At the Institute Bauer is working on a book manuscript entitled Bodily Desire - Desired Bodies: Gender and Desire in Early Twentieth-Century Novels and Paintings, where she proposes that literature and the visual arts of this time did not merely reflect existing social and cultural structures, but became instruments in the far-reaching transformation notions of gender, desire, and sexuality underwent. Pursuing an interdisciplinary approach that applies techniques of literary analysis to paintings and of pictorial analysis to literature, Bauer shows that novels by Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, and Vicki Baum, and paintings by Christian Schad, Otto Dix, and Egon Schiele echo each other in highlighting sexuality and subverting notions of gender. In an era that was influenced by Freud's research and hence aware of the import of the psyche, the works Bauer studies are symptomatic of a new visualization and vision of bodies that questions the prominence afforded to the psyche. Bauer shows how these artists' turn to the body to negotiate gender anticipates the current gender debate, which has suggested the body as a site where biology and social constructions of sexual difference meet.
Esther Bauer is currently an Assistant Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Her area of specialization is German literature and culture since the mid-nineteenth century, and her research focuses on questions of subjectivity, gender, desire, and visualizations of bodies. Bauer has published and presented on writers Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Vicki Baum, and Judith Hermann, and on painters Egon Schiele and Christian Schad. She holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in German literature from Yale University and an M.A. in German, English, and Linguistics from the University of Freiburg, Germany. Bauer has received fellowships from the DAAD, the Whiting Foundation, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and the Connecticut/Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program.