Prof K. J. Leeder

Karen J. Leeder, M.A., D.Phil.
Professor of Modern German Literature, Fellow of New College

Associate Head of Humanities Division (Education)



Karen Leeder has published widely on modern German culture, especially of the post-1945 and contemporary periods; her interests range from poetry and the poetic tradition to modernity, GDR literature; contemporary German culture, lateness, women’s writing, angels, spectres, translation, Rilke and Brecht. She has been awarded grants by HEFCE, the British Academy and the AHRC for projects, most recently an AHRC Fellowship to work on her Spectres of the GDR: The Haunting of the Berlin Republic.
She is a prize-winning translator of contemporary German literature: including Evelyn Schlag, Raoul Schrott, Michael Krüger, Durs Grünbein, Volker Braun and has been awarded residences in UK and Berlin. Most recnelty she won the English PEN award and an American PEN/Heim award for her work on Ulrike Almut Sandig, Thick of it. She is co-editor of the Companions to Contemporary German Culture series with de Gruyter, is on the board of a number of journals including International Brecht Society Yearbook, OGS, German Monitor and The German Quarterly and has published reviews in a variety of newspapers and journals as well as appearing regularly on radio and television. She was TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow with the Southbank Centre, London (2014-2015) and keeps up work especially with MPT and Poet in the City on her project Mediaiting Modern Poetry:



Professor Leeder teaches a range of options for the German degree, including contemporary literature; post-1945 poetry, GDR literature, Brecht, Rilke, Grass, Sebald, Christa Wolf and translation.
Graduate Teaching
She has supervised graduate students working in numerous areas of German literature and cultural history, including the GDR novel, poetry and German Unification; representations of the body in contemporary women’s writing, pop literature, Heiner Müller, Günter Grass, and ‘growing up in the Third Reich’ and welcomes graduates with an interest in modern poetry, the GDR, translation, comparative literature, contemporary German literature, lateness, spectres, poetry, Rilke, Brecht.



Editor, Rereading East Germany: The Literature and Film of the GDR (Cambridge: CUP, 2016)

Editor, Figuring Lateness in Modern German Culture, special edition of New German Critique, 42.1, 125, (2015)

Editor, with Michael Eskin and Christopher Young], Durs Grünbein: A Companion (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2013)

Editor, with Laura Bradley, Brecht & the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity, Edinburgh German Yearbook, vol. 5 (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2011),

Editor, with Robert Vilain, Nach Duino: Studien zu Rainer Maria Rilkes späten Gedichten (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2009)

Editor, with Robert Vilain, The Cambridge Companion to Rilke (Cambridge: CUP, 2009)

Editor, From Stasiland to Ostalgie. The GDR Twenty Years After, A special edition of Oxford German Studies, OGS, 38.3 (Oxford, 2009)

Editor, Flaschenpost: German Poetry and the Long Twentieth Century, Special Edition of German Life and Letters (GLL, LX, No. 3, 2007)

Editor, Schaltstelle: Neue deutsche Lyrik im Dialog, German Monitor 69 (Amsterdam, Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 2007)

Editor, with Erdmut Wizisla, O Chicago! O Widerspruch!: Ein Hundert Gedichte auf Brecht (Berlin: Transit, 2006)

Editor, with Tom Kuhn, Empedocles’ Shoe: Essays on Brecht’s poetry (London: Methuen, 2002)

With Tom Kuhn, The Young Brecht (London: Libris, 1992, paperback 1996)

Breaking Boundaries: A New Generation of Poets in the GDR (OUP, 1996).

Selected Translations

Michael Krüger, Last Day of the Year: Selected Poems, trans. by Karen Leeder (New York: Sheep Meadow Press, October 2014)

Volker Braun, Rubble Flora: Selected Poems, trans. by David Constantine and Karen Leeder (Calcutta, London, New York: Seagull Books September 2014). Commended for Popescu Poetry Translation Prize 2015.

