Michael Wood (MA (Hons), MPhil, PhD)

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow


After completing both a BA in Philosophy and German and an MPhil in German at Wadham College, University of Oxford, Michael returned to Scotland in 2011 to undertake a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. His doctoral thesis explored the notion of 'democratic theatre' in a selection of works by the East German playwright, Heiner Müller (1929-1995), and his first monograph, focusing on this topic, appeared with Camden House in June 2017 as Heiner Müller's Democratic Theater: The Politics of Making the Audience Work.  After his PhD, Michael was the Susan Manning Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh, where he began his research into Walter Scott's reception of German drama, which he is continuing as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow.

He is currently working on his second monograph and has edited two volumes of essays: 'Repopulating the Eighteenth Century: Second-Tier Writing in the German Enlightenment' (with Johannes Birgfeld; Camden House, 2018); and 'Anglo-German Dramatic and Poetic Encounters: Perspectives on Exchange in the Sattelzeit' (with Sandro Jung; forthcoming with Lehigh University Press, 2019). To date, he has published articles and chapters on Walter Scott, Goethe, the Ritterdrama, Literary Historiography, Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Müller, postdramatic theatre, and contemporary performance, as well as a number of translations and book reviews.


MA (Hons) (Oxford), MPhil (Oxford), PhD (Edinburgh)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Member of Internationale Heiner-Müller-Gesellschaft (IHMG)

Member of Association for German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland (AGS)

Member of British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS)

Member of German Studies Association (GSA)

Undergraduate teaching

Dr Wood teaches German literature and German language at various levels. In terms of language, he has experience teaching both beginners and advanced learners of German and particularly in prose composition and translation. With regard to literature, he teaches a wide range of authors and topics, and delivers lectures and seminars focussing on Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Müller, and Judith Hermann.

Postgraduate teaching

Dr Wood teaches MSc seminars on so-called 'Fantastic Fiction', leading sessions which discuss works by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, and Franz Kafka.

He has taught on the MSc in Theatre and Performance Studies, on which he has led seminars on approaches to the Aristotelian Unities, Bertolt Brecht and Epic Theatre, Developments in Dialectical Theatre, Theatre Audiences, and Theatre and Censorship.

He also leads MSc and PhD research methods workshops on 'Researching Intercultural Exchange: Translation, Transmission, World Literature'.

Research summary

Dr Wood specialises in German drama, theatre, and performance. Having worked almost exclusively on recent and contemporary German-language theatre until recently, he is now focusing on German drama from Lessing to Grabbe. To date, his research has been informed by an interest in the ways in which people (lay and/or specialist) interact with theatre and the world in general, and how meaning is formed in this inteaction. Placing a particular emphasis on dramatic and theatrical form, Dr Wood studies the political and social import of text and performance by studying them against the backdrop of their political and philosophical context. To this end, Dr Wood has an active interest in theories of performativity, the dynamics of audience response and reception theory, and looking at the efficacy of theatre.

Current research interests

At present, Dr Wood is engaged in a three-year project, funded by the British Academy, entitled 'Embracing "a new mode of culture": Walter Scott and the German Dramatists'. While Walter Scott is perhaps best known for his activity as a novelist in the early nineteenth century, he spent a good part of his formative years in the 1790s reading and translating the latest dramas coming from Germany that he could get his hands on. Three of his translations appear to have vanished without a trace, but the three remaining in manuscript form demonstrate a desire on the part of the young Scott to learn and improve his German in order to be able to read and understand yet more. Indeed, Scott saw German literature as promising a renewal of literature in Britain. His interest in German drama did not, however, come to a halt in the 1790s, but continued on as Scott carried on reading plays and theoretical tracts from the German-speaking world in the German language. This project studies Scott's interaction with German drama from the 1790s onwards. Placing Scott's reception in the context of late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century discussions of German drama and of theatre and ethics in general in Britain, and particularly Edinburgh, this project illustrates that Scott was not merely interested in the medieval themes and motifs presented in many of these plays, but that he had a sustained interest in innovations in dramatic form coming from the German-speaking world. In turn, these dramatic innovations played a part in Scott's own attempts at writing plays himself and finally contributed overwhelmingly to his innovations in the structure of the novel. This project is primarily interested in the exchange of ideas between Scotland and the German-speaking world in the so-called long eighteenth century, and is envisaged as a case study of the importance of language acquisition and intercultural dialogue in the development of one's own culture and in gaining global significance.

