Department ofGermanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

Daniel Leonhard Purdy

Daniel Leonhard Purdy

Professor of German Studies
Enlightenment; Romanticism; Asian-German cultural history; architectural aesthetics

241 Burrowes Building



Ph.D. Cornell University, 1992
Daniel Leonhard Purdy Headshot


Daniel Purdy was born in Berlin and raised bilingually in New York City. Before arriving at Penn State University, he taught for nine years at Columbia University. His research specializes on the connections between material culture and philosophical thought. Much of his writing has concentrated on the Goethezeit. Having written about consumer culture and architectural theory, his current research focuses on Asian -German culture over the last three centuries. 

In 1998, he published a study on fashion culture and male identity, The Tyranny of Elegance: Consumer Cosmopolitanism in the Era of Goethe, with Johns Hopkins University Press. In 2005 the University of Minnesota Press published his collection of historical writings about style, The Rise of Fashion. His second monograph, On the Ruins of Babel: Architectural Metaphor in German Thought, appeared in 2011 with Cornell University Press.  With Bettina Brandt, he co-edited the volume, China in the German Enlightenment (Toronto UP, 2016). His most recent book, Chinese Sympathies: Media, Missionaries, and World Literature from Marco Polo to Goethe, was published in 2021 with Cornell University Press.

Professor Purdy is a co-founder of Penn State’s dual PhD degree in Visual Studies. As graduate director, he regularly teaches seminars in Visual Studies. In the past, he has served as President of the North American Goethe Society and as editor for the North American Goethe Yearbook. Currently, he directs the Max Kade Research Institute at Penn State. Daniel Purdy has received grants from the DAAD, the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik and the Humboldt Foundation. As part of a College-wide Luce Foundation grant, he was very pleased to teach as a visiting professor at the University of Nanjing.