jpg not found Melissa Kagen graduated with a PhD in German Studies from Stanford University in June 2016. Her dissertation focused on the German/Jewish wanderer in modernist opera, looking specifically at how the separate myths of the Wandering Jew and the German Wanderer in the 19th-century grow uncomfortably enmeshed in the early 20th century. The Wanderer in these operas ranges from an empowered female streetwalker to Moses poetically founding the state of Israel through displaced movement.

Melissa has written and presented on the Wanderer figure in several genres besides opera, including wandering as military occupation in Robert Walser's short stories and the gendered implications of the rise of"walking simulator" video games. As a digital humanist, she founded and directs the Stanford Code Poetry Slam and has published on an interactive musical map she created of songs performed in Auschwitz. She also directs opera, and her most recent production was a site-specific, pedestrian performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, which took place at the Stanford mausoleum in May 2016.

"Wandering in Video Games," forthcoming in Nerds, Wonks, and Neo-cons from the Years Work series at Indiana University Press, ed. Jonathan P. Eburne and Benjamin Schreier, December 2015

"The Wanderer as Soldier: Robert Walser's 'Der Spaziergang,' World War I in Switzerland, and the Use of Covering Space," accepted with revisions at German Quarterly

"Zombie Parsifal: Undead Walkers and Postapocalyptic Stagings," under consideration at Opera Quarterly

"Controlling Sound: Musical Torture from the Shoah to Guantanamo," The Appendix, quarterly Journal of Experimental and Narrative History, July 2013, "Out Loud"


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Ph.D, German Studies, Stanford University, 2011-2016 (unofficial transcript)

  • Adviser: Professor Adrian Daub (German Studies)
  • Dissertation: "Alle Wege der Welt": The Wanderer in Jewish German Opera in the early 20th Century
  • Courses at the Goethe Institut in Freiburg and Berlin, including C1 exam certification

M.A., Humanities, University of Chicago, 2009-2010 (unofficial transcript)

  • Adviser: Professor Na'ama Rokem (Comparative Literature)
  • Thesis: "Jewish National Identity in 1840: Der "Fliegende Jude" and the Promise of Redemption in Heine and Wagner"
  • Research Assistant to Professor David Levin

B.A. magna cum laude in Literary Arts, Brown University, 2005-2009 (unofficial transcript)

  • Adviser: Professor Meredith Steinbach (English)
  • Honors Thesis in Fiction: "Asylum"
  • Semester Abroad, Eberhard Karls Universität, March-Aug 2008


  • Stanford Arts Institute: for production of a site-specific production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, November 2015
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Short-Term Research Grant: for archival research and working with colleagues in Koeln, Berlin, and Nuernberg, September 2015
  • Spring Graduate Student Grant Competition, Stanford Europe Center: for archival research at the Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek, May 2015
  • Graduate Research Opportunity Grant, Stanford University: for researching operatic staging in Frankfurt, May 2015
  • Graduate Student Travel Grant, Modern Language Association: funding to give two papers at the MLA convention in Vancouver, BC, January 2015
  • SPARK! Grant, Stanford Arts Institute: for production of a pedestrian performance of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, March 2014
  • Code Poetry Slam Series, Stanford Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages: Departmental funding to found and run the CPS series, 2013-2016