Biosketch

I’m an academic working in the section for Germanic Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sheffield, and a Member of the University Senate. As a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow in Sheffield, my emphasis is on research activity. I’m a BBC New Generation Thinker 2016 (run together with the AHRC), and in 2016 I was also elected Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. I’m on the executive board of the Association of German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland, and within my department at Sheffield I’m the lead for Public Engagement and Impact.

I was a Visiting Fellow at the Forschungszentrum für Klassische Deutsche Philosophie in Bochum in 2014, after which I took up a lectureship in German Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Bern, Switzerland. I have a DPhil from the University of Oxford, as well as an MSt. with Distinction in Modern European Literature, and a BA in Modern Languages and Linguistics (Congratulatory First Class Honours, with Distinction in Spoken German). 

The Enlightenment, in Germany and elsewhere, embraced eclecticism. Playful interpretation of texts is important, otherwise there is the risk of becoming a pedant. Johann Georg Schlosser warns us of this pitfall in his 1787 text, Über Pedanterie und Pedanten, als eine Warnung für die Gelehrten des XVIII. Jahrhunderts (‘On Pedantry and Pedants as a Warning for the Scholars of the 18th Century’). Schlosser understands pedantry as a social problem that extends beyond scholarship; it is the inability to comprehend ‘den Spielraum der Weisheit, welches ist die Grazie des Lebens’, or ‘wisdom’s room for play, the grace of life’. So in my academic work, I am interested in the playful, marginal and apparently trivial, which turns out to be significant; and my research in this regard has moved towards cultural criticism.

I value the internationalization of academia. As well as Switzerland, I have also lived, studied and worked in Germany (Freiburg and Trier, as well as Bochum), the Netherlands (Amsterdam), and the US (San Francisco Bay Area). I think academic Wanderjahre are important, and so I was Swiss Mobility coordinator at Bern (exchanges within Europe, formerly Erasmus, and worldwide). I have set up an exchange between Sheffield and Bern.

My greatest ambition is to own a Dachshund called Ludwig. As Jean Paul Richter writes, ‘ich kann stundenlang mit (Spitz)hunden reden, wie Yorick mit Eseln.’ (‘I can talk for hours on end to German Spitz dogs, as Yorick can to donkeys’ – a reference to Laurence Sterne.)

Post: Germanic Studies, School of Languages and Cultures
Jessop West, 1 Upper Hanover Street, Sheffield S3 7RA, UK