Samuel Catlin

Teaching Fellow in the Department of Comparative Literature and in the College
Classics 116
Ph.D., Comparative Literature at The University of Chicago, 2022
Teaching at UChicago since 2022
Cohort Year: 2015

Affiliated Departments and Centers: Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies

Research interests: Religion and literature; modern Jewish thought and literature; Rabbinic Judaism; literary theory and criticism; Continental philosophy and critical theory; secularism and its discontents; Bible and/as/in literature; history of American higher education; identity politics and the “culture wars”; fragments.

Having been fully trained at the doctoral level in both Comparative Literature and Religious Studies, my research and teaching alike are insistently interdisciplinary, combining themes, objects, methods, and perspectives drawn from Jewish studies, religious studies, literary criticism and theory, intellectual history, American cultural studies, Continental philosophy, and critical university studies. My research concentrates on the religious genealogy of the (modern, secular, Western) category “literature,” and more specifically on the occluded but, I argue, formative position of Judaism and Jewishness in that genealogy. I teach courses on topics like global Jewish cultural history, religion and literature, and critical theories of identity.


Intellectual Profile:

My scholarship is located equally in two interdisciplinary fields, Jewish Studies and Religion and Literature. Accordingly, in my research and teaching I draw themes, methods, objects, and perspectives from multiple humanistic and social-scientific fields including but not limited to Jewish studies, religious studies, literary theory and criticism, intellectual history, American cultural studies, Continental philosophy, and critical university studies.

My current book project, The Rest is Literature: Judaism and the Institution of Literature in America, is based on my doctoral dissertation. This monograph tracks how received Christian ideas about Judaism and Jewishness shape, usually covertly, the secularizing discipline of “literature” in Euro-American modernity, concentrating on this discipline’s institutionalization in the United States between 1939 and 1997. The book’s individual chapters deal with the Pauline theology implicit in the philosophical articulation of the category “literature” in post-Kantian philosophy; Matthew Arnold, T. S. Eliot, and the New Critics; the so-called “Yale School” of “Theory” and its opponents; the rise of “Bible as literature” scholarship; the “midrash–theory connection”; and the recirculation of literary studies’ anti-Judaism and antisemitism in contexts where it might initially appear irrelevant, such as the controversy over Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in 1988–89.

My writing on topics like Geoffrey Hartman, the midrash–theory connection, Susan Taubes, the post-9/11 reception of Milton’s Samson Agonistes, and the contemporary American right’s panic over critical race theory appears or is forthcoming in both academic and popular publications including Naharaim, Oxford Bibliographies in Jewish Studies, Political Theology, Reading Religion, Religion and Culture Forum, and Gawker. Other active research projects treat Erich Auerbach, Paul de Man, Nahum Glatzer, the editorial and critical history of Kafka’s parables, and Jewish feminist writing of the 1990s.

I have presented my work at conferences at various institutions and professional organizations; I’m especially active in the Association for Jewish Studies. At the University of Chicago, I am a regular participant in the Jewish Studies Workshop.


Work with Students:

I served as the B.A. Preceptor in the Department of Comparative Literature in the 2018–19 academic year. In this role I led seminar discussions of comparative literary methodologies and supervised the research, writing, and revision of undergraduate thesis-level critical and creative work on diverse subjects such as J. A. Baker, J. S. Bach, contemporary Chicago and Hong Kong poetry, original bilingual poetry, and English modernist fiction.


Selected Publications:

“Rabbinic Literature and Literary Theory.” In Naomi Seidman, ed., Oxford Bibliographies in Jewish Studies. Under contract with Oxford University Press (forthcoming 2022).


“Death of an Author: Gendered Sovereignty and the Remains of the Novel.” Political Theology, forum on “Literature and Political Theology,” ed. Amy Hollywood (forthcoming Autumn 2022).


“Jonathan Freedman, The Jewish Decadence: Jews and the Aesthetics of Modernity” (book review). Reading Religion (forthcoming Autumn 2022).


“Who’s Afraid of a Little Theory? A History of How One Term Became So Critical to American Conservatives.” (July 14, 2022):


“‘No Sin to Limp’: Critique as Error in Geoffrey Hartman’s Essays on Midrash.” Naharaim 16.1 (June 2022): 53–77.



CMLT 23336: Religion, Nation, Race

CMLT 26212: Moses and Modernity

CMLT 28881: Parables and Their Interpretation, from the Bible to Walter Benjamin

CMLT 29801: B.A. Thesis Workshop in Comparative Literature

HUMA 12300: Human Being and Citizen I

JWSC 12000: Jewish Civilizations I: Ancient Beginnings to the Medieval Period

JWSC 12001: Jewish Civilizations II: Early Modern Period to the 21st Century