Past research interests

Dr Wood's previous research has focused on the East German playwright and 'post-modern Brecht' Heiner Müller (1929-1995), and in particular on questions of audience engagement in a selection of his works. Taking Müller's mention of a 'democratic theatre' in 1985 as a starting point, Dr Wood studied the ways in which a selection of Müller's texts and productions throughout his career as a playwright and director (~1956-1995) were composed in a way that would allow for varying and different interpretations in audiences and in which resolutions would be complicated by further dialectical tensions. Müller's 'democratic theatre', this project found, was conceived as a way of forming a seeming democratic collective in the audience, in which no single interpretation of political reality and a performance's relation to that reality would have the upper hand over others. In conducting this research, Dr Wood combined theoretical and empirical materials relating to implied and historical theatre audiences, and undertook textual and performance analysis, as well as historical and archival research in Germany.

Knowledge exchange

2017-present: Dr Wood is currently engaged in KE and impact work based on his current research on Walter Scott and German drama. March 2018 saw the first rehearsed reading of a play by Edinburgh-based playwright Laura Witz that Dr Wood commissioned and which imagines a group of people in late-eighteenth-century Edinburgh coming together to read Scott's translation 'The Wards'. The event at the Scottish Storytelling Centre featured a Q&A; and since then, Dr Wood has given a public lecture at the Scottish Arts Club on Scott and German Drama.

2014-15: previously, Dr Wood assisted Prof. Laura Bradley on her AHRC-funded project 'Who's Watching Who?', which commissioned a play by Peter Arnott based on Prof. Bradley's research into theatre censorship in the German Democratic Republic and about which Susan Kemp made a documentary film.

Project activity

Dr Wood is currently preparing a monograph based on his resesarch into Walter Scott's reception of German drama. He has produced a few essays and articles thus far that have emerged from the earlier stages of his work. Once this project is over, he would like to reverse his perspective and begin to study questions of 'foreign' traditions, languages, and cultures in the development of seeminlgy 'German' dramatic traditions from the Baroque to the early nineteenth century.

At present, Dr Wood is co-organising a conference with Dr Julia Prest (St Andrews) on the topic of 'Configuring "World Theatre": Gaining Global Perspectives on Intercultural and Transnational Drama and Performance' to be held at the University of Edinburgh on 20-21 June 2019, partially funded by the OWRI. Dr Wood and Dr Prest hope to engage scholars from across the world to work together on pin-pointing exciting, new research questions and this conference may result in a special issue of a journal or an edited volume.

In 2017, he published a monograph arising from his doctoral research on Heiner Müller. Despite currently working on Anglo-German exchange in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Dr Wood maintains his interest in Heiner Müller and recent and contemporary German theatre, and is continuing to prepare publications, teach, and give presentations based on this research as well as on the post-Brechtian.

Current project grants

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship (2016-19), £252,899
Open World Research Initiative grant for conference organisation (2019); £2,500

Past project grants

Susan Manning Postdoctoral Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh (2015-16), £12,000
Royal Society of Edinburgh grant for symposium organisation (2016, awarded via IASH), £2,000
AHRC Studentship (2011-14), ~£13,590 + fees p.a.
IGRS Robson-Scott Travelling Scholarship for research in Berlin (2013), £300
AHRC Travel Grant for research in Berlin (2013), £200
AGS Travel Scholarship for research in Berlin (2012), £250
Wadham College Prize for Distinction in MPhil (2011), £100


(forthcoming) Organiser (with Julia Prest): ‘Configuring World Theatre: Gaining Global Perspectives on Transnational and Intercultural Drama and Performance’, University of Edinburgh (20-21 June 2019). Keynote: Osita Okagbue (Goldsmith’s) – funded by grant from AHRC Open World Research Initiative


(forthcoming) Organiser: ‘Scotland and Germany: Translation, Transmission, Adaptation. A Symposium Celebrating the Publication of Howard Gaskill’s New Translation of Hyperion’, University of Edinburgh (30 April 2019). Keynote: Howard Gaskill (Edinburgh)


Chair and organiser: ‘German Literature as/or World Literature’ panel at AGS conference, University of Bangor. Speakers: Joanna Neilly (Oxford); Rebecca Braun (Lancaster); Frauke Matthes (Edinburgh) (29-31 August 2018)


