Robert Cowan is an intellectual historian and creative writer whose scholarship, fiction, and poetry focuses on the intersection of inequality, identity, and ethics. He joined the Kingsborough faculty in the Fall of 2008, after serving as Coordinator of Academic Affairs for the School of Arts & Sciences at Hunter College. He has taught at the City University of New York since 1998 and over the last few summers at Vassar College. His first book, The Indo-German Identification: Reconciling South Asian Origins and European Destinies, 1765-1885 (Camden House, 2010) was nominated for the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst/German Studies Association Book Prize and he has begun work on a new book tentatively entitled The Negation Ethic—a defense of negative philosophies on ethical grounds. He recently completed his first novel, Sense Will Pass Away, which addresses the disjunction between individual happiness and social meliorism, and is working on other fiction and poetry projects. He has published scholarly articles in The Comparatist, The German Quarterly, German Studies Review, and Monatshefte für deutschsprachige Literatur und Kultur, among other publications, and his poetry and fiction have appeared in journals such as Bayou, Skidrow Penthouse, and Word Riot. His work has been supported by the American Comparative Literature Association, Columbia University, various units of CUNY, and the Mellon Foundation.

Selected Administrative Duties
Assistant Administrator, Coordinated Undergraduate Education (CUE) Program
Coordinator of Education Abroad
Editor, Distinctions: Journal of the Kingsborough Community College Honors Program
Writing Fellows Coordinator


ENG 92: Developing Competence in Reading & Writing
ENG 12: Freshman Composition I
ENG 24: Freshman Composition II
ENG 30: Introduction to Literature
ENG 40: Short Fiction
ENG 42: Poetry
ENG 65: Literature & Film

Ph.D. Comparative Literature, The Graduate Center, CUNY, 2006
M.A. Comparative Literature, The Graduate Center, CUNY, 2004
B.A. Comparative Literature, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 1994

College Teaching
2010, 12-13   Vassar College
2006-08 Hunter College, CUNY
2002-03 Queensborough Community College, CUNY
2000-01 Queens College, CUNY

Baruch College, CUNY

Selected Publications and/or Other Resources


The Indo-German Identification: Reconciling South Asian Origins and European Destinies, 1765-1885. Studies in German Literature, Linguistics, and Culture Series. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2010

Journal Articles & Book Chapters

The Fatality of Romanticism vs. The Metaphysics of Sexual Love: Wagner’s Love Letter to Schopenhauer and the Break-Up with Nietzsche. Monatshefte für deutschsprachige Literatur und Kultur 106.1 (Spring 2014)

“Out of Ignorance: Using Child Slave Narratives to Combat Human Trafficking in New York City.” Teaching Literature in Community College Classrooms: Traversing Practices. New York: McGraw-Hill (Nov. 2012)

New Models for Indo-German Scholarship within the Critical Reappraisal of Orientalism.” The Comparatist 34 (June 2010)

“Fear of Infinity: Friedrich Schlegel’s Indictment of Indian Philosophy in Über die Sprache und die Weisheit der Indier.” The German Quarterly 81.3 (Summer 2008)

“Nietzsche’s Attempted Escape from Schopenhauer’s South Asian Sources in The Birth of Tragedy.” German Studies Review 30.3 (Oct. 2007)

Short Fiction & Poetry

“Extremities” (three poems). Skidrow Penthouse 15 (Spring 2013)

“Attack Shirt Phone Refuge,” “Paratroopers in Space,” and “Vapors.” Word Riot 12.11 (Nov 2012)

“Cheshire Cat (Cuento de Ada IV).” Bayou 50 (2008)

Events and/or Key Dates

Research Interests

Post-Enlightenment French and German intellectual history, German Orientalism, the philosophical issue of suicide, the ethics of negative philosophies, World Literature

Awards Recognition, Distinctions and Grants
Recent Honors
2013-14  Research Award, “The Negation Ethic,” Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York (PSC-CUNY)
2012 Summer Institute, “Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation: Difference, Community, and Democratic Thinking,” American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) and The Democracy Commitment, U of Vermont (30 Jul-3 Aug)
2010-11 Faculty Fellowship Publications Program Fellow, “Sense Will Pass Away: a novel (with suicide notes),” CUNY
2009-10 Research Award, "The Metaphysics of Sexual Love" (Richard-Wagner-Nationalarchiv, Bayreuth, Germany), PSC-CUNY

President’s Faculty Innovation Award, “Enslavement and Liberation: Confronting Slavery in Literature and in the Community,” Kingsborough CC, CUNY

2008-09 Seminar Associate, South Asia Seminar, Columbia University

William Stewart Travel Award, CUNY Academy for the Humanities & Sciences


Institutional Affiliations / Professional Societies

American & International Comparative Literature Associations
German Studies Association
Modern Language Association
Society for French Studies

Personal Interests

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