Michael Powers Bio

Michael Powers - Graduate Student
German Studies

Michael Powers is a Ph.D. candidate and currently working on his dissertation project, which investigates moments and practices of visual dis-figuration in the writings of Walter Benjamin. His interest in the relation between Benjamin's visual aesthetics and that of writers such as Kant, Kleist, Marx and Kafka, derives from a larger interest in the history of aesthetics in modernity.

Michael's diverse academic interests include critical theory, visual studies (especially photography), 18th century Gartenkunst, concepts of play, early German Romanticism, and in particular the writings of Walter Benjamin, Immanuel Kant, Franz Kafka and Martin Heidegger. At Brown, Michael has been a member of several graduate student groups, including: the Mellon Graduate Workshop "Photography: Beyond the Visual" (2009-2010), and the GICG sponsored colloquium series "Detours, Deviations and Digressions" (2012-2013), of which he is a co-organizer. He is also currently co-organizing a conference on the notion of the "Umweg" in German thought and literature.

Michael first joined the Ph.D. program at Brown in 2008. He received his B.A. in German Studies from Florida's honors college, New College of Florida, in 2007. His senior thesis was entitled: "Experience over Reason: Werner Herzog's Kaspar Hauser." Before coming to Brown, he spent a year in Leipzig with the Fulbright Exchange teaching English language, culture and literature at a Gymnasium. In the summer of 2011, he attended the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell and he spent the 2011-2012 academic year in Berlin on a DAAD Research grant working on his dissertation project.

Conference Papers

  • "'Zerstreutes Hinausschauen': Vitrified Vision in Kafka and Benjamin" at Thirty-Sixth Annual Conference (German Studies Association, Oct. 2012)
  • "Wolkenwandelbarkeit: Visual Potentiality in Benjamin" at Schrift: Writing and Image-Character in the Work of Walter Benjamin (Biennial Conference of the Walter Benjamin Society, Princeton University, Nov. 2011)
  •  "The Art of the Garden: Framing Nature in Kant's Third Critique" at Exploring Environments: Ecocritical Approaches to German Literature and Culture (Graduate Conference at Department of Germanic Language and Literatures, Harvard University, Nov. 2010)
  • "Chess as Critique: Benjamin and Brecht at Play" at The Artfulness of Play (Graduate Conference at Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario, Sept. 2009)


  • DAAD Research Scholarship, 2011-2012
  • Cogut Center School of Criticism and Theory Tuition Fellowship, 2011
  • Fulbright Exchange Teaching Fellowship, 2007-2008