My doctoral project, funded by the Clayton-Graduate Scholarship of Merton College, investigates Walter Benjamin evolving theoretical writing style of the 1920s as intercultural criticism. In the second half of the 1920s, Walter Benjamin lived in and travelled to various cultural and political centers in Europe: Berlin, Moscow, and Paris. After his return from the Soviet Union in 1927, he named his output “Neue Optik,” a kind of inverted or double perspective on Western Europe. Here, Benjamin tested the method, strategies, and style of an intercultural criticism. On the one hand, this approach takes shape in thematic reference to phenomena of transfer of knowledge and cultural practices. On the other hand, it forms through a methodical situation between cultural practices out of their ongoing alternating illumination. It is thus a critique of (nationally localized) cultures of critique. Benjamin observed, examined, and criticized forms of writing, media, and institutions as well as individual actors of intercultural mediation processes between the Soviet, German, and French spaces: propaganda cards, French travel reports on the Soviet Union, publishing and translation programs, friendship associations, academic knowledge transfer, and national literary histories, film reviews, feuilleton style landscapes, and (national) field definitions of intellectuals.
This dissertation project is based on Benjamin’s articles on cultural politics, reviews, city images, notes, and diaries. Benjamin will be examined less as an intercultural mediator, but rather as a critic of intercultural mediation processes. The methodological-political positioning of his intercultural critique or transnational optics turn into a case study on how the politicization of intellectuals intertwined with the renegotiation of cultural, political, social, and institutional practices and imaginaries of a European space. What needs to be clarified are the ways in which interculturality, political dimensions, or cultures of critique as well as imaginaries of the European interact for Benjamin and how, starting from the traces of his Moscow experiences in his critique of Surrealism, become the basis for his cultural-theoretical and historical-philosophical theorization in the 1930s.
The project was recently also affiliated to the German-Russian Research Network, Internationales Graduiertenkolleg Freiburg-Moskau ‘Kulturtransfer und “kulturelle Identität” – Deutsch-russische Kontakte im europäischen Kontext’. For the academic year 2021/22, I was a visiting researcher at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin.
In more general terms, I am interested in Philosophy and Literature in the German, Russian and French tradition of modern thought, media and art theory, studies of transnationalism and cultural transfer, and how they intersect.
Literary theory and criticism
Transfer of culture and ideas
History of the discipline: intercultural German Studies
- Thematic Focus ‘British Gereman Stduies and the Two World Wars’, in Angermion, XV, 2022 (Guest Editor with Andreas Schmid). Introduction: ‘A Discipline at War: german STudies in the UK, 1914–1945’, pp. 31–54.
- ‘Walter Benjamin and Ssofia Fedortschenko. Intercultural and Intermedial Aspects of a “Failed Transfer”’ (for the Special Issue ‘Walter Benjamin: The Journalist as Producer’), ed. by Carolin Duttlinger and Daniel Weidner, Monatshefte 115:2 2023, pp. 170–188.
- ‘Walter Benjamin in the East: Networks, Conflicts, and Reception’, in Journal of the History of Ideas Blog, published 05 Dec 2022, https://jhiblog.org/2022/12/05/walter-benjamin-in-the-east-networks-conflicts-and-reception/ (with Caroline Adler).
- ‘Modern German Studies Graduate Seminar 2020/21: German Studies at Oxford – Archives and Utopias of a Community of Practice’, in Oxford German Studies, 50.4, 2021, pp. 1–3 (with Aoife Ní Chroidhéain).
Articles in Preparation
Since 2021, I am a Board member of the International Walter Benjamin Society.
- International Conference ‘Walter Benjamin in the East: Networks, Conflicts, and Reception’, 7–9 July 2022, ZfL Berlin, Co-organiser with Caroline Adler (Berlin). Co-funded by the Oxford-Berlin Research partnership, the ZfL Berlin, and the GRK 1956 ‘Cultural Transfer and “Cultural Identity”’.
- International Lecture Series ‘German Studies in the UK’, TT 2021 (online), Co-organiser with Aoife Ní Choidchéain, Sarah Fengler, Lavinia Kamphausen, and Andreas Schmid (Oxford). Supported by the MML Faculty, Oxford.
- Symposium ‘18th annual German Graduate Symposium: Archives and Utopias’, 8 May 2021 (online), Co-organiser with Aoife Ní Choidchéain, Taylor Institution, Oxford. Funded by the MML Faculty.
- Seminar ‘German Graduate Seminar: German Studies outside Germany. Archives and Utopias of a Nationalphilologie’, MT 2020 and HT 2021 (online), Co-Organiser with Aoife Ni Chroidhéain. Funded by the German Faculty, Oxford.
- International Conference ‘4th annual MML Graduate Network Conference – Voice and Vulnerability’, 5–6 February 2021 (scheduled for June 2020, postponed due to Covid), Organiser and Academic Events Officer of the MML Graduate Network, Taylor Institution, Oxford. Funded by the MML Faculty.
‘Sylvia Naish Lecture: ‘A “Baedeker durch das geistige Paris”. Walter Benjamin’s (National) Literary Histories as Travel Guides’, Senate House, London, 28 April 2023
‘Graduate Lecture: ‘Politics of Criticism and European Imaginaries: Walter Benjamin’, Graduate Lecture Scheme, MML Oxford, HT 2022 & 2023.
Paper: ‘Moskau – Berlin – Paris: Walter Benjamin als Kritiker interkultureller Vermittlungsprozesse’, Internationale conference ‘Kulturen der Kritik und das Projekt der Moderne in Ostmitteleuropa’, Universität Düsseldorf, 12 Nov 2021
Paper: ‘The Hope for New (De)Colonial Politics of the Visible. Walter Benjamin between the French and the (Soviet)Russian Practices of Imperialism’, International Walter Benjamin conference ‘Hope’, Max-Planck Institute Berlin (online), 6 Nov 2021
Paper: ‘Kritik an (journalistischen) Netzwerken. Walter Benjamins Modellierungen russisch-französischer Verflechtungen’, Interdisciplinary Online conference ‘Netzwerke im Kulturtransfer’, 1 Oct 2021
Paper: ‘The Critique of the Communist Order. Walter Benjamin and the Soviet, the Post-Soviet’, and the Putinist Moscow, workshop ‘Working with Benjamin on Law’, ZfL Berlin (online) 16 June 2021
Paper: ‘Walter Benjamin’s ‘Avantgarde Realism’ – German and French Travel perspectives on the USSR’, 19th annual Modern German Graduate Symposium’, University of Oxford (online), 17 Oct 2020
Paper: ‘Walter Benjamins revolutionäre Räume der ‘Aktualität’ – Proletarisches Kindertheater und ‘Leib und Bildraum’’, Konferenz ‘Internationale Walter Benjamin Konferenz’, Universität Bern, 28 June 2019
Paper: ‘Franz Kafka: Das Schloss – Eine medientechnologische Perspektive’, conference ‘PRAGESTT 19’, Charles University Prague, 30 Mar 2019
Paper: ‘Umständliche Artikulation eines Interesses am Tragischen – Dostojewskis Idiot’, conference ‘Figuren des Tragischen’, ‘universitas artes liberales’ Heidelberg, 17 Feb 2017