Wilhelm Schmid, High on Low: Harnessing the Power of Unhappiness, trans. by Karen Leeder (New York: Upper West Side Philosophers Press, 2014). Winner of Independent Publisher Book Award for Self Help (2015), Named Finalist for a Next Generation Indie Book Award for Self Help (2015); Gold Medal and Winner of Living Now book Award (2015)

Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Fatal Numbers: Why count on Chance?, trans. by Karen Leeder (New York: Upper West Side Philosophers Press, 2011).Shortlisted for National Book Critics Circle Award 2011.

Ed. After Brecht: A Celebration (Manchester: Carcanet, 2006).

Evelyn Schlag, Selected Poems, ed. and trans. by Karen Leeder (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2004). Winner of Schlegel Tieck Prize for Translation 2005.

Raoul Schrott, The Desert of Lop, trans. Karen Leeder (London: Macmillan Picador, 2004).

Michael Krüger, Scenes from the Life of a Best-selling Author, trans. Karen Leeder (London: Harvill press, 2002; pbk. Vintage 2004).


Selected Articles

‘“Anachronism”: Michael Hamburger and the Time and Place of Late Work’, in Gordon MacMullan and Sam Smiles (eds.), Late Style and its Discontents: Biography, Epoch and Modernity in Art, Literature and Music (Oxford: OUP, 2016), pp. 174-187.

‘After Images – Afterlives: Remembering the GDR in the Berlin Republic’, in Rereading East Germany: The Literature and Film of the GDR (Cambridge: CUP, 2016), pp. 214-237.

‘Figuring Lateness in Modern German Culture’, in Karen Leeder, ed., Figuring Lateness in Modern German Culture, special edition of New German Critique, 125, (2015), 1-29.  

‘German Poetry of the First World War’, Requiem: The Great War, Agenda 48, Nos 3-4 (November, 2014), pp. 171-178.

‘“Argo Cargo”: The Role of the Classical Past in Contemporary German Poetry’, in Barbara Köhler: Niemands Frau, ed. by Georgina Paul, German Monitor 78 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013), pp. 19-50

‘Durs Grünbein and the Poetry of Science’, in Durs Grünbein: A Companion, ed. by Michael Eskin, Karen Leeder, Christopher Young (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 67-94

‘“Das Gen des Todes”: Altersstil, Spätstil und Spätsein bei Gottfried Benn’, in Benn Forum. Beiträge zur literarischen Moderne, Bd. 3 (2012/2013), ed. by Joachim Dyck, Hermann Korte, Nadine Jessica Schmidt (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 2013, 193-211

‘“Nihilimus und Musik”: Gottfried Benn (1886-1956) – The Unlikely Expressionist’, Oxford German Studies (special edition on Expressionism, ed. by Ritchie Robertson) 42.1 (2013), 23-37

‘“After the Massacre of Illusions”: Specters of the GDR in the work of Volker Braun’, in Transformations of German Cultural Identity 1989-2009, ed. by Anne Fuchs and Kathleen James Chakraborty, special edition of New German Critique no 116 (Spring 2012), 103-118

‘‘“Vielleicht habe ich sozusagen einen dichterischen Kopf”: Karen Leeder im Gespräch mit Michael Krüger’, in Michael Krüger: Eine Einführung, ed. by Carmine Chillieno (Dresden: Thelem Universitätsverlag, 2012), pp. 233-252 (reprint from 2007).

‘Lateness and Late Style in Brecht’s last poetry’, in Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity, ed. Laura Bradley and Karen Leeder, Edinburgh German Yearbook, 5 (2011), 45-64

‘Dances of Death: A last Literature from the GDR’, in Twenty Years On: Competing Memories of the GDR in Post-Unification German Culture, ed. by Renate Rechtien and Dennis Tate (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2011), pp.187-202

‘“Nachleben”: Volker Braun and The Death and Afterlife of the GDR, in The GDR Between Conformism and Subversion, ed. by Pól O’Dochartaigh, special number of German Life and Letters, GLL, 3/2010, 265-279

‘“In his own time”: Michael Hamburger’s Lateness’, in From Charlottenburg to Middleton. Michael Hamburger (1924-2007). Poet, Translator, Critic, ed. by Joyce Crick, Martin Liebscher and Martin Swales (Munich: Iudicium, 2010), pp. 13-40

