Research Mission Statement

Our German@Leeds research approach is to challenge and move beyond the traditional canon of German Studies. We collaborate with partners at local, national and international level, inside and outside of academia. We believe it is important to make critical interventions in academia and beyond. This approach is at the heart of our research as well as our teaching.

We concentrate our research in three distinct but interlinked areas:

German pasts and futures / Vergangenheits- und Zukunftsbewältigung

German@Leeds has a real strength in researching the multifaceted ways in which Germans have imagined, remembered and come to terms with their pasts. We have a particular interest in memory of the two world wars, the Holocaust, 1968, RAF terrorism and other traumatic pasts in a variety of genres and practices (film, literature, art, historiography). Leeds has become a centre for transnational Holocaust memory studies. This focus on German and transnational Vergangenheitsbewältigung is complemented by an interest in the varied imaginations of German futures and utopian thinking (Zukunftsbewältigung).

Violence and Resistance / Peace and Reconciliation

We are leading interdisciplinary and transnational research projects into the repercussions of violence in German and global history. These include research on German prisoners of war in Britain during World War I; women’s peace movements in, and female revolutionaries after World War I; German protest movements from ‘1968’ to the Greens; work on the representation of German terrorism in film; research and knowledge exchange projects on trauma and reconciliation in Germany and South Africa; film production work in the former GDR.

German-speaking Cultures in the World / Borders and Cultural Exchange

We are concerned with the ways in which people, ideas and cultural products cross borders into and out of the German-speaking world.  Our specific interests and projects include: studies of literature, film and theatre representing experiences of migration to and settlement in Germany, Austria and Switzerland; explorations of ‘transnational’ writing and filmmaking that might be considered part of ‘world literature’ or ‘world cinema’; the translation of German-language literature and historical texts into other languages and for other cultural contexts.

Research excellence

We are internationally renowned for research into the German-speaking world in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including literature, film, politics and society, gender studies, globalisation, border studies, and transnationalism. We have attracted significant funding from the AHRC, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Council, the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, German state and city foundations, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the Goethe-Institut. We have also led a significant number of international research projects.

Postgraduates from the UK, Germany and beyond are attracted by our high-quality publications - see our staff profiles section - vibrant research environment and impressive range of conferences, seminars, and knowledge transfer activities. 

Research news

A summary of the latest research news from the German team

Funded projects 

Recent publications showcase

Stuart Taberner book

Stuart Taberner, Transnationalism and German-Language Literature in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave, 2017).

This book examines how German-language authors have intervened in contemporary debates on the obligation to extend hospitality to asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants; the terrorist threat post-9/11; globalisation and neo-liberalism; the opportunities and anxieties of intensified mobility across borders; and whether transnationalism necessarily implies the end of the nation state and the dawn of a new cosmopolitanism.

Through a careful process of juxtaposition and differentiation, the individual chapters demonstrate that writers of both minority and nonminority backgrounds address transnationalism in ways that certainly vary but which also often overlap in surprising ways. Publisher info

Caroline Summers bookCaroline Summers, Examining Text and Authorship in Translation. What Remains of Christa Wolf? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

This book, the first in-depth study of authorship in translation, explores how authorial identity is ‘translated’ in the literary text.  In a detailed exploration of the writing of East German author Christa Wolf in English translation, it examines how the work of translators, publishers, readers and reviewers reframes the writer’s identity for a new reading public.

It intervenes in wide-ranging contemporary debates on globalised literary culture by examining how the fragmented identity of the ‘international’ author is contested by different stakeholders in the construction of a world literature. The book is interdisciplinary in its approach, representing new work in Translation Studies and German Studies that is also of interest and relevance to scholars of literature in other languages. Publisher info

Ingrid Sharp book

Ingrid Sharp and Matthew Stibbe, eds, Women Activists between War and Peace Europe, 1918-1923 (Bloomsbury, 2017).

Women Activists between War and Peace employs a comparative approach in exploring women's political and social activism across the European continent in the years that followed the First World War. It brings together leading scholars in the field to discuss the contribution of women's movements in, and individual female activists from, Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Russia and the United States. Publisher website

Ingrid Sharp and Matthew Stibbe, eds, Women's International Activism during the Inter-War Period, 1919–1939, special issue of Women’s History Review (2017). Publisher website

Ingo Cornils

Ingo Cornils, Writing the Revolution. The Construction of "1968" in Germany (Camden House, 2016).

