Sam Catlin

I’m a joint Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Divinity School (Religion, Literature & Visual Culture concentration) at the University of Chicago. My research is disciplinarily located within and between literary theory and criticism, rabbinics, intellectual history, and religious studies. My dissertation, “The Rest is Literature: Midrash and the Institution of Theory,” offers an intellectual-historical and literary-theoretical interpretation of the brief, unlikely surge of interest in rabbinic midrash among American literary theorists in the 1980s. I offer a novel account of this so-called “Midrash-Theory connection” relevant to contemporary debates in literary and religious studies by situating the connection within multiple, intersecting frameworks including the history of the institutionalization of literary studies in Anglo-American universities, secularization and the rise of multiculturalism in American higher education, the transatlantic construction of “Theory,” and the academic study of rabbinic texts since the early nineteenth century.


Other in-progress projects include papers on Erich Auerbach’s exegesis of Genesis 22; the postmodern reception of the “Oven of ‘Akhnai” aggadah (BT Bava Metsi‘a 59b); the politically charged debates about Milton’s Samson Agonistes in the wake of 9/11; and Nahum Glatzer’s post hoc invention of the “rabbinic fragment” and Kafka’s “parables” in his editorial work at Schocken Books.


Workshops: Jewish Studies (coordinator, AY 2019-20)

Subject Areas: Jewish Studies, Religion and Literature, Intellectual History, Literary Theory

Research Interests: History of literary criticism and theory; history of Jewish and Christian biblical hermeneutics; rabbinic literature; modern Jewish thought and literature; Bible as/and/in literature; continental philosophy and critical theory; secularism and its discontents; critical university studies; fragments.


Teaching Experience:

CMLT 28881: Secrecy and Exemplarity: On Parables and Their Interpretation from the Bible to Walter Benjamin (Lecturer, Winter 2020)

JWSC 12000: Jewish Civilization I: Ancient Beginnings Through the Medieval Period (Teaching Assistant, Autumn 2019)

CMLT 29801: B.A. Thesis Workshop in Comparative Literature (Preceptor, AY 2018-19)

HUMA 12300: Humanities Core: Human Being and Citizen (Writing Intern, Autumn 2017)


M.A. Comparative Literature, University of Chicago, 2016

B.A. Literary Studies, Middlebury College, 2015