‘Ingeborg Bachmann as poet and myth: a case study in cultural impact’, in Cultural Impact in the German Context: Studies in Transmission, Reception and Influence, ed. by Rebecca Braun and Lyn Marven (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2010), pp. 368-394

‘“Totentänze”: Volker Braun’s Late Poems – Postscript on the End of Utopia’, in Dislocation and Reorientation: Exile, Division and the End of Communism in German Culture and Politics, ed. Pól O’Dochartaigh, Axel Goodbody and Dennis Tate, Festschrift in honour of Ian Wallace (Amsterdam – New York, Rodopi, 2009), pp. 33-46

‘Rilke’s Legacy in the English-Speaking World’, in Cambridge Companion to Rilke, ed. by Karen Leeder and Robert Vilain (Cambridge: CUP, 2009), pp.189-203

‘Raoul Schrott’, for Kindlers Literatur Lexikon (KLL), ed. by Heinz Ludwig Arnold, 3. völlig neue bearbeitete Auflage (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2009)

‘Günter Grass as Poet’, in The Cambridge Companion to Günter Grass, Stuart Taberner (Cambridge: CUP, 2009)

‘Heimat in der neuen deutschen Lyrik’, in Gedächtnis und Identität: Die deutsche Literatur nach der Vereinigung. Bilanz und Perspektiven, Fabrizio Cambi (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2008)

‘The Desire of the Angel: Myth, Message and Metaphor in Contemporary German Literature and Film’, in Third Agents: Secret Protagonists of the Modern Imagination, ed. Ian Cooper, Ekkehard Knorer and Bernhard Malkmus (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), 214-228

‘Günter Grass’s Lateness: Reading Grass with Adorno and Said’, in Changing the Nation: Günter Grass in International Perspective, ed. Rebecca Braun Frank Brunsen and (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2008), 49-66

‘“Eine Grammatik der Liebe”. Ulrike Draesners Lyrik’, in Familien – Geschlechter – Macht: Beziehungen im Werk Ulrike Draesners, ed. Stephanie Catani and Friedhelm Marx (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2008), 37-60

‘Des toten Dichters gedenkend: Remembering Brecht in Contemporary German Poetry’, in Verwische die Spuren. Bertolt Brecht’s Work and Legacy, ed. Robert Gillett and Godela Weiss-Sussex (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2008), 277-293

‘“Nachwort zu Brechts Tod”: The Afterlife of a Classic in Modern German Poetry’, Brecht und der Tod / Brecht and Death, ed. by Jürgen Hillersheim, Matthias Mayer, and Stephen Brockmann = special edition of Brecht Yearbook / Brecht Jahrbuch, 32 (2007), 333-354

‘Sarah Kirsch’, in Deutschsprachige Lyriker des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts, ed. Ursula Heukenkap and Peter Geist (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2007), 249-560

‘Die Poesie der Wissenschaft und die Wissenschaft der Poesie. Das Gedicht im Labor des 20. Jarhunderts’, in Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik, ed. Georg Baumgart, Theo Elm, Christine Maillard (Bern: Lang, 2007), Band 7, 437-445

‘”Cold media”: The science of poetry and the poetry of science’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 30.4 (2005), 301-311

‘Principles of Correspondence: Scientist, Explorer, Poet in the work of Raoul Schrott’, in Blueprints for No-Man’s Land: Connections in Contemporary Austrian Culture, ed. Janet Stuart and Simon Ward (Frankfurt: Lang, 2005), 173-189

‘”spritzende brocken: der erinnerung / versteht sich”: Thomas Kling’s poetry of memory’, Literary Reflections of Modern War, a special edition of Forum for Modern Language Studies, ed. by Nicolas Martin, 41.2 (2005), 174-186

‘Another Piece of the Past: Stories of a New German Identity’, Oxford German Studies, special number for T.J. Reed, 33 (2004), 25-147

‘“Augenblick ohne Zeitmaß”: Translation and its tropes in the work of Evelyn Schlag’, in Evelyn Schlag: Readings of Text, ed. Beverley Driver Eddy (Bern and New York: Lang, 2004), 153-170