An extensive look at historical, literary, and media representations of '68 in Germany, challenging the way it has been instrumentalized. In Germany, the concept of "1968" is enduring and synonymous with the German Student Movement, and is viewed, variously, as a fundamental liberalization, a myth, a second foundation, or an irritation. This book argues that writing about 1968 in Germany is no longer about the historical events or the specific objectives of a bygone counterculture, but is instead a moral touchstone, a marker of social group identity meant to keep alive (or at bay) a utopian agenda that continues to fire the imagination.

Cornils brings together for the first time the historical, literary, and media representations of the movement, showing the motivation behind and effect of almost five decades of writing about 1968. In so doing, Cornils challenges the way 1968 has been instrumentalized: as a powerful imaginary that has colonized every aspect of life in Germany, and as symbolic capital in cultural and political debates. Publisher info

Stuart Taberner

Elisabeth Herrmann, Carrie Smith-Prei, Stuart Taberner, eds., Transnationalism in Contemporary German-Language Literature (Camden House 2015).

Investigates the concept of transnationalism and its significance in and for German-language literature and culture.

"Transnationalism" has become a key term in debates in the social sciences and humanities, reflecting concern with today's unprecedented flows of commodities, fashions, ideas, and people across national borders. Forced and unforced mobility, intensified cross-border economic activity due to globalization, and the rise of trans- and supranational organizations are just some of the ways in which we now live both within, across, and beyond national borders.
Literature has always been a means of border crossing and transgression-whether by tracing physical movement, reflecting processes of cultural transfer, traveling through space and time, or mapping imaginary realms. It is also becoming more and more a "moving medium" that creates a transnational space by circulating around the world, both reflecting on the reality of transnationalism and participating in it. This volume refines our understanding of transnationalism both as a contemporary reality and as a concept and an analytical tool. Engaging with the work of such writers as Christian Kracht, Ilija Trojanow, Julya Rabinowich, Charlotte Roche, Helene Hegemann, Antje Rávic Strubel, Juli Zeh, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Wolfgang Herrndorf, it builds on the excellent work that has been done in recent years on "minority" writers; German-language literature, globalization, and "world literature"; and gender and sexuality in relation to the "nation."
Publisher info

Alternative Worlds: Blue-sky Thinking since 1900, edited by Ingo Cornils and Ricarda Vidal. Oxford: Peter Lang, December 2014

In an attempt to counteract the doom and gloom of the economic crisis and the politicians’ overused dictum that ‘there is no alternative’, this interdisciplinary collection presents a number of alternative worlds that were conceived over the course of the last century. 

While change at the macro level was the focus of most of the ideological struggles of the twentieth century, the real impetus for change came from the blue-sky thinking of scientists, engineers, architects, sociologists, planners and writers, all of whom imagined alternatives to the status quo.

Following a roughly chronological order from the turn of the nineteenth century to the present, this book explores the dreams, plans and hopes as well as the nightmares and fears that are an integral part of alternative thinking in the Western hemisphere.

The alternative worlds at the centre of the individual essays can each be seen as crucial to the history of the past one hundred years. While these alternative worlds reflect their particular cultural context, they also inform historical developments in a wider sense and continue to resonate in the present. 

HFinch Witnessing, Memory, Poetics. H. G. Adler and W. G. Sebald, edited by Helen Finch and Lynn L. Wolff (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2014.)

Since 1945, authors and scholars have intensely debated what form literary fiction about the Holocaust should take. The works of H. G. Adler (1910-1988) and W. G. Sebald (1944-2001), two modernist scholar-poets who settled in England but never met, present new ways of reconceptualizing the nature of witnessing, literary testimony, and the possibility of a “poetics” after Auschwitz. Adler, a Czech Jew who survived Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, was a prolific writer of prose and poetry, but his work remained little known until Sebald, possibly the most celebrated German writer of recent years, cited it in his 2001 work, Austerlitz. Since then, a rediscovery of Adler has been under way. This volume of essays by international experts on Adler and Sebald investigates the connections between the two writers to reveal a new hybrid paradigm of writing about the Holocaust that advances our understanding of the relationship between literature, historiography, and autobiography. In doing so, the volume also reflects on the wider literary-political implications of Holocaust representation, demonstrating the shifting norms in German-language “Holocaust literature.”Contributors: Jeremy Adler, Jo Catling, Peter Filkins, Helen Finch, Frank Finlay, Kirstin Gwyer, Katrin Kohl, Michael Krüger, Martin Modlinger, Dora Osborne, Ruth Vogel-Klein, Lynn L. Wolff.

