Peter-André Alt was born in 1960 in Berlin. He studied German language and literature, political science, history, and philosophy at Freie Universität. He earned his doctorate in 1984 and completed the habilitation process in 1993. Alt has been a full professor of modern German literature since 1995, first at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (1995 – 2002), then at the University of Würzburg (2002 – 2005), and since 2005 at Freie Universität Berlin.
Alt has published a number of books on German literature of the 17th, 18th, and 20th centuries, including works on literary allegory in the early modern period, the Enlightenment, the literary and cultural history of dreams, Friedrich Schiller, and Franz Kafka. The city of Marbach awarded Alt its Schiller Prize in 2005 in recognition of his two-volume biography of Schiller. In 2008, he received a joint Opus Magnum grant from the Volkswagen and Thyssen Foundations for the completion of his book project Ästhetik des Bösen [The Aesthetics of Evil].
From 2007 to 2009, Alt served as the dean of the Department of Philosophy and Humanities. From 2007 to 2010 he was a member of the Academic Senate of Freie Universität and the spokesperson for the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies, for which Freie Universität raised funding in the German Excellence competition for universities.
Alt has been the president of Freie Universität Berlin since June 3, 2010. In April 2014 he was re-elected as president of the university.