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Robert K. Weninger

Professor Robert K. Weninger

Emeritus Professor of German and Comparative Literature


Born in Britain, Robert Weninger was educated both in Britain and Germany. He studied German, English and Philosophy at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, where he received his Dr. Phil. in 1982 and also held his first teaching post as a Lehrbeauftragter for German literature and Deutsch als Fremdsprache. His first full-time position was as Assistant Professor in German at the University of Texas at Arlington (1985-1988; he accepted an appointment at Washington University in Saint Louis in 1988, where he served as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and (Full) Professor of German and Comparative Literature from 1988 to 2000. He returned to England in 2000, where he was Professor of German at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford from 2000 to 2003 before joining the Department of German at King's College London as Chair of German in the summer of 2003. He retired from teaching in 2015. He has also been guest instructor at the  Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe, the University of Tübingen and the University of Oxford.

He has served on numerous academic boards, editorial committees and evaluation panels, including the ‘International Advisory Board’ of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Akademie der Wissenschaften), Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte; the BCLA’s Executive Committee; and the ICLA’s Committee for the History of Literatures in European Languages (CHLEL). He continues to serve as a member of the editorial board of the specialist journal Der Bargfelder Bote, which is devoted to the work of Arno Schmidt. From 2006 to 2011 he was editor of Comparative Critical Studies (Edinburgh University Press), the peer-reviewed house-journal of the British Comparative Literature Association. He is a member of the European Academy.

He has published seven single-authored monographs, an Arno-Schmidt-bibliography (1995, second expanded edition 2006), and has edited or co-edited a further twelve volumes. His two most recent books are The German Joyce, a study of the reception of James Joyce in German literature, which was published in August 2012 with the University of Florida Press (paperback second edition 2016); and Sublime Conclusions. Last Man Narratives from Apocalypse to Death of God, which appeared in September 2017 under the imprint of Legenda/MHRA in Cambridge.

A theophilosophical study of the historical origins and nineteenth- and twentieth-century development of the science fiction genre of last man narratives, Sublime Conclusions discusses the work of such philosophers, theologians, writers, artists and film-makers as Leibniz, Voltaire, Kant, Holbach, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Bloch, Günter Anders, Richard Swinburne, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Franz von Sonnenberg, William Wordsworth, Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville, August Klingemann, Percy Bysshe Shelley, C. D. Friedrich, Jean Paul, John Martin, H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Nevil Shute, Mordecai Roshwald, Stanley Kubrick, Günter Grass, Arno Schmidt, Cormac McCarthy, and many more.

It is Mary Shelley, however, whose work is accorded the most crucial role in Weninger’s study; for Mary Shelley inaugurated two of the three paradigms through which human beings imagine, with as much panic as pleasure, the end of their species. Complementing her visions of a world-encompassing natural plague (The Last Man, 1826) and man-made technological self-eradication (Frankenstein, 1818), the third – and oldest – paradigm of how to depict humankind’s demise is the religious notion of Apocalypse, God’s Day of Reckoning.

Through in-depth philosophical and theological contextualization of the German, French and British literary settings of the apocalyptic tradition around 1800, Sublime Conclusions chronicles the transition from theism and deism to atheism and the ‘Death of God’ on which, Weninger contends, Shelley’s novels – and hence modern science fiction in general – are premised.

Research Interests

  • 19th - and 20th-century German and comparative literature
  • Literary theory
  • Contemporary German literature
  • James Joyce
  • Apocalypse and Last Man Fiction

His research interests cover German literary and intellectual history from 1750 to the present with foci on Goethezeit/Romanticism, German realism, twentieth century modernism, post-war German literature and European literary relations; Comparative Literature with a focus on contemporary literary theory and theories of intertextuality; James Joyce; Arno Schmidt.

His most recent and current book and essay projects relate to twentieth-century German literary and cultural debates (Streitbare Literaten, C.B. Beck Verlag, 2005), the reception of James Joyce's works in German literature (The German Joyce, University Press of Florida, 2012), Arno Schmidt, and the apocalypse in European literature, philosophy, and theology.

For more details, please see his full research profile.

Expertise and Public Engagement

  • Member of the International Advisory Board of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Akademie der Wissenschaften), Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte,
  • Editorial Board Member of the specialist journal Der Bargfelder Bote.
  • Editorial Board Member of Comparative Critical Studies.
  • Former Editor (2006-2011) of Comparative Critical Studies.
  • Co-author (with W. Daniel Wilson, Susanne Kord and Leonard Olschner), “Drowning in Bureaucracy. Academics in Britain are hobbled by monitoring and admin, while in the US they get on with the job”. The Guardian, 27 December 2006. Reprinted in Homo Oeconomicus 24:1 (2007), 143-145.
  • Elected member of the Comparative Histories of Literatures in European Languages (CHLEL) committee of the ICLA
  • Elected member of the Academia Europaea

Selected Publications

  • Sublime Conclusions. Last Man Narratives from Apocalypse to Death of God. Cambridge: Legenda/MHRA, 2017, 573 pages.
  • The German Joyce. Gainesville: The University Press of Florida, 2012, 257 pages.
  • Legacies. Themed issue of Comparative Critical Studies (Edinburgh University Press), Vol. 7.2–3 (2010), 270 pages.
  • Streitbare Literaten. Kontroversen und Eklats in der deutschen Literatur von Adorno bis Walser. München: C. H. Beck Verlag (Becksche Reihe), 2004, 296 pages.
  • “Framing a Novelist.” Arno Schmidt Criticism 1970–1994. Columbia, S.C.: Cam­den House, 1995, 148 pages.
  • Literarische Konventionen. Theoretische Modelle / Historische Anwendung. Tü­bin­­gen: Stauffenburg Verlag (Reihe Stauf­fen­burg Collo­qui­um, Band 20), 1994, 257 pages.