Gail Finney, Ph.D.

Gail Finney

Position Title
Professor

Unit
Comparative Literature, German

909 Sproul
Bio

Education and Degree(s):

  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley in Comparative Literature

Research Interest(s):

  • Psychoanalysis and literature/film, especially trauma theory
  • Turn of-the-century European drama and culture
  • Modern drama
  • The nineteenth-century European novel
  • Feminism
  • Postwar German women writers

Profile:

Professor Finney received her A. B. degree in German summa cum laude from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in comparative literature from UC Berkeley. She has also studied in Freiburg, Aix-en-Provençe, Tübingen, and Berlin. From 1980-1988 she taught at Harvard University as an Assistant and then Associate Professor of German. She returned to Harvard as a Visiting Professor of German in Spring 1997. Since 1988 she has been teaching at UC Davis as Professor of German and Comparative Literature. From 1997-2000 she held a halftime position as Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Personnel, and in 2007-2008 she worked as Faculty Assistant for Academic Personnel to the Dean of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies.

Professor Finney has been awarded a two-year fellowship from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant for Independent Study and Research, and an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship. In 2007 she received a Distinguished Graduate/Professional Teaching Award at UC Davis, and for 2013-2016 she was awarded a Herbert A. Young Deans' Fellowship. She has taught graduate seminars on such topics as Poetic Realism in the Light of Modern Literary Theory; Anti-Aristotelian Drama; Gender and Comedy; Turn-of-the-Century Culture; Narrative and Narrative Theory; Twentieth-Century German Women Writers; Trauma: Its Representation in Theory, Literature, and Film; Comedy from Aristophanes to the Present; Nietzsche and the Twentieth Century; Introduction to the Graduate Study of Comparative Literature; Theories of Comedy and Laughter; and Modernism and Postmodernism. She is affiliated with the “Studies in Performance and Practice” program.

Gail Finney has written or (co)edited seven books: The Counterfeit Idyll: The Garden Ideal and Social Reality in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Niemeyer, 1984), Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism, and European Theater at the Turn of the Century (Cornell University Press, 1989, 1991), Look Who’s Laughing: Gender and Comedy (ed.) (Gordon and Breach, 1994), Christa Wolf (Twayne Publishers/Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1999), Visual Culture in Twentieth-Century Germany: Text as Spectacle (ed.) (Indiana University Press, 2006), "Ain güt geboren edel man": A Festschrift for Winder McConnell on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. Gary C. Shockey, with Clifford Bernd and Gail Finney (Goeppingen: Kuemmerle Verlag, 2011), and Literature of Fantasy and the Supernatural (ed.) (San Diego: Cognella Academic Publishers, 2011). She has also published numerous articles on 19th-and 20th-century German and comparative literature (see selected titles below).

In 2008 and 2010 Professor Finney taught a Summer Abroad course in Berlin on “The Roaring Twenties in Germany”; in 2012 she taught a Summer Abroad course in Berlin entitled: “Berlin Culture Before and After the Wall.” 

Selected Publications:

Books

  • The Counterfeit Idyll: The Garden Ideal and Social Reality in Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1984.

  • Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism, and European Theater at the Turn of the Century. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1989, 1991 (nominated for the American Comparative Literature Association's Harry Levin Prize).

  • Look Who's Laughing: Gender and Comedy (ed.). New York: Gordon and Breach, 1994.

  • Christa Wolf. New York: Twayne/Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1999.

  • Visual Culture in Twentieth-Century Germany: Text as Spectacle (ed.). Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2006.

  • "Ain güt geboren edel man": A Festschrift for Winder McConnell on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. Gary C. Shockey, with Clifford Bernd and Gail Finney. Goeppingen: Kuemmerle Verlag, 2011.

  • Literature of Fantasy and the Supernatural (ed.). San Diego: Cognella Academic Publishers, 2012, rev. ed. 2013.

  • The Dark Side of the Screen: Staging Family Trauma in American Cinema at the Millennium (in progress).

Selected Recent Articles and Book Chapters

  • "Revolution, Resignation, Realism: 1830-1890." The Cambridge History of German Literature. Ed. Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997; in paper 2000. 272-326.

  • "Komödie und Obszönität: Der sexuelle Witz bei Jelinek und Freud." The German Quarterly, 70 (Winter 1997): 499-510.

  • "The Berlin Wall: Six Years After." Schreiben im heutigen Deutschland: Die literarische Szene nach der Wende. Ed. U.E. Beitter. New York: P. Lang, 1997. 25-34.

  • "Of Walls and Windows: What German Studies and Comparative Literature Can Offer Each Other." Comparative Literature, 49 (Summer 1997): 259-66.

  • "The Merging of German Unifications: Liminality in Günter Grass's Ein weites Feld." Schwellen: Germanistische Erkundungen einer Metapher. Ed. Nicholas Saul, Daniel Steuer, Frank Möbus, and Birgit Illner. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1999. 127-36.

