Gerhard F. Straßer

Gerhard F. Straßer

Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature


Ph.D. Brown University, 1974
„Pädagogisches Staatsexamen für das Lehramt an Gymnasien,“ Regensburg, Germany, 1967
„Wissenschaftliches Staatsexamen für das Lehramt an Gymnasien,“ Munich, 1965
“Abitur” (with distinction), 1959

Professional Bio

Dr. Straßer retired in 2004 as professor emeritus after 25 years at Penn State. At that time some of his publications focused on the work of the German 17th-century polyhistor, Athanasius Kircher. In commemoration of the Jesuit’s 400th birthday on May 2, 2002, he organized an exhibit at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel for which a "virtual tour" is available at URL: In 2000, he published Emblematik und Mnemonik im Zusammenspiel, and in 2004 the co-edition of a symposium entitled Die Domänen des Emblems, highlighting his renewed interest in emblematics and mnemonics. In the same year Dr. Straßer returned to Germany, where he continues his research work in rather separate areas—emblematics, cryptology, and historical linguistics. In 2007, "The Rise of Cryptology in the European Renaissance" appeared in The History of Information Security: A Comprehensive Handbook. Amsterdam (Holland) et al.: Elsevier, 277-325. In September of 2007, he co-organized a symposium at the Herzog August Bibliothek with Dr. Thomas Stäcker of this library on "Bibliotheken und ihre Nutzer, 1650-1850." “Von der Lingua Adamica zur Lingua universalis“ came out in Diskurse der Gelehrtenkultur in der Frühen Neuzeit, a collection of essays edited by Herbert Jaumann for De Gruyter in Berlin in 2011, 517-592. In the summer of 2012 he took part in a symposium at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek discussing “Zwischen Utopie und Wirklichkeit: Konstruierte Sprachen für die globalisierte Welt“; an expanded version of his presentation is accessible through the URL: In the fall of 2012, Dr. Straßer was given the College of the Liberal Arts Emeritus Distinction Award.

In 2018 Dr. Straßer, with Marie-Madeleine Fragonard, co-published the second, greatly expanded French edition of a 17th-century French manuscript that he had first produced electronically in English in 2012 at the Herzog August Bibliothek (URL: The new, French edition is titled, Le Livre d’Enigmes de Jacques de Fonteny: Manuscrit d’une série de sonnets para-emblématiques illustrés du début du XVIIe siècle. Wolfenbütteler Digitale Editionen, XV, 2018 (URL:

Dr. Straßer continues his presence at international conferences, such as in cryptology at NSA in 2011, 2013, and—in a virtual presentation—in 2022. Further papers in this field were scheduled at “HistoCrypt” meetings in various European cities, such as in Uppsala in 2019 and Amsterdam in 2022. In the field of emblematics he presented papers at the 2017 conference of the “International Society for Emblem Studies” in Nancy, France, and in 2022 in Coimbra, Portugal.

His life-long publication project—the scholarly edition of a 1679 French-Turkish manuscript housed at the Herzog August Bibliothek—has taken on a new dimension with Dr. Marloes Cornelissen, Sabanci University, Istanbul, as co-editor. “Lettres muettes, ou la maniere de faire l’amour en Turquie / Sans Scavoir nÿ Lire nÿ Escrire“ will be published in the book series of the journal, Der Islam, after a revision of the current, 80-page introduction. At the same time Dr. Straßer is preparing a public lecture in Hamburg—where he has been living since 2016—on Alma Mahler-Werfel’s “Album Amicorum“, a collection of more than 70 congratulatory letters kept in Penn State’s Special Collections. In 1949 this bound volume was presented to Alma, the widow of the composer Gustav Mahler and the writer Franz Werfel, on the occasion of her 70th birthday, which she celebrated in her Californian exile. Contributions from her many friends, among them exiles like Thomas Mann or the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, will be discussed in this lecture, and short compositions written for this occasion will be played on a Steinway and connected with their references, mostly passages from Mahler’s symphonies.