Corinna Treitel

Corinna Treitel

History Department Chair
Professor of History
PhD, Harvard University
MA, Indiana University
BA, Carleton College
    View All People

    contact info:

    office hours:

    • On leave during FL21 semester.
    Get Directions

    mailing address:

    • MSC 1062-107-114
      Washington University
      One Brookings Drive
      St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
    image of book cover

    Corinna Treitel studies the interplay of modern science, medicine, culture, and politics. 

    Her specialty is German history, but her curiosity stretches widely. She helped introduce Medical Humanities as a field of study to Washington University in St. Louis in 2015. She also led the university's Frankenstein bicentennial celebration for 2017-2018.

    Her first book, A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), asked why Germany, a scientific powerhouse in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, also hosted one of the Western world's most vibrant and influential occult movements. German occultists made major contributions to twentieth-century art, psychology, literature, medicine, and what we now call "New Age" spirituality. Their efforts were also an excellent example of a larger historical trend that still informs our world today: the use of scientific language, concepts, and habits to enchant the "disenchanted" modern age anew.

    Her second book, Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture, and Environment, c. 1870-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2017), investigated German efforts to invent more "natural" ways to eat and farm. Vegetarianism, organic farming, and other such practices have enticed a wide variety of Germans, from socialists, liberals, and radical anti-Semites in the nineteenth century to Nazis, communists, and Greens in the twentieth. The book brings together histories of science, medicine, agriculture, the environment, and popular culture to offer the most thorough treatment yet of this remarkable story. The German case also has much to teach us about our own fascination with all things natural and "organic."

    Professor Treitel is now working on a third book called Gesundheit! Seeking German Health, 1750-2000. It explores changing ideas and practices of health in German lands from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and tracks their global history.

    Professor Treitel teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in European history, the history of science and medicine, and medical humanities. She is accepting doctoral students.

    Selected Publications


    Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture and Environment, c. 1870-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

    A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004)


    "Nutritional Modernity: The German Case," Osiris 35 (2020), 183-203

    "The Wife as Family Physician: Making and Moving a Health Epistemology for Women," Social History of Medicine (2019), 1188-1210

    "Triumph of the Till: The Organic Food Movement's Nazi's Past," World Policy Journal (Summer 2018), 83-87

    "How Vegetarians, Naturopaths, Scientists, and Physicians Unmade the Protein Standard in Modern Germany" in Setting Nutritional Standards: Theory, Politics, Practices, ed. Elizabeth Neswald, David F. Smith, and Ulrike Thoms (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2016), 52-73

    "Artificial or Biological? Nature, Fertilizer, and the Origins of German Organic Agriculture" in New Perspectives on the History of Life Sciences and Agriculture, eds. Denise Phillips and Sharon Kingsland (Cham: Springer, 2015), 183-203

    "Nature and the Nazi Diet," Food and Foodways 17 (2009): 1-20

    "Max Rubner and the Biopolitics of Rational Nutrition," Central European History 41 (2008): 1-25

    "Food Science/Food Politics in Fin-de-Siècle Berlin," Food and the City in Europe since the Late Eighteenth Century: Urban Life, Innovation and Regulation, eds. Peter Atkins, Derek Oddy, and Peter Scholliers (London: Ashgate, 2007), 51-61.

    "The Culture of Knowledge in the Metropolis of Science: Spiritualism and Liberalism in Fin-de-Siècle Berlin" in Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit in Berlin, 1870-1930/Science for the Public in Berlin, 1870-1930, ed. Constantin Goschler (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000), 127-154.

    Edited Volumes

    Frankenstein at 200: It's Alive! (The Common Reader, Fall 2018)

    Blogs, Interviews, Podcasts

    Eating Organic in Nazi Germany, Hold That Thought Podcast, Washington University in St. Louis  (September 7, 2016)

    Happy Birthday, Frankenstein!, Center for the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis (December 7, 2015)

    Contagion! Back to the Past, Institute for Public Health, Washington University in St. Louis

    Organic Origin Story, Center for the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis (April 23, 2015)



    Co-Leader with Sari Altschuler, Exploratory Seminar on "Rethinking Health and the Humanities during / after COVID," Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard University, 2021-2

    Humanities Center Faculty Fellowship, Washington University in St. Louis, 2015

    National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Award, 2011-2012

    Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values, Washington University in St. Louis, 2007-2008

    Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies Fellowship, Harvard University, 2004-2005

    Faculty Research Award, Wellesley College 2003-2004

    Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant, American Historical Association, 2000

    Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 1998-1999


    Selected Courses

    Health and Disease in World History

    Modern Europe

    The First World War

    Modern European Women

    Modern Germany

    Nazi Germany

    What is Medical Humanities?

    The History of the Body

    Frankenstein: Origins and Afterlives

    Advanced Readings in Modern German History