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Professor Jeremy Adler

Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow

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Jeremy Adler studied English and German at Queen Mary College (University of London) with sociology (at Cologne). After some years teaching at Westfield College he was awarded a personal chair at Queen Mary where he founded the Centre for European Studies. He then became Head of Department of German and Associate Head of School at King's College London, transforming the Department into one of the largest in the country and with interests covering more aspects of German culture that any other university including language, literature, history, film, sociology, linguistics, and philosophy. Under his stewardship the Department was consistently rated the best in the UK. He served on numerous committees of the University of London, including the Senate. As Associate Head of School the projects he helped to pioneer included the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of Film, and the School of Social Sciences.

As a creative writer, Jeremy Adler was the only British member of the Bielefeld Colloquium of New Poetry, and his works is represented in numerous public collections, including Tate, The British Library, The Getty, Princeton University Library, the Beinecke Library, the Sackner Archive at the University of Iowa and the Lilly Library, Indiana University in Bloomington. His papers and rare books are held in the Archive at KCL. See

He is a sometime Fellow of the Ducal Library, Wolfenbuttel and of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Berlin. He has belonged to the Austrian PEN Club since 1989. He acted as Joint Honorary Secretary of the English Goethe Society and co-editor of The Publications of the English Goethe Society for 17 years and as a Council Member of the International Goethe Society for eight years. . He was the Founding Chairman of the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, and was responsible for establishing the charity. Among his work in public engagement he reported on the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution and has regularly written on Brexit in the German pressHe is currently on the International Board of the Gesellschaft für Exilforschung in Vienna and on the Research Committee of the Freies Deutsches Hochstift, Frankfurt. Since 2005 he has been a member of the German Academy of Language and Literature.

For more details, please see his full research profile

Research interests 

  • Comparative Literature
  • Goethe
  • Literature and Law
  • Literature and Politics
  • Literature and Science
  • Literature and Philosophy
  • Representations of the Holocaust
  • Exile Studies
  • Experimental Literature

Jeremy Adler is chiefly concerned with Comparative Studies. He focuses on the interface between literature and ideas in relation to major political events. Areas that he has examined include the history of the idea of Europe, the concept of the masses, the philosophical origins of Brexit, the sociology of persecution, the role of international law in western culture, and the development of the idea of human dignity from the early modern period to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and German Basic Law. He is also an expert in representations of the Holocaust. Currently he is working on a book about the Wannsee Conference, which inaugurated the Holocaust, to be published in English and German under the auspices of the Wannsee Memorial House in Berlin.

Expertise and public engagement

Regular contributions to the press including Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Appearances on German Radio including Deutschland Funk and Deutsche Welle. Recent major lectures include PEN World Voices, New York (2015), Institute of Modern Languages Research, London (2016), Festrede, International Goethe Society, Weimar (2017), Annual Conference of Russian Philologists,  St Petersburg (2018), Friedrich Hirth Lecture, Mainz (2018), Miller Lecture (2018), DFG Conference, Como (2018), Bavarian Academy of Arts (2019). Guest speaker, Brexit means Brexit, Mainz Academy of Sciences, 2016. Chair of Panel Discussion, Brexit, Munich Literary Festival, 2018.

Selected publications 

  • "Eine fast magische Anziehungskraft". Goethes "Wahlverwandtschaften" und die Chemie seiner Zeit, C.H.Beck, Munich, 1987.
  • (With Ulrich Ernst), Text als Figur. Visuelle Poesie von der Antike bis zur Moderne, Ausstellungskataloge der Herzog August Bibliothek 56 and VCH, Acta Humaniora, Weinheim, 1987. Second, revised edition, 1988. Third edition, 1990.
  • Franz Kafka, Illustrated Lives, Penguin, London, 2001.
  • Das bittere Brot. H. G. Adler, Elias Canetti und Franz Baermann Steiner im Londoner Exil, Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen, 2015.
  • Das absolut Böse. Zur Neuedition von „Mein Kampf“, Donat Verlag, Bremen, 2018.
  • *Goethe. A Critical Life, Reaktion Books, London, 2020.