Corinna Treitel

Corinna Treitel

​Associate Professor of History
Director of the Medical Humanities Minor
PhD, Harvard University
MA, Indiana University
BA, Carleton College
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    ​Corinna Treitel is interested in the many ways that science, medicine, culture, and politics have intersected since the late eighteenth century. Her specialty is German history, and she teaches courses in European history, the history of science and medicine, and medical humanities.

    Treitel helped introduce Medical Humanities as a field of study to WashU in 2015. Currently, she is leading a group of faculty and staff hosting a 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.

    Treitel's second book, Eating Nature in Modern Germany: Food, Agriculture, and Environment, c. 1870-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2017), investigates 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."

    She is now working on a third book called Gesundheit! Practicing 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.

    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)


    "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

    "What the Occult Reveals," Modern Intellectual History 6.3, (2009): 611-625

    "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.