Gerhart Hoffmeister studied German and English at the University of Bonn, Freiburg, UC London, and UC Berkeley before he obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland with a comparative diss. on "Die spanische Diana in Deutschland" (1970). He began his teaching career at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Asst. Prof. 1970-74) and moved to Wayne State U. in Detroit (Assoc. Prof., 74-75) before he took up a position in the Dept. of Germanic and in the Comparative Lit. Program at UC-Santa Barbara (75, Full Prof. in 79, Emeritus since 2002).
His research interests have been in European literary studies, with Germany as a focal point, but branching out to Spanish-German and Italo-German relations from the Renaissance to the 1700s. Later he focused on the Age of Romanticism with its prime movers: Goethe, Lord Byron, and Heinrich Heine. His research emphasis has been on European cross-currents during the Renaissance, the Baroque, and Romanticism. What motivated him from early on was Kant's essay "What is Enlightenment?" (1784) with its clarion call for "sapere aude" (dare to know). Widening his scholarly horizon he learned that presenting literary history does make a lot more sense in a European context than from an exclusively national perspective.