Karolina Watroba

I’m a second-year DPhil student interested in modern literature, film, and critical theory, especially in the German-speaking countries, but researching across eight European languages and beyond. My DPhil thesis examines the cultural impact of Thomas Mann’s modernist masterpiece, his 1924 novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), beyond academic circles. I analyse the novel’s many and varied literary and cinematic afterlives, look at its place in the public imagination, and compare how readers with different degrees of academic training approach it and what they make of it: all this with an eye to illuminating, complementing and sometimes challenging the established academic ways of making sense of and talking about canonical works of art. This comparative project spans ten decades, ten languages and fifteen countries on five continents.

I grew up in Krakow, Poland, before moving to Oxford, where I graduated with a congratulatory first-class degree in Modern Languages (German) and completed a master’s degree in Modern Languages (Comparative Criticism) with distinction, both at Magdalen College. During my Year Abroad in Germany, I studied Swedish and Spanish at the Humboldt-Universität, as well as European Studies at the Studienkolleg zu Berlin, funded by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes. As a graduate student, I won Ertegun and Clarendon scholarships, joined the organising committee in the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation research programme, and became a student representative at the Modern Languages Faculty. In 2017, I was awarded the American Comparative Literature Association’s Presidential Master’s Prize for the best master’s thesis on a comparative topic; my essay was entitled ‘World Literature and Literary Value: Is “Global” the New “Lowbrow”?’ and was published in The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry in January 2018 (see here).

I’ve recently given papers on topics ranging from the cultural afterlives of Der Zauberberg to Kafka, Sartre, Guy Maddin and German Bergfilm at conferences and seminars organised by the American Comparative Literature Association, British Comparative Literature Association, Association for German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland, German Screen Studies Network, and Deutsche Thomas Mann-Gesellschaft. Over the last couple of years, I’ve taught various undergraduate classes in German language and literature at Oxford and Reading, worked as an academic mentor and the main language and literature tutor at the German UNIQ Summer School, and taught several other German and Polish classes in various outreach and access projects based at Oxford. I have also run many similar classes in Poland as a member of a Polish non-profit academic organization Collegium Invisibile.

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