  • "True Lies in the Ex-GDR: The Intersection of History and Fiction in the Career of Christa Wolf." History and Literature: Essays in Honor of Karl S. Guthke. Ed. William C. Donahue and Scott Denham. Tübingen: Stauffenburg, 2001.133-44.

  • "Women's Comedy and Its Intellectual Fathers: Marx as the Answer to Freud." Literary Friendship, Literary Paternity: Essays in Honor of Stanley Corngold. Ed. Gerhard Richter. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2002. 233-51.

  • "Die Schaubühne als oralische Anstalt: Das postmoderne Theater von Ginka Steinwachs." Vol. 59 of Akten des X. Internationalen Germanistenkongresses Wien 2000: Gegenwartsliteratur. Ed. Peter Wiesinger. Bern: P. Lang, 2002. 95-100.

  • "Queering the Stage: Critical Displacement in the Theater of Else Lasker-Schüler and Mae West." Comparative Literature Studies, 40.1 (2003): 54-71.

  • "Poetic Realism, Naturalism, and the Rise of the Novella." The Camden House History of German Literature, Volume Nine: The Nineteenth Century: 1830-1899. Ed. Eric Downing and Clayton Koelb. New York: Camden House, 2005. 117-36.

  • "Modern Theater and the Tragic in Europe." A Companion to Tragedy. Ed. Rebecca Bushnell. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 471-87.

  • "Performing Vienna: Theatricality in Jelinek's Burgtheater and Bernhard's Heldenplatz." Special issue of German Politics and Society, 23 (Spring 2005): 24-38.

  • "What's Happened to Feminism?" Comparative Literature in an Age of Globalization (ACLA Report 2004). Ed. Haun Saussy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. 114-26.

  • "The Tectonics of Trauma: 'Father-Daughter Incest in Film." Unfitting Stories: Narrative Approaches to Disease, Disability, and Trauma. Ed. Valerie Raoul et al. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2007. 89-96.

  • "Elitism or Eclecticism? Some Thoughts about the Future of Comparative Literature." Symploke, 16. 1-2 (2009), 215-25.

  • "Faculty-Graduate Student Collaboration in Teaching Third-Year German." By Gail Finney and Diana Lysinger. Brújula: Revista interdisciplinaria sobre estudios latinoamericanos, 7 (Spring 2009): "Theoretical Cross-Pollination in Latin America: Mapping Transnational Exchanges." 150-4.

  • "Gerhart Hauptmann and the Woman Question: Female Victimization and Eclectic Style." Seminar, 46.2 (May 2010): 95-111.

  • " ’The Poor Musician’: Franz Grillparzer.” Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Detroit: Gale/Cengage Publishers, 2011. Vol. 245, pp. 163-274. 

  • “Ödipus in Hollywood: Familientrauma im zeitgenössischen Film“. Freud und die Antike. Ed. Hartmut Böhme, Inge Stephan, and Claudia Benthien. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2011. Pp. 360-78.

  • “Else Meets Dora: Narratology as a Tool for Illuminating Literary Trauma.” From Kafka to Sebald: Modernism and Narrative Form. Ed. Sabine Wilke. New York: Continuum, 2012. Pp. 81-95.

  • “Little Miss Sunshine and the Avoidance of Tragedy.” Gender and Humor: Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives. Ed. Delia Chiaro and Raffaella Baccolini. London: Routledge, 2014. Pp. 226-239.

  • “The Reign of the Amoeba: Further Thoughts about the Future of Comparative Literature.” http://stateofthediscipline.acla.org/entry/reign-amoeba-further-thoughts-about-future-comparative-literatureThe 2014-2015 Report on the State of the Discipline of Comparative Literature. ACLA Website, July 2014.

Teaching Experience:

A wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses in 19th- and 20th-century German and comparative literature, including:

Graduate Seminars in German

  • Poetic Realism in the Light of Modern Literary Theory

  • Anti-Aristotelian Drama

  • Gender and Comedy

  • Turn-of-the-Century Culture

  • Narrative and Narrative Theory

  • 20th-century Women Writers

Graduate Seminars in Comparative Literature and Critical Theory

  • Comedy from Aristophanes to the Present

  • Nietzsche and the 20th Century

  • Introduction to the Graduate Study of Comparative Literature

  • Theories of Comedy and Laughter

  • Modernism and Postmodernism

  • Trauma: Its Representation in Theory, Literature, and Film

Current Projects:

The Dark Side of the Screen: Staging Family Trauma in American Cinema at the Millennium

Honors and Awards:

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Grant for Independent Study and Research, 1983-84
  • Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship, Berlin, 1989-90
  • Distinguished Graduate/Professional Teaching Award, UC Davis, 2007
  • Herbert A. Young Society Deans’ Fellowship, 2013-2016