‘“Time, Love and Literature!”: The Work of Elegy in the Poetry of Evelyn Schlag’, Austrian Studies (The Austrian Lyric), 12 (2004), 231-248

‘“rhythmische historia”: Contemporary poems of the First World War by Thomas Kling and Raoul Schrott’, in Cultural Memory and Historical Consciousness in the German-speaking world since 1500, ed. Christian Emden and David Midgely (Fankfurt: Peter Lang, 2004), 281-305

‘The “poeta doctus” and the new German literature’, special edition of The Germanic Review, ed. by Michael Eskin, Vol. 77.1 (2002), 51-67.

‘Glücklose Engel: Fictions of German History and The End of the German Democratic Republic’, in Recasting German Identity: Culture, Politics and Literature in the Berlin Republic, ed. by Francis Finlay and Stuart Taberner (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2002), 99-109

‘“After Brecht”: The reception of Brecht’s poetry in English’, in Empedocles’ Shoe: Essays on Brecht’s poetry, ed. Tom Kuhn and Karen Leeder (London: Methuen, 2002), 231-256

‘”Erkenntnistheoretische Maschinen”: Questions of the sublime in Raoul Schrott’,  Emerging writers in German, German Life and Letters, ed. by Stuart Taberner and Francis Finlay, 55: 2 (2002), 51-67

‘Vom Unbehagen in der Einheit: Autobiographical writing by women after 1989’, in Autobiography by Women in German, ed. by Mererid Puw Davies, Beth Linklater and Gisela Shaw (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2000), 249-272.

‘Two-way Mirrors: The Possibilities of the Subject in the poetry of Barbara Köhler’, in Entgegenkommen: Dialogues with Barbara Köhler, ed. Georgina Paul and Helmut Schmitz (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), 63-92

‘Those born later read Brecht: The reception of Brecht’s “An die Nachgeborenen”’, in Brecht’s Poetry of Political Exile, ed. Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: CUP, 2000), 211-240.

‘Post-1945 Women’s Poetry in East and West’, in A History of Women’s Writing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, ed. Jo Catling (Cambridge: CUP, 1999), 200-215

‘”B.B.s spät gedenkend”: Reading Brecht in the 1980s and 1990s’, in Brecht 100<=>2000, = special edition of Brecht Yearbook, ed. by John Rouse, Marc Silberman, Florian Vaßen, 24 (1999), 111-129

‘Modern German Poetry’, in Cambridge Companion to Modern German Culture, ed. by Eva Kolinsky and Wilfried van der Will (Cambridge: CUP, 1998), 193-212

‘The Ninth Elegy’, in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies: Cambridge Readings, ed. Roger Paulin and Peter Hutchinson (London and Riverside, CA: Duckworth and Ariadne Press, 1996), 152-70

‘”ich fühle mich in grenzen wohl”: The metaphors of boundary and the boundaries of metaphor in Prenzlauer Berg’, in Prenzlauer Berg: Bohemia in East Berlin?, ed. Philip Brady and Ian Wallace, German Monitor (Amsterdam, Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1995), 20-44

‘”Dunkles zu sagen”: Die Sprache der Liebe in der Lyrik Ingeborg Bachmanns’, in Kritische Landnahme: Ingeborg Bachmanns Werke in der Rezeption der 90er Jahre, ed. Robert Pichl and Alexander Stillmark (Wien: Hora, 1994), 11-21

‘”eine abstellhalle des authentischen”: Postmodernism and Poetry in the New Germany’, in The Individual, Identity and Innovation: Signals from Contemporary Literature and the New Germany, ed. Athur Williams and Stuart Parkes (Frankfurt/M.: Peter Lang, 1993), 201-220.

‘Towards a profane Hölderlin: Representations and revisions of Hölderlin in some GDR poetry’, in Neue Ansichten: The Reception of Romanticism in the Literature of the GDR, ed. by Howard Gaskill, Karin McPherson and Andrew Barker (GDR Monitor No.6) (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990), pp.212-231.











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