Professor Robert Vilain

MA, DPhil

College Lecturer, Christ Church
Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of Bristol (School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol, 17 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1TE)


Robert Vilain specializes in German, Austrian, French and Comparative Literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a special interest in lyric poetry. He has published widely on authors such as Hofmannsthal, George, Rilke, Yvan and Claire Goll, Thomas Mann, on Franco-German literary relations, detective fiction and the relationship of literature to music and the visual arts.

Professor Vilain was until recently Germanic editor of the Modern Language Review (from October 2013, having previously been joint editor of Austrian Studies from 2003 to 2010) and co-edits the book series Studies in Modern German and Austrian Literature with Alexandra Lloyd (St Edmund Hall) and Ben Schofield (KCL). With Dr Steve Wharton (Bath) he was co-director of the South-West Consortium of the HEFCE-sponsored Routes into Languages.

Between 2014 and 2017 Professor Vilain was one of three investigators (with Professor Andrew Webber, Cambridge, and Dr Judith Beniston, UCL) on a major AHRC-funded project supporting a Digital Critical Edition of the Middle-Period Works of Arthur Schnitzler, to be hosted on the Cambridge University Library website. This project and a further collaboration with the British Library on the Stefan Zweig archive have fully funded two PhD studentships.


German literature from the 18th century to the present day, particularly poetry, Modernism, Expressionism, the Weimar Republic, Mann, Brecht, Grass. Professor Vilain does not supervise postgraduate students for the University of Oxford but welcomes applications from potential research students for places in Bristol.

Selected Publications (since 2004 only)

‘Hofmannsthal und das “Dritte Reich”: Rezeption und fiktive Historie’, in “Als Schweizer bin ich neutral”: Schoecks Oper Das Schloss Dürande und ihr Umfeld, ed. Thomas Gartmann and Simeon Thompson, with Daniel Allenbach (Schliengen: Argus, 2018), pp. 267-85

‘A Poem, a Dancer and a Painting: Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Spanische Tänzerin”’, German Life and Letters, 70.3 (2017), 300-13

‘Rilkes “Bezug zu Gott”’, Blätter der Rilke-Gesellschaft, 33 (2016), 163-76

Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, trans. with an introduction and notes by Robert Vilain, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford University Press, 2016).

‘The Death of Expressionism: Yvan Goll (1891–1950)’, Oxford German Studies, 42.1 (2013), 96–109

‘“Bruno’s pyre and Einstein’s time”: Atom-Poetik in Yvan Golls später Lyrik’, in Poetiken des Auf- und Umbruchs, edd. Dagmar von Hoff, Monika Szczepaniak, Lena Wetenkamp, LiteraturFilm, 6 (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 2013), pp. 63–83

‘Serious Games: Gerhard Rühm’s dokumentarische sonette (1969)’, Modern Language Review, 107.4 (2012), 1161-87

Faust, Part I and France: Stapfer’s Translation, Delacroix’s Lithographs and Goethe’s Responses’, PEGS, 81.2 (2012), 73-135

Editor, Rainer Maria Rilke, Selected Poems, translated by Susan Ranson and Marielle Sutherland (OUP, 2011)

‘Losses in Translation? French and English Versions of Der Schwierige’, in The Nameable and the Unnameable. Hofmannsthal’s “Der Schwierige” Revisited, ed. Martin Liebscher, Christophe Fricker, and Robert von Dassanowsky (Munich: Iudicium, 2011), pp. 150-67

Editor, with Karen Leeder, The Cambridge Companion to Rilke (CUP, 2010)

Editor, with Karen Leeder, Nach Duino: Studien zu Rainer Maria Rilkes späten Gedichten (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2010)

‘Tragedy and the Apostle of Beauty: The Early Literary Reception of Oscar Wilde in Germany and Austria’, in The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, ed. Stefano-Maria Evangelista (London & New York: Continuum, 2010), pp. 173-88

‘Trakl and Symbolism’, in Martin Liebscher, Ben Schofield and Godela Weiss-Sussex (eds), The Racehorse of Genius: Literary and Cultural Comparisons, London German Studies, 12 (Munich: Iudicium, 2009), pp. 83-101

‘An Englishman Abroad: Literature, Politics and Sex in John Lehmann’s Writings on Vienna in the 1930s’, in Deborah Holmes and Lisa Silverman (eds), Interwar Vienna (Rochester NY: Camden House, 2009), pp. 246-66

‘Images of Optimism? Illustrated Editions of Voltaire’s Candide in the Context of the First World War’, Oxford German Studies, 37.2 (2008), 227-56

‘ “Maske des Lächelns”: Voltaire und der deutsche Expressionismus’, in Frankreich und der deutsche Expressionismus / France and German Expressionism, ed. Frank Krause (Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2008), pp. 115-40

‘“Le style, c’est le diable”: German Poetry in Dialogue with Paul Valéry’, German Life and Letters, 60.3 (2007), 298-314

With Andreas Kramer, Yvan Goll: A Bibliography of the Primary Works, British and Irish Studies in German Language and Literature, 26 (Berne, etc.: Lang, 2006)

‘Stefan George: Early Works 1890-1895’, in A Companion to the Works of Stefan George, ed. Jens Rieckmann (Columbia: Camden House, 2005), pp. 51-77

‘The “Pierrot Lunaire” poems by Giraud and Hartleben and Schoenberg’s Selections: Random Collections or Cycles?’, in Pierrot Lunaire: Albert Giraud, Otto Erich Hartleben, Arnold Schoenberg: Une Collection D’Etudes Musico-Littéraires, ed. Mark Delaere & Jan Herman (Louvain: Peeters, 2004), 127-44

‘Hofmannsthal and Celan’, Austrian Studies, 12 (2004), 172-95


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