My education consisted of a twelve-stretch of sin-drenched Protestantism, reinforced by institutionalized violence, and followed by three years of intense boredom at a university. My professional life began in school-teaching, working first in a rural Secondary Modern and then in an inner city Comprehensive. Both schools taught me a huge amount and both were subsequently closed. But I then had the immense good fortune to be employed for 20 years – including two years as a Humboldt Fellow at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach/Neckar – in the School of European Studies at the University of East Anglia, Norwich (founded 1964), just as the 1960s were in the process of breaking over an undefended Britain. I arrived somewhat late at UEA, so was asked to teach those areas of German, European and Comparative Literature in which none of my colleagues were interested. But in an intellectual climate that was, by today’s standards, unbelievably free and joyously creative, I rapidly learnt that almost any subject can become interesting if one finds the right direction from which to approach it. At UEA, too, I became a colleague and close friend of W. G. (“Max”) Sebald, who, during the 1990s, proved to be Germany’s foremost writer of prose fiction and a provocative critic, and would almost certainly have been a Nobel Laureate had he not died in a car crash in December 2001. In 1987 I was immensely fortunate for the second time in being elected to a Fellowship at Magdalen, where I taught German and held two very interesting College offices: Fellow Librarian 1989-92 and two three-year stints as Tutor for Graduates. I was also employed by Christchurch, another College with a tradition of excellence in Modern Languages, as the Lecturer in German. I took early retirement at the end of 2005 to work more intensively on Sebald and to help research the impact of World War One on Magdalen. We now live permanently in central France on top of a volcano which, we are assured, is extinct, visiting Greece when we can.
German Language and German Literature from 1700 to the Present Day.
The life and work of W. G. Sebald (1944-2001); European Modernism; The Historical Avant-Gardes (especially Expressionism and Dada); Literature and Politics in the Weimar Republic; Fools, Folly and the Carnivalesque; Magdalen and World War One (the Slow Dusk project, with Dr David Roberts).
Modernism – Dada – Postmodernism (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern UP, 2000).
‘Dexter – Sinister: Some Observations on Decrypting the Mors Code in the Work of W.G. Sebald’, Journal of European Studies, 35: 4 (December 2005), pp. 419-63.
‘Woods, Trees and the Spaces in between: A Report on Work Published on W. G. Sebald 2005-08’, Journal of European Studies, 39: 1 (March 2009), pp. 79-128.
‘W. G. Sebald’s Reception of Alfred Döblin’, in: Steffan Davies aand Ernest Schonfield (eds), Alfred Döblin: Paradigms of Modernism (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009), pp. 350-76.
‘The Sternheim Years: W.G. Sebald’s Lehrjahre and Theatralische Sendung 1963-75’ in: Jo Catling and Richard Hibbitt (eds), Saturn’s Moons (London: Legenda [MHRA and Maney Publishing]), 2011), pp. 42-106.
‘Primary Bibliography: An Analytical Bibliography of the Works of W.G. Sebald’, in: ibid., pp. 446-96.
‘An Index to Interviews with W. G.Sebald’, in: ibid., pp. 592-618.
‘W. G. Sebald’: A Chronology’, in: ibid., pp. 619-58.
Guest Editor, Special Issue: W. G. Sebald, Journal of European Studies, 41: 3-4 (December 2011), pp. 198-465.
(ed.), ‘Sebald’s dissertation, University of Fribourg’, ibid., pp. 209-42.
(ed. and trans.), ‘The carved wooden angels of East Anglia: Travelogue 1974’, ibid., 243-54.
(ed. and trans.), ‘Three encounters with W. G. Sebald (February 1992-July 2013): Toby Green, Susan Sontag, Jürgen Wertheimer’, Journal of European Studies, 44: 4 (December 2014), pp. 378-414.