Walter Hinderer was born in Ulm, Germany, in 1934. He studied German and English literature as well as European history and philosophy at the universities in Tübingen and Munich from 1954 to 1960, concluding his studies with a dissertation on the Austrian novelist Hermann Broch’s great novel The Death of Vergil. Although he could not know it at the time, this work foretold Walter’s eventual move to Princeton, where Broch had written much of the novel while living in the home of Erich and Lillie von Kahler on Evelyn Place. Walter worked as the director of the academic division of the Piper Verlag, a prominent publishing house in Munich, from 1961 through 1966, when he accepted a position as an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University. After three years at Penn State, he was appointed associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Following a year as visiting professor at Stanford University in 1970–71, he was appointed professor of German at the University of Maryland–College Park. Walter joined the Princeton faculty in 1978.
Walter has been one of the most prolific and wide-ranging scholars in the field of German literature over the past 40 years. The author of no less than four books, 23 edited volumes, and more than 100 articles, his interests and expertise range across a series of major authors from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. He has produced important work on such canonical authors as Wieland, Goethe, Kleist, Heine, and Brecht, as well as on Ludwig Börne and Junges Deutschland, E.T.A. Hoffmann and the Romantic representation of dreams, and the evolution of contemporary German poetry in such writers as Erich Fried, Ernst Jandl, and Hans Magnus Enzensberger. His earlier career was dominated by highly influential studies of the dramatist Georg Büchner; a commentary on Büchner’s works published in 1977 established Walter as the foremost authority on this important author. In the decades that followed, Walter’s attention turned increasingly to the work of the dramatist, poet, and essayist Friedrich Schiller. Alongside numerous editions and articles, two books on Schiller stand out here: Der Mensch in der Geschichte (1980) and Von der Idee des Menschen (1998). Walter has also been widely recognized for his work on problems in politics and literature. Volumes on political poetry and dramas accompanied lectures and articles on the themes of revolution and social change in the German- language world.
Walter has never limited himself to scholarly writing. A poet in his own right, he read his work before the influential postwar literary association Gruppe 47. And his essays and articles have appeared frequently in Die Zeit, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. An important aspect of Walter’s career has been his service on international scholarly boards and councils. He was a member and later trustee of the Academic Council of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, a member and president of the International Erich Fried Society for Literature and Language, a member of the executive council of the Foundation for Research in Romanticism, a trustee of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, and a member of the publication committee of the Modern Language Association.
For more than a generation, Walter personified contemporary German culture and politics for Princeton students. He proved him- self a popular and effective teacher in a series of courses that dealt not just with his academic specialization—courses on poetry, drama, and 18th-century literature—but especially with the political and social is- sues that confronted Germany in the second half of the 20th century. Walter’s accomplishments have been recognized at the highest levels—not just in the academic world, but by European governments. He is the recipient of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1995), the Alexander von Humboldt Prize (1998), and the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and the Arts (2006).