Stuart TabernerStuart Taberner. Aging and Old-Age Style in Günter Grass, Ruth Klüger, Christa Wolf, and Martin Walser The Mannerism of a Late Period. Camden House, 2013. 268 pp.

Demographers say that by the year 2060, every seventh person in Germany will be aged eighty or older, and every third person over sixty-five. The prediction for other Western countries is scarcely different. Indeed, the aging society is seen by some as a graver threat than even global warming, with potentially unmanageable tensions relating to intergenerational relationships, work and benefits, and flows of people. This book explores the representation and performance of aging in recent "late-style" German-language fiction. It situates the authors chosen as case studies -- Günter Grass, Ruth Klüger, Christa Wolf, and Martin Walser -- in their biographical and social contexts and explores the significance of their aesthetic figuring of aging for debates raging both in Germany and internationally. In particular, the book looks at gender, generations, and trauma and their impact on how writers "narrativize" aging. Finally, it examines the "timeliness" of these different representations and late-style performances of aging in the context of the shift of social, political, and economic power away from the declining societies of the West to the ascendant societies of the East.

german researchPaul Cooke, ed. The Lives of Others and Contemporary German Film. A Companion. De Gruyter, 2013. 301 pp. 

This volume offers the first book-length academic investigation of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Oscar-winning film The Lives of Others (2006). The aim of this edited collection is twofold. On one hand, it offers new insight into one of the most successful German films of the past two decades, placing The Lives of Others within its wider historical, political, aesthetic and industrial context. On the other, it offers this group of scholars, which includes leading international figures in the field, opportunity to make a series of interventions on the state of contemporary German film and German film studies.

German research

Helen Finch, Sebald's Bachelors Queer Resistance and the Unconforming Life. 152 pp. Legenda, Oxford 2013.

Why do queer bachelors and homosexual desire haunt the works of the German writer W. G. Sebald (1944-2001)? In a series of readings of Sebald’s major texts, from ‘After Nature’ to ‘Austerlitz’, Helen Finch’s pioneering study shows that alternative masculinities subvert catastrophe in Sebald’s works. From the schizophrenic poet Ernst Herbeck to the alluring shade of Kafka in Venice, the figure of the bachelor offers a form of resistance to the destructive course of history throughout Sebald’s critical and literary writing. Sebald’s poetics of homosexual desire trace a ‘line of flight’ away from the patriarchal and repressive order of German society, which, in Sebald’s view, led to the disasters of Nazism. This study shows that the potential for subversion personified by Sebald’s solitary males is essential for understanding his work, while also demonstrating the contribution that Sebald made to the German tradition of queer writing.

Cooke, Paul, German, Cinema, Leeds, Modern, Languages, ArtsPaul Cooke, Contemporary German Cinema, pp. 286, Manchester, MUP, 2012.

Professor Paul Cooke's Contemporary German Cinema examines the success of recent film production in its wider industrial, cultural and political context, blending broad overviews of recent trends with detailed examinations of key case studies. As a starting point, it explores the German film funding system and the economic place of the German industry within global film production. Subsequent chapters then look at the impact of this system on filmmakers' aesthetic choices, be it the role of realism in contemporary cinema, or the rediscovery of the Heimatfilm as a popular film genre. This is complemented by discussion of the dominant issues these films explore, from the legacies of Germany's Nazi past and post-war division, to the nation's increasingly multicultural make up, the changing age and gender demographic of cinema audiences as well as the nation's shifting relationship with the United States as both a 'real' and 'imagined' space. Cooke looks at many of the most successful films of the last two decades, including Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run, Wolfgang Becker's Good Bye, Lenin!, Hans Weingartner's The Edukators, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarchks The Lives of Others and Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall.

Sharp, Stibbe, War, Leeds, Womens, movementsIngrid Sharp and Matthew Stibb, Aftermaths of War : Women's Movements and Female Activists, 1918-1923, 434 pp Brill Academic Publishers, 2011.

