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MA, PhD (Dublin)
Dublin born and bred my alma mater is University College Dublin where I completed all of my degrees: B.A. Int. German & French (1993); M.A. German (1995); PhD German (2002). German was always my favourite subject, partly because I had a brilliant teacher at school and partly because the German Department at UCD was outstanding. The lecturers there took a real interest in the subject but also in the individual students. I try to do the same today, as do all of my colleagues in German here at the University of Edinburgh.
After my M.A. I spent a year travelling the southern hemisphere and for a further year combined research with a role as an academic consultant to the Dublin advertising industry. This involved working closely with various European offices of the Unilever giant. It was a very interesting experience, but in the end I decided to focus fully on an academic career. Although I've been teaching at university level since 1991, my academic career proper started in 2002 when I was appointed Lecturer in the German Department UCD, a position I held until 2004 when I was awarded a two-year Irish Government (IRCHSS) Post-Doctoral Fellowship. But it was not to be. The very week I commenced my post-doc the Lectureship in German at Edinburgh was advertised - and you could say that the rest is history.
I'm delighted to have spent several years living in the German-speaking lands, absorbing the language and culture and making friends. Germany - even minus Berlin - is Europe's best kept secret. I can only recommend it. And it's so much fun being able to speak another language - a real privilege and such a great life skill.
My teaching and research interests include 20th century German-Jewish literature, post-1945 and contemporary German literature, recent German memory debates, Holocaust historiography, psychoanalysis, trauma theory, and European melancholy traditions - the subject of my second monograph. This range of interests has attracted funding from the NUI, DAAD, ÖAD, IRCHSS, Royal Irish Academy, AHRC, British Academy, and the Carnegie Foundation. Currently I am interested in boredom and laziness, two subversive topics that emerged as a significant strand of my research on melancholy.
I have published on several contemporary German writers, including W.G. Sebald, Wolfgang Hildesheimer, Peter Weiss, Günter Grass, Jenny Erpenbeck, Julia Schoch, and others. My first book (Niemeyer 2004) explores memory in the prose work of the Austro-Jewish Holocaust survivor, Albert Drach. In 2007 one of my co-edited publications German Memory Contests (Camden House 2006) won a Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award and since 2010 it has been available in paperback. My most recent monograph (forthcoming 2012) investigates the function of diverse melancholy traditions in post-1945 German literature. My next project explores the connections between literature and mental health with a particular focus on the state of mind we encounter in bored and lazy characters.
Knowledge Exchange / Impact Research Activities
In October 2011 I hosted an interdisciplinary KE event at the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival.
The theme was "Memory Dreams Sleep" in literature and film. Across a series of thematically focussed panels on topics such as nightmares, insomnia and coma, writers from Germany (Kathrin Schmidt), Switzerland (Angelika Overath) Scotland and Ireland read from and discussed their works with medical practitioners. This event arose from my interest in mental states generally, and more specifically from my research on literary melancholy and one of its key features, insomnia, which in turn connects closely to boredom and torpor.
I am interested to discuss postgraduate supervision on any of the above topics. Recent PhD supervisions include Romani writing on the Holocaust (completed 2009) and Austro-Jewish writing (completed 2010). Current supervisions include women writers and the memory of the GDR, and the politics of classical music after the Holocaust.
I am REF 2014 Unit of Assessment Coordinator for the Division of Modern European Languages and Cultures and Celtic & Scottish Studies
Postgraduate Teaching, LLC Graduate School
This article was published on Oct 30, 2012