School 09

Jost Hermand

April 11, 1930 ~ October 9, 2021 (age 91)


Madison - Jost Hermand, Vilas Research Professor of German Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, died unexpectedly in Madison at the age of 91 on October 9, 2021. He was born on April 11, 1930, in Kassel, Germany, and was preceded in death by his parents Heinz and Annelies Hermand, his brother Fritz Hermand, and his beloved wife of 60 years, Elisabeth Jagenburg Hermand.

He received his Ph. D. from the University of Marburg in 1955 in German literature, art history, history, and philosophy, and joined the Department of German in Madison in 1958, soon helping to put the Department and the UW-Madison on the map nationally and internationally. For decades, he was among a handful of Germanists with world-wide fame, in demand all over the globe as a speaker. He was the author of 75 books, editor of many others, and writer of countless articles. Most importantly, he was a tireless innovator and pioneer who challenged the established canon, recovered forgotten democratic and progressive traditions, placed literary interpretation in new contexts, explored German-Jewish culture, and highlighted minority and ecological concerns.

Jost Hermand held visiting appointments at Harvard, the University of Texas/Austin, and numerous German universities and was an Honorary Professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin beginning in 2003. Among many other honors, he received an honorary doctorate from the university in his home city of Kassel and the Hilldale Award for Academic Excellence from UW-Madison and was a member of the Saxon Academy.

A beloved and inspiring teacher and mentor, Jost Hermand held thousands of students at the UW and in Germany spellbound when he lectured. He advised 60 doctoral dissertations at UW-Madison, and many of his former students are carrying on his legacy. For his 90th birthday in 2020, alumni and friends dedicated an oak tree to him in the Allen Centennial Gardens on campus that bears a commemorative plaque. Both a towering scholar and a gentle, compassionate, modest man, he will always be remembered with great respect, gratitude, and affection.

On October 2, 2022, at 12:30 p. m., the Pro Arte String Quartet will play a concert in commemoration of Jost Hermand’s life in the Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen Museum Series (in-person and live-streamed). Free tickets are available through the Chazen Museum website.


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Life Celebration
October 2, 2022

12:30 PM
Chazen Museum of Art University of Wisconsin
750 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

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