Carnegie Mellon University

Christian W. Hallstein

Christian W. Hallstein

Teaching Professor of German

Address Department of Modern Languages
Carnegie Mellon University
Baker Hall 160
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Since 2008 my research has focused almost exclusively on the 18th century German polymath and court preacher in classical Weimar, Johann Gottfried Herder, who has made seminal contributions to a wide range of disciplines, such as anthropology, cultural history, geography, language and literature, aesthetics, theology, and education.

I was inspired to pursue research on Herder in March of 2005 while visiting Weimar with students from Carnegie Mellon as part of a course I was teaching on German classicism. As I stood in the Stadtkirche and contemplated the pulpit from which Herder preached, I was struck for the first time by the apparent anomaly of an author with such a voluminous output (32 volumes in the standard edition) also having a fulltime day job as a preacher and ecclesiastical superintendent in the Duchy of Weimar, a position which included oversight of the schools. I asked myself, “Is there any thematic connection between what Herder said from his pulpit and what he was known for as an author and thinker? Are there any resonances between Herder the preacher and Herder the writer/critic, or did he lead a kind of double life intellectually?

As of fall 2015 I have written and presented five papers on Herder, all of which have been or will soon be published:

"Johann Gottfried Herder and the Idea of European Unity"


This article began as a paper presented at a conference entitled “The New Europe at the Crossroads,” held at the Hochschule für Philosophie in Munich in the summer of 2008. The article attempts to answer the question, “What might Herder say about the EU if he were alive today?” I survey Herder’s ideas about government and political unions, about the nation as Volk, and about cultural diversity and human universality. I make a case for Herder being a good ideological resource for the EU because he provides a theoretical undergirding for maintaining a political union that preserves the individuality of its constitute elements, in accord with the EU’s motto “Unity in Diversity.”

Although this topic does not deal with Herder’s sermons, the original impetus for my taking up research on Herder, it has proven to be a valuable means for me to explore a major theme in his writings and will likely find resonances in my future work on the sermons.


"Of Publishing and Preaching: The ‘Double Life’ of Johann Gottfried Herder"

This paper exams Herder’s published sermons from his Riga and Bückeburg periods with an eye toward relating them, both in content and style, to his other and better known writings, in particular Über die ersten Urkunden des menschlichen Geschlechts and Von der Gabe der Sprachen am ersten christlichen Pfingstfest. I try to answer the question: Does the context (sermon or academic treatise) shape the text and its content? Does the venue (the pulpit or the printed page) enable or constrain certain types of discourse or topics?

Using the tools of discourse analysis, I examine these writings to uncover the ways in which the two groups of texts differ, and perhaps more interestingly, are similar. In both the Riga sermons and Über die ersten Urkunden, for example, Herder frequently uses devices commonly associated with formal speech making, such as vocatives, imperatives, rhetorical questions, exclamations, anaphora and seriations of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Herder seems to be a speach maker even in his academic writings. But when we compare the content of these texts, it appears that he definitely tailored the focus of his message to suit his audience. Each text brings out the dimensions of the biblical texts that are most suited to the venue at hand.

"Herders Homiletik: Theorie und Praxis"

This paper, written in German, synthesizes various comments on homiletics that appear in Herder’s collected works and shows to what extent his own published sermons actually reflect his homiletic theories. I conclude that Herder’s published sermons by and large reflect his own homiletic theories, though sometime one finds more poetical language (especially in the early sermons) and less narrative depiction of moral situations than one would expect from reading his writings on homiletics.

"The Human Mind, Heart and Soul in the Homiletics of Johann Gottfried Herder"

Herder says that a good sermon should address “thinking minds” and “feeling hearts.” Indeed, his own published sermons appeal to both the rational and the emotional aspects of human nature. In this paper I analyze how Herder’s sermons use words that describe the function of the human heart and mind, I attempt to summarize his understanding of the nature of the human soul, and I show the connections that Herder makes between sensation, volition and action within the human soul.

"Beredsamkeit und Musik als 'Künste der Menschheit' bei Herder"

Recently presented at the 2016 biennial conference of the International Herder Society in Kassel, Germany, this paper explores the interrelationship between oratory and music, two genres of the performing arts that play a vital role in the church, the institution for which Herder was responsible in the Duchy of Weimar.  I also examine how Herder's homiletic writings compare to his ideas concerning oratory in general and how his writings about church music compare to his ideas about music in general.  The foundational text for these comparisons is Herder's anti-Kantian examination of the arts, which he titled Kalligone. I also deal with Herder's somewhat contradictory pronouncements about purely instrumental music and his understanding of the arts as vehicles for the education and advancement of humanity.


Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

Selected Publications

  • “The Human Mind, Heart and Soul in the Homiletics of Johann Gottfried Herder.” 2014 Conference Proceedings of the International Herder Society. Heidelberg: Synchron Publishers (2016).
  • “Of Publishing and Preaching: The ‘Double Life’ of Johann Gottfried Herder.” 2014 2010 Conference Proceedings of the International Herder Society. Heidelberg: Synchron Publishers (2016).
  • “Johann Gottfried Herder and the Idea of European Unity.” Pennsylvania Language Forum, Vol. 84, no. 1 (Fall 2014).
  • “Herders Homiletik: Theorie und Praxis.” Herders Rhetoriken im Kontext des 18. Jahrhunderts. Ed. Ralf Simon. Heidelberg: Synchron Publishers, 2014.
  • "Creating the Enemy: Anti-British Nazi Film Propaganda." West Virginia University Philological Papers, Vol. 51, (2006).
  • "Ohm Krüger: The Genesis of a Nazi Propaganda Film." Literature / Film Quarterly, Vol. 30, no. 2 (2002).
  • Arnold Krieger Website
  • "Touring Berlin - Then and Now" Website

Courses Taught

In addition to German language courses at all levels, I have taught the following courses in German culture and literature:
  • 82-428 German Classical Literature
  • 82-429 Nineteenth Century German Literature
  • 82-430 German Literature of the Twentieth Century
  • 82-431 Postwar German Literature
  • 82-427 The New Germany / Das neue Deutschland (in English and German)
  • 82-325 Introduction to German Studies
  • 82-129 World Wars and World Peace in Literature and the Visual Arts
  • 82-425 Germany between the Wars (1919-1939)
  • 82-426 Germany During the Second Empire (1871-1918)
  • 82-4xx Power, Politics, and Religion.  The German Reformation (Fall 2017)

Department Member Since