I’m an academic working in the section for Germanic Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sheffield. As a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, my post has a special emphasis on research activity. I’m a BBC New Generation Thinker 2016 (run together with the AHRC). I studied in Oxford, Trier and Berkeley; following my DPhil thesis at Oxford, I was a visiting researcher at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, before taking up a lectureship in German Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Bern, Switzerland.
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. My work in this regard has shifted from close readings of texts to broader cultural criticism, from the eighteenth century to the present day.
My greatest ambition is to own a Dachshund called Ludwig.