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Honorary Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of Bristol


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.

Robert has served as Germanic editor of the Modern Language Reviewhaving previously been joint editor of Austrian Studies, and he continues to co-edit the book series Studies in Modern German and Austrian Literature with Alexandra Lloyd (St Edmund Hall) and Ben Schofield (KCL). With Steve Wharton (Bath) he was for some years co-director of the South-West Consortium of the HEFCE-sponsored Routes into Languages.

Between 2014 and 2017 Robert 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 included fully funded two PhD studentships.

Before taking up the Senior Tutorship of St Hugh's, Robert was Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Bristol (from 2010) and before then, Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Teaching and Supervision

For Christ Church, Dr Vilain teaches German literature from the 18th century to the present day, particularly poetry, Modernism, Expressionism, the Weimar Republic, Mann, Brecht, Grass. He is able to supervise postgraduate research in a variety of fields in the period c. 1870-1935, and on topics in poetry beyond that period. 


Selected Publications (since 2010 only)

'Rilke and God', Oxford German Studies, 48.4 (2019), 472-93

'Rilke, Rome and the Poetics of Fountains', German Life and Letters, 72.3 (2019), 297-334

'"Herr der Heerschaaren"? Rilke und Beethoven', in Rilkes Musikalität, ed. Thomas Martinec (Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2019), pp. 83-102

‘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