She studied German, English and Medieval Literature at the Universities of Freiburg and Munich, Germany. After several visiting professorships at the Universities of Frankfurt am Main, Vienna and Konstanz she was appointed as full professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main.
Since 2003, she has held the Chair for German Language and Literature at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. From 2004 until 2012 she was a member of the Swiss National Science Foundation's (SNSF) Research Council. Since 2008, she has served as President of the Specialized Committee for International Cooperation and as Vice-President of the Research Council since 2009. Since 2006 she has been a member of the European Science Foundation's (ESF) Standing Committee for the Humanities.
In 2011, she was appointed Vice-President of the University of St. Gallen, with responsibility for regional and international cooperation activities. Her research includes such diverse subjects as German Romanticism, Goethe, crime fiction, cultural body concepts and the epistemology of Outer Space as well as several critical-historical editions.