AHA Member Spotlight: Anthony J. Steinhoff
Anthony J. Steinhoff is an associate professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal. He lives in Montréal, Quebec, and has been a member since 1996. He was recently elected to the AHA’s Nominating Committee for a term that will begin in January 2024.
Alma maters: BA, Brandeis University, 1989; MA, University of Chicago, 1990; PhD, University of Chicago, 1996
Fields of interest: music and opera, religion, urban, transnational, modern France, modern Germany, modern Europe
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
My career path has been fairly typical of my generation. After the dissertation, I went on the job market, obtaining two one-year visiting assistant professorships (at Miami University’s Luxembourg Campus and the College of Charleston), before landing a tenure-line position at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. At UTC, I started teaching world history in addition to courses on modern Europe, began publishing, and eventually was awarded tenure. Then in 2012, I accepted a position in 19th-century European history at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in Canada. In addition to teaching and directing graduate students for the first time, I was now conducting most of my university life in a new language: French.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
Montréal is a complex, fascinating city. It has a strong European ambiance, yet is still clearly a North American big city. French and English elements are juxtaposed, creating a vibrant cultural scene and also political tensions. UQAM too is a product of the 1960s and the Québécois nationalist movement. It is a stimulating, but also a very supportive environment for research and teaching.
What projects are you currently working on?
My current research focuses on Richard Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal, in German-speaking Europe since roughly 1880. In part, I am interested in the work as a contribution to late 19th-century debates about the relationships among religion, art, and culture. Is it a “religious” work, as many of Wagner’s own followers contended? Or does it only trade in religious references to create a secular ritualistic experience? But I am also using Parsifal as a lens through which to examine not only Wagner reception across time and (central European) space, but also the evolution of operatic culture more broadly. Indeed, once the opera passed into public domain in 1914, opera houses’ impatience to stage the work reflected the centrality of Wagner’s oeuvre to the central European operatic repertory. Although ideological factors notably kept Parsifal off East German stages between 1958 and 1975, it turns out that the availability of necessary financial and personnel resources more frequently determined when the opera was performed, especially after 1945. In addition, I am presently finishing the editing of a handbook of religious culture in 19th-century Europe, a work that seeks to take stock of a body of work on the “religious turn” in modern European historiography, while also, I hope, encouraging new research in the field.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
They have indeed. My research on 19th-century religious history is now more European and cross-denominational in scope. The project on Wagner’s Parsifal represents a new engagement with music and opera and an extension of my temporal interests into the 20th century. My previous experiences teaching modern world history have also awakened a passion for thinking about European history in a global context.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
On a recent research trip I stumbled across a publicity brochure printed by the Wurttemberg State Opera (Stuttgart) to mark its guest performances of Parsifal at the Paris Opera in 1954. I was stunned to discover that a West German opera company would be invited to perform Wagner in Paris—and in German—so soon after the war.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
History is the most multidisciplinary of disciplines. As historians we are free to explore virtually any subject, from science to the arts, politics to economics, by attending to temporal considerations and the analytical perspectives (causality, context, change over time, etc.) that arise from them.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
In addition to its invaluable support to historians at all stages of their careers, the AHA is a consummate advocate of the historical discipline and of history in the United States.
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.
Please read our commenting and letters policy before submitting.