PhD 2017 (modern European history) University of Chicago


Research Interests

Modern East Central Europe; Vienna; gender and sexuality; embodiment; history of emotions; cultural history; feminist and queer theory


Bodies That Shimmer: An Embodied History of Vienna's New Women, 1893–1931


Katya Motyl is a historian of gender and sexuality in East Central Europe. Her dissertation, "Bodies That Shimmer: An Embodied History of Vienna's New Women, 1893–1931," traces the experience and performance of new womanhood in Vienna between the fin de siècle and the interwar period. According to male contemporaries, the New Woman was a member of the deviant "third sex" and a symbol of Vienna's "sexual crisis." "Bodies That Shimmer" shifts the focus from the imagined New Woman to Vienna's "new" women on the ground: urban working-class and bourgeois women who subverted gender norms and sexual conventions by articulating a new kind of femininity. Drawing on literature from feminist phenomenology and the anthropology of the body, the dissertation reveals that women articulated this new femininity through the body. Whether they were walking more expansively on city streets, engaging in an active looking at the movie theater, or learning to inspect their bodies as medical objects, these women began using and experiencing their bodies in radically new ways. At its core, then, Bodies That Shimmer" reveals that femininity is neither a stable nor a unified category, but one that changes over time. Even further, it shows that new womanhood was not necessarily emancipatory, but rather, complex and contradictory, a performance that could be learned, reproduced, and discarded.

Katya holds a BA with distinction in intellectual history from Barnard College (2008) and a PhD with distinction in modern European history from the University of Chicago (2017). Her research has been supported by the Fulbright US Student Program, the Österreichisches Austauschdienst, and at the University of Chicago by the Division of the Social Sciences and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. For the 2017–18 academic year, she holds a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

Katya has served as intern and lecturer in the Department of History, the European Civilization sequence, and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Currently, she serves as the Eastern Europe editor at the history of sexuality blog, NOTCHES.


Dissertation Awards for 35 students in 2016–17