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Nicola Thomas

PhD in German Studies/Comparative Literature, Faculty of Arts

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Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

Space and place in British and German post-war poetry

Research Summary

My PhD project analyses representations of space and place in the UK, Ireland, German and Austria between 1960-75. Unexpected similarities in the 'maps' post-war poetry makes reflect changing senses of space, belonging and identity at regional, national and transnational levels and undercut traditional cultural and political cartographies. The aim of this project is therefore to trace developments how post-war poetry represents space, place and landscape, locate these representations in their literary and historical context and examine similarities and differences between the two language areas.

Writers in both English and German have, for example, both engaged with ideas of geology and archaeology, using spatial metaphors to explore and extend the communicative possibilities of poetry. Others have depicted the natural world and landscape as a counterpoint to politically divided nations (Germany and Ireland), explored alternative forms of spatial identity which transgress or transcend the nation state, or experimented with form as a means of reflecting their experiences of space in late Modernism.

Research questions cover the following areas:

  • How do German and English-speaking poets of the time (especially J. H Prynne and Paul Celan) 'excavate' the heritage of language in response to the difficulties of writing within a mainstream linguistic tradition associated with nation-statehood?
  • What is the impact of political and geographical division (i.e. between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland; the FRG and GDR) on writing about place, especially in the work of Derek Mahon and Sarah Kirsch?
  • How do Edwin Morgan and Ernst Jandl explore space and place through experimentation with play and form in their work?

Research Interests

Twentieth and twenty-first century poetry; landscape, space and place; literary geography; comparative literature.

Research Supervisors

Primary Funding Source

Arts and Humanities Research Council

Research Institutes, Centres and Research Clusters Memberships

Additional Information

Academic distinctions

  • British Comparative Literature Association Arthur Terry Postgraduate Essay Prize - Second Place (2014)

Teaching experience

  • Seminar tutor for Introduction to German Studies (Level 1) - Winter semester 2015/6
  • Seminar tutor for Reading German Literature 1 (Level 1) - Winter semester 2013/4, Winter semester 2014/5
  • Tutor for German Language 2 (Level 2) - Summer semester 2013

Conference papers

  • 'Negotiating 'home' in the work of Derek Mahon and Sarah Kirsch'. Association of German Studies annual conference. 2 September 2015
  • 'Public space and power in Ernst Jandl's 'wien: heldenplatz' and Edwin Morgan's 'The Starlings in George Square'. DAAD Postgraduate Summer School 2015, University of Oxford. 2-7 July 2015
  • 'Situating Ulrike Almut Sandig's Poetry'. Ulrike Almut Sandig: Writer in Residence Symposium. University of Nottingham. 27 February 2015
  • 'Radical Mundanity in Derek Mahon and Sarah Kirsch'. DAAD Postgraduate Summer School 2014, University of Manchester. 1-5 July 2014
  • 'Meridians: The Poem as a Place of Encounter in J. H. Prynne and Paul Celan'. UCL Society for Comparative Cultural Inquiry conference, 'Distance and Proximity. 26 June 2014
  • 'Expansion, Excavation and Enclosure in J. H. Prynne and Paul Celan'. National Postgraduate Colloquium in German Studies, 27 March 2014

Administrative experience

  • Postgraduate representative for German, 2013/14 and 2014/15
  • Chair of the Postgraduate Learning Community Forum for the School of Cultures, Language and Area Studies 2013/14 and 2014/15
  • Initiated project to organise a Postgraduate Symposium for all postgraduates in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (April 2015)
  • Co-organised Writer in Residence project - Ulrike Almut Sandig (25-26 February 2015)
  • Conference volunteer at the Contemporary Austrian Literature, Film and Culture (CALFAC) conference (2015)
  • Assisted with organisation of DAAD Summer School in July 2013 and Domestic Imaginaries Conference, University of Nottingham, January 2014

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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