Much of the recent literature on cultural demobilisation or remobilisation after the First World War has focused on men and masculinity. By contrast, this interdisciplinary volume of essays sets out to examine the importance of women’s movements and individual female activists to the shaping of post-war Europe at the private, communal, national and transnational levels. Key themes include the commemoration of the war dead; the renegotiation of gender roles; suffrage and political rights; and women’s contribution to the establishment of new visions of peace or national revenge and regeneration in the years 1918 to 1923. The eighteen chapters cover countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Western Europe, and defeated as well as victorious nations, thus allowing for a more nuanced understanding of the deep impact of the war and its aftermath on the continent as a whole. Contributors are Nikolai Vukov, Emma Schiavon, Christiane Streubel, Erika Kuhlman, Ann Rea, Ingrid Sharp, Olga Shnyrova, Fatmira Musaj and Beryl Nicholson, Christine Bard, Gabriella Hauch, Judith Szapor, Sylwia Kuźma-Markowska, Virginija Jurėnienė, Judit Acsády, Matthew Stibbe, Bruce Berglund, David Hudson and Jill Liddington.

Cornils, Literatur, Leser, GermanIngo Cornils and Sabine Wilke (Hrsg.), Zur Imagination des Fremden in der literarischen ReprÄsentation des deutschen Kolonialismus, special edition of literatur für leser, 33.Jahrgang, Nr. 4/10, Frankfurt/M., Peter Lang 2011, ISSN 0343-1657 Die relativ kurze Phase des deutschen Kolonialismus hat Konjunktur.

Historiker, Schriftsteller und Akademiker umkreisen einen Erinnerungsort, der dem vereinten Deutschland Identifikationsangebote und einen Zugang zur Debatte um die Globalisierung, aber auch Anlass zur Selbstprüfung bietet. Ursprünglich angeregt durch die im anglo-amerikanischen Raum entwickelten Postcolonial Studies entwickelte die deutsche Forschung schnell eigenes Profil, sei es die von Jürgen Zimmerer nachdrücklich vertretene These, dass die Behandlung der Nama und Herero im damaligen Deutsch-Südwestafrika den ersten Genozid in der deutschen Geschichte darstelle und damit die Grundlagen für den Holocaust gelegt habe, oder die Auseinandersetzung mit der Vielzahl von literarischen Texten, die dem deutschen Leser die koloniale Erfahrung ausmalen. Unser Themenheft knüpft an diese Diskussion an und setzt sich konkret mit der Herausforderung auseinander, der sich jeder Autor stellen muss, wenn er/sie die Perspektive des Fremden in sein Werk aufnimmt. Dabei kommen drei Autoren zu Wort, die sich schriftstellerisch mit der Darstellung der Stimmen der Anderen aus der deutschen Kolonialzeit beschÄftigt haben. Diese Texte werden ergÄnzt von literaturwissenschaftlichen BeitrÄgen, die das Thema analytisch und kritisch anhand von konkreten Einzelanalysen überprüfen.

Taberner, Stuart, German, Novel, Leeds, Literature, Faculty, ArtsStuart Taberner (ed.), The Novel in German since 1990, Cambridge CUP, 2011.

The Novel in German since 1990 presents the novel in German since 1990 through a set of close readings both of international bestsellers (including Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the World and W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz and of less familiar, but important texts (such as Yadé Kara's Selam Berlin. Each novel discussed in the volume has been chosen on account of its aesthetic quality, its impact and its representativeness; the authors featured, among them Nobel Prize winners Günter Grass, Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller demonstrate the energy and quality of contemporary writing in German.

Homewood, Cooke, German, Cinema, WorldPaul Cooke and Chris Homewood (eds.), New Directions in German Cinema, Tauris World Cinema Series, I.B. Tauris & Co., 2011.

German cinema has been undergoing a remarkable resurgence since the beginning of the new millennium. German language films have been receiving Oscar nominations, the likes of "Downfall" and "The Lives of Others" have been winning Oscars, and major international festivals have been showcasing these films. German language cinema is again attracting attention at home and this volume explores its developments since 2000. An international group of specialists on German film, society, culture, and politics together provide a wide-ranging study of this remarkable turn of fortunes. They examine just what German language film now has to offer, from the evolution of the so-called 'heritage films' which now dominate the country's mainstream and which examine Germany's problematic pasts - the Nazi, East German and terrorist legacies - to those which focus on the contemporary social reality of the Berlin Republic.