I am Reader in German and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. I am interested in the intersections between literary studies and other humanities disciplines such as philosophy, critical theory, anthropology and psychoanalysis, and my work is mostly concerned with the German and Anglophone traditions from the late eighteenth century through to the twentieth century. My current book project, entitled Literature and the Science of Comparison in Nineteenth-Century Germany and Britain, explores the relations between academic literary studies and the natural sciences during the nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the ‘comparative method’ developed in disciplines such as biology, anthropology and philology during that century. You can read more about that project here.
I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Goethe and his ancient and modern philosophical contexts (see my first monograph Goethe’s Concept of the Daemonic, Camden House 2006). Between 2011 and 2013, I held an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Stuttgart and at the German Literary Archive in Marbach. During that period I wrote a book on the theory of myth and its relation to literary studies, anthropology, philosophy, religious studies and political theory (Myth and the Human Sciences: Hans Blumenberg’s Theory of Myth, Routledge, 2015; paperback, 2016) and also co-edited with Felix Heidenreich a critical edition of Hans Blumenberg’s text on political myth, Präfiguration (Suhrkamp, 2014; French edition: Seiul, 2016; Italian edition: Morcelliana, 2018). Due to my work on Blumenberg, I was elected to serve on the advisory board of the recently founded Hans Blumenberg Gesellschaft.
Other more diverse and interdisciplinary areas of my research include a project on the literary and philosophical prehistories of psychoanalysis (see my co-edited volume Thinking the Unconscious, Cambridge UP, 2010; paperback, 2012), and a sustained interest in German-Anglophone Cultural Transfers, which I have examined in my co-edited volumes on Anglo-German Mythologies (De Gruyter, 2010), and on the Oxford-based German philologist, Friedrich Max Müller (Routledge, 2017), as well as in a series of publications on the German explorer of Australia Ludwig Leichhardt. My work on Leichhardt includes a commentary on his Australian diaries, commissioned by the Queensland Museum, along with a paper based on new archival research, which demonstrates Leichhardt’s direct influence on the novelist Patrick White.
I co-edit two journals which address my two main areas of research interest: the Publications of the English Goethe Society (covering German literature and culture from circa 1749-1832, including its later reception), and History of the Human Sciences (which is concerned with the history of the humanities and of the psychological, sociological and anthropological sciences, broadly conceived). I was also founding co-editor of Angermion, the Yearbook of the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations at Queen Mary.
I have an interest in street photography and portraiture and my photos appear in Soe Tjen Marching’s collection of personal accounts of the 1965 genocide in Indonesia, The End of Silence (Amsterdam UP, 2017).
During the 2017-18 academic year I will be a Senior Research Fellow at the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Utrecht (October to December 2017), and from January to March 2018 I will be an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellow at the Zentrum für Literaturforschung (ZfL) in Berlin.