Professor Ryan received her B.A. from Sydney University, Australia, and her Dr. phil. from the University of Münster, Germany. Before coming to Harvard, she taught for many years at Smith College. In addition to receiving grants from the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung (including the prestigious "Humboldtforschungspreis" in 2009-2010) and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she was the recipient of the Basilius Award in Germanics and was twice awarded the prize for best article of the year in The German Quarterly. Her scholarship was recognized by the award of the Walter Channing Cabot Prize in 1994 and her teaching by a Harvard College Professorship in 1998. She has been active on several committees of the Modern Language Association. At Harvard, she served for six years on Faculty Council. She was the 2017 President of the Modern Humanities Research Council (U.K.)
Her teaching and research interests are 19th- and 20th-century literature, especially poetry and the novel. She is the author of Umschlag und Verwandlung (Winkler, 1972), a book on Rilke's poetry; The Uncompleted Past (Wayne State University Press, 1983), which treats postwar German novels; The Vanishing Subject (Chicago University Press, 1991), which traces the relation of literature to empiricist psychology; and Rilke, Modernism and Poetic Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 1999). She is co-editor of Cultures of Forgery: Making Nations, Making Selves (Routledge, 2003), and Imagining Australia (Harvard University Committee on Australian Studies, 2004). She is also General Editor of A New History of German Literature (Harvard University Press, 2004). She has written articles on Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, Christa Wolf, Günter Grass, Durs Grünbein, and W. G. Sebald, among others. Her most recent books are The Novel After Theory (Columbia University Press, 2012) and The Cambridge Introduction to German Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Her most recent publication is “Hermann Broch’s Massenwahnprojekt and its Relevance for Our Times” in A Companion to the Works of Hermann Broch, ed. Graham Bartram et al. (Camden House, 2019). She is currently at work on a book on German colonialism in a comparative context.
Professor Ryan is a joint member of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature. She teaches courses on German lyric poetry, German colonial theory and fiction, 20th-century modernism, comparative modernisms, postwar German literature, and the contemporary novel.
Additional information, including a select bibliography, is available at http://scholar.harvard.edu/jryan/