What’s involved in editing a scholarly yearbook?

We talk to British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Michael Wood about the latest volume of the Edinburgh German Yearbook.

Established, commissioned, and edited by colleagues in German at the University of Edinburgh (UoE), the Edinburgh German Yearbook encourages and shares open discussion on a range of themes, but with particular interest in problems arising out of politics and history.

Photo of Michael with the yearbook
Dr Michael Wood and Edinburgh German Yearbook 12

Aiming to showcase Edinburgh as a centre for innovative research in German Studies, the Yearbook was founded in 2007 by Sarah Colvin, then Eudo Mason Chair of German at Edinburgh, now Schröder Professor of German at the University of Cambridge.

In 12 years, the Yearbook has covered a wide range of timely topics such as the cultural legacy of National Socialism and the GDR, Brecht, gender, ethics, disability, melancholy, archive and memory, and love.

Together with Dr Johannes Birgfeld (Universität des Saarlandes), Dr Michael Wood (UoE) has co-edited Edinburgh German Yearbook 12 on the theme of ‘Repopulating the Eighteenth Century: Second-Tier Writing in the German Enlightenment’.

Recognising a pattern

Asked how he got involved in editing the Yearbook, and choosing the theme, Michael explains: “When I was putting together my application to the British Academy, it was suggested to me as something I might consider doing, and that I would have free rein (well, within reason) to decide on a topic.”

“My research had recently shifted focus from late-twentieth-century and contemporary German theatre and performance to studying Anglo-German literary exchange in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As I was working on things, it occurred to me that this was a period populated with so many figures now forgotten by literary history who were - in some cases very bizarrely - cropping up in my research as pivotal in how British people at the time were receiving German literature and thinking of German culture.”

“I started to recognise a pattern in which literary historiography seemed to be erasing many of the names that would have topped the bestseller charts of the day (had such a thing existed at the time)! Once I settled on working on a topic to do with seemingly forgotten writers in the eighteenth century, I instantly knew with whom I wanted to work; Johannes and I formulated an abstract and a set of questions we wanted to address and got to work commissioning contributions.”

The editorial process

“The process itself was really smooth and made ever so straightforward by receiving very helpful guidance from the Editorial Director at Boydell & Brewer / Camden House, Jim Walker.”

“After editing the pieces, we found external reviewers who provided further feedback, helping to make the essays even more robust. And in the end, we’ve produced a book that - we think, at least - provides new, intriguing insights into poetry, the development of the novel, theatrical genres, and forms and circles of philosophy and criticism, all of which took massive leaps in the century in question.”

“By looking at figures and works traditionally cast aside by literary history, we hope to have posed some new questions about the literary and cultural life of the German Enlightenment."

"In all, working with a set of scholars who really know their stuff and are receptive to comments and feedback is a joy. A colleague advised me before I took this on that I should find a co-editor whom I trusted and whose work and ethos I respected. For me, Johannes was the first person to come to mind; and at this end of the process, I’d give the same advice to anyone about to embark on a similar project!”

What’s next?

“While working on this volume of the Edinburgh German Yearbook, I was also busy putting together (amongst many other things!) another volume, entitled Anglo-German Dramatic and Poetic Encounters: Perspectives on Exchange in the Sattelzeit, which is coming out in May 2019.”

“This is another volume of essays, for which I was joined by Sandro Jung as co-editor, and it’s based on a conference that we put on in June 2016 when I was finishing up my Susan Manning Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH). In it, you’ll find eight really substantial essays all set up with an introduction by yours truly; and it tries to re-assert the significance of drama and poetry in intercultural transfer as well as using drama and poetry to re-think some of the ways in which different cultures come into contact with each other.”

“Putting Anglo-German Dramatic and Poetic Encounters together was a very different experience to working on the Edinburgh German Yearbook. But, once again, it was just a joy to work with a team of excellent, thoughtful, and patient authors and with a great team at Lehigh UP and Rowman & Littlefield.”

“I can’t wait to have it in my hands, as it’s been so long in gestation. And I do hope it’s good! If the manuscript reviews we’ve had so far are anything to go by, it should hopefully go down well…”

A colleague advised me before I took this on that I should find a co-editor whom I trusted and whose work and ethos I respected. For me, Johannes was the first person to come to mind.

Dr Michael Wood

Michael is speaking in our German Seminar Series on 27th March 2019 and helping to organise two forthcoming events: a symposium on Germany and Scotland (April) and a major two-day conference on Configuring World Theatre (June)

Find out more about upcoming events in German

Volume 13 of the Edinburgh German Yearbook is currently in progress. It will be entitled 'Music in Politics / Politics in Music', and the editors are Dr Siobhán Donovan and Dr Maria Euchner.

Are you interested in studying German at Edinburgh?

You can take German as a single honours undergraduate degree, jointly with one of a wide range of other subjects, as part of an interdisciplinary masters degree - such as Translation Studies or Comparative Literature - or as an MSc by Research or PhD.

Find out more about German at Edinburgh

Related links

Browse the Edinburgh German Yearbook archive