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Dr. Robert Pirro

Office: Carroll Building – Room 2271
Campus: Statesboro
Phone: 912-478-7297

Additional Link(s): CV


Dr. Robert Pirro came to Georgia Southern in 1997 after finishing graduate work at U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. 1996) and undergraduate work at Harvard (B.A. 1986). 

He covers most of the department’s survey courses in political theory/philosophy (Ancient Political Thought, Modern Political Thought, Contemporary Political Thought, American Political Thought, Feminist Political Thought). Film and Politics is the newest addition to the political theory/philosophy courses he offers. In this lively course, he shows students how blockbuster and cult films of all kinds, from Black Panther to Night of the Living Dead, from Independence Day to Blair Witch Project, offer sometimes overt, sometimes hidden political messaging. 

In teaching American Government and Introduction to Political Science, he does NOT use textbooks but instead tries to convey to students the excitement and challenge of politics by studying in some depth examples of important political phenomena including revolution, populism, corruption, utopianism.  

Professor Pirro has many scholarly interests including the politics of tragedy, the political thought of Auschwitz survivor, industrial chemist, and writer Primo Levi, the political theory of the German-Jewish refugee-turned-American Political theorist Hannah Arendt, and the politics of film. He welcomes conversations with students about movies, politics, tragedy, the links between American and German culture, Socrates, and where to find the best secondhand bookstores.

He has recently been invited to submit his latest scholarly book manuscript, German Hollywood, American Babelsberg: Transatlantic Wartime Memories and Post-Unification Cinema, to a university press for review. In this book manuscript, he offers new and unconventional readings of films made by Germans in Hollywood, including Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, In the Line of Fire, and Air Force One, and films made in Germany by Americans, including Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds

Scholarly Books

Motherhood, Fatherland, and Primo Levi: The Hidden Groundwork of Agency in His Auschwitz Writings (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017)

This book argues that Primo Levi’s thinking about what it means to be free and to have agency was not wholly defined by his experiences as an inmate in a Nazi slave labor/death camp. 

The Politics of Tragedy and Democratic Citizenship (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Tragedy (Northern Illinois University Press, 2001)

These last two books extend his longstanding research into how the interdependent relationship of democracy and tragedy in ancient Athens, Greece, continues to resonate in the political language and imagination of contemporary politicians, activists, and theorists.

Prof. Pirro has been an invited lecturer at Loyola University in New Orleans as part of the Biever Lecture Series (February 2003); at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut für Amerikastudien, Free University, Berlin (July 2009) for the Perspectives on American Literature and Culture Series; and at the Hannah-Arendt-Institut of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany (May 2006). He participated in the 2001 NEH Summer Seminar – Literature and Values – at Chapel Hill, N.C. and completed an NEH Summer Institute in Athens, Greece on the topic, Mortality: Facing Death in Ancient Greece, in July 2014. He was awarded a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) grant for archival research in Berlin and served as the keynote speaker at the 2019 student conference, Hannah Arendt: On Threatened Democracies, North American Studies Department, University of Göttingen.

Selected Publications

  • “Die griechische Tragödie in Hannah Arendts politischer Theorie,” in Tragik oder Traktat? Zum Wechselspiel von Tragödie und Philosophie in der Antike (2022)
  • “The Tennis Shoe Army and Leviathan: Relics and Specters of Big Government in The Road,” European Journal of American Studies (12:3) 2017.
  • “Atrocity and Agency: W.G. Sebald’s Traumatic Memory in the Light of Hannah Arendt’s Politics of Tragedy.” Tragedy and the Tragic in German Literature, Art and Thought. Stephen Dowden and Thomas Quinn, eds. (Camden House, 2014): 296-310.
  • “Aesthetic Legacies and Dashed Political Hopes: Caspar David Friedrich Motifs in Roland’s Emmerich’s Post-9/11 Popcorn Message Movies.” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 88:4 (October-December 2013): 400-417.
  • “Homer’s Lies, Brad Pitt’s Thighs: Revisiting the Preoedipal Mother and German Wartime Father in Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy,” in Of Muscles and men: Essays on the Sword & Sandal Film (2011)
  • “Tragedy, Theodicy and 9/11: Rhetorical Responses to Suffering and Their Public Significance.” thesis eleven 98 (August 2009): 5 – 32.

Last updated: 12/15/2023