Organiser (with Sandro Jung): ‘Anglo-German Encounters with Drama and Poetry, 1760-1835’, Royal Society of Edinburgh Susan Manning Symposium, University of Edinburgh (13-14 June 2016)


Heiner Müller’s Democratic Theater: The Politics of Making the Audience Work (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2017)


Edited Volumes:

ed. with Sandro Jung, Anglo-German Dramatic and Poetic Encounters: Perspectives on Exchange in the Sattelzeit (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2019)

ed. with Johannes Birgfeld, Repopulating the Eighteenth Century: Second-Tier Writing in the German Enlightenment. Edinburgh German Yearbook 12 (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018)


Journal Articles:

(forthcoming) Tracing National Traditions Transnationally: A.W. Schlegel, Walter Scott, and Two Takes on Theatre History, ANGERMION 15 (2019)

An Elusive Manuscript of Scott's House of Aspen at the National Library of Scotland, Notes & Queries 66/2 (2019): 231-34

On Form and Feeling: German Drama and the Young Walter Scott, German Life and Letters 71/4 (2018): 395-414

Notes on a Scandal: Robison, Scott, and the Reception of Kotzebue in Scotland, Notes & Queries 65/3 (2018): 314-16

'An old friend in a foreign land': Walter Scott, Götz von Berlichingen, and Drama Between Cultures, Oxford German Studies 47/1 (2018): 5-16

‘Das Land, in dem das Proletariat [nur] genannt werden darf.' The Language of Participation in Heiner Müller’s Der Lohndrücker, Modern Language Review 109/1 (2014): 160-77


Book Chapters:

Of German Genres and Scottish Sentiments: Henry Mackenzie, Walter Scott, and the Schauspiel, in Michael Wood and Sandro Jung (eds), Anglo-German Dramatic and Poetic Encounters: Perspectives on Exchange in the Sattelzeit (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2019), pp. 69-94

Introduction: Traditions and Genres in Dialogue, in Michael Wood and Sandro Jung (eds), Anglo-German Dramatic and Poetic Encounters: Perspectives on Exchange in the Sattelzeit (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2019), pp. 1-22

Stepping Out of Götz’s Shadow: Jacob Maier, the Ritterstück, and the Historical Drama, in Michael Wood and Johannes Birgfeld (eds), Repopulating the Eighteenth Century: Second-Tier Writing in the German Enlightenment. Edinburgh German Yearbook 12 (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018), pp. 145-61

with Johannes Birgfeld, Introduction: Literary Historiography, the Canon, and the Rest, in Michael Wood and Johannes Birgfeld (eds), Repopulating the Eighteenth Century: Second-Tier Writing in the German Enlightenment. Edinburgh German Yearbook 12 (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018), pp. 1-16

A Future for the Lehrstück? Andres Veiel and Gesina Schmidt’s Der Kick and the Recycling of Form, in David Barnett and Tom Kuhn (eds), The Brecht Yearbook 41: Recycling Brecht (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018), pp. 170-85

Text, Theater, Demokratie. Zur Utopie des Zuschauerraums bei Heiner Müller, in Hans Kruschwitz (ed.), ‘Ich bin meiner Zeit voraus’: Utopie und Sinnlichkeit bei Heiner Müller (Berlin: Neofelis, 2017), pp. 307-27

‘Der macht ja keine Tricks.' Rimini Protokoll’s Der Zauberlehrling, or How to Do Things with Magic, in Johannes Birgfeld, Ulrike Garde, and Meg Mumford (eds), Rimini Protokoll Close-Up: Lektüren (Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2015), pp. 170-93

Performing the Collective: Heiner Müller’s 'Allein mit diesen Leibern' ('Alone with these Bodies') as a Piece for Postdramatic Theatre, in Karen Jürs-Munby, Jerome Carroll, and Steve Giles (eds), Postdramatic Theatre and the Political. International Perspectives on Contemporary Performance, (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 255-72


I have also written a number of book reviews on a wide range of topics (from Anglo-German exchange in the 18th and 19th centuries to contemporary theatre practice and theory), for publications including Modern Language Review, Journal of European Studies, Theatre Journal, and Modern Drama. And I have translated a number of academic essays into English for publication.