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Dr Nicola Thomas

Lecturer in German Studies

Nicola Thomas

Confucious Institute



Research overview

I am interested in creative responses to space, time and the environment, across languages and cultures. I have worked on English and German-language poets of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including Paul Celan, J. H. Prynne, Ulrike Almut Sandig, Edwin Morgan and Friederike Mayröcker. I'm particularly fascinated by poets who push the boundaries of the lyric form and who approach poetry as a way of knowing space, time and the environment. My first monograph, Space, Place and Poetry in English and German, 1960-1975 (Palgrave, 2018), looked at engagements with place and landscape in the work of a range of writers working in the twentieth-century, at a moment of rapid transformation in thinking about space and spatiality. I argued that writers in these two quite different traditions were working through similar issues of disrupted spatiality and, in so doing, were also radically reimagining the European lyric in ways that only a comparative reading could bring properly into focus.

My current research covers two main areas. First, I am interested in questions of time and the environment across disciplines and cultures. This emerged from my work on 'Anthropocene Lateness' in the poetry of Austrian poet Friederike Mayröcker, published in Austrian Studies 30 (2022). In 2019, I cofounded the British Academy-funded Anthropocene Times research network with Dr Blake Ewing (Hertford College, Oxford), and ran a small research project on how we use creativity to navigate time in the Anthropocene. In 2023-25, Dr Ewing and I are leading a British Academy Knowledge Frontiers International Interdisciplinary research project on 'Wetland Times', comparing time language and concepts across three global wetland landscapes.

At the same time, I continue to be interested in literature and space, particularly extra-terrestrial space, and have worked on representations of extra-terrestrial space and space travel in twentieth and twenty-first century English and German-language poetry. The space beyond earth is highly contested and profoundly culturally significant, and poetry is unique placed to help us think through the implications of technological developments in space exploration and the new perspectives these afford on planet earth. 

I am a member of the EGS collective, a group which aims to work towards a more equitable German Studies in the UK. I also co-founded and co-convene the Languages and Environments Reading Group at the Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies, with Dr Kasia Mika (QMUL) and Dr Jamille Pinheiro Dias (ILCS). 

Additional Information

I welcome PhD proposals for German-language or comparative cultural or literary projects, especially those with a focus on ecocriticism and the (multilingual) environmental humanities; contemporary German-language and European Anglophone literature, particularly poetry; and ecocritical theory and poetics. 

Current Teaching

GERM100/101 German in Context

GERM233 Shaping Contemporary German-Speaking Europe: Moments and Movements

DELC401 Research Skills for Postgraduates

DELC100 Part I Language Studies

Research Grants

2023: British Academy Knowledge Frontiers International Interdisciplinary funding (Wetland Times) and Knowledge Frontiers Follow-on Funding (Anthropocene (A)synchronicities). 

2022: FASS Research Funding to support Wetland Times project development (with Dr Blake Ewing, Hertford College, Oxford)

2021: British Academy Knowledge Frontiers Seed Funding: 'Grounding Value in the Anthropocene' 

2021: British Academy Knowledge Frontiers Seed Funding: 'Anthropocene Times'

2019: University of Oxford Faculty Research Funding (for archival visits)

2016: University of Nottingham Research Priority Area: Languages, Text and Societies (to co-found the journal LTS)

2015: University of Nottingham Cascade Funding (to support 'Words for Walls' public engagement project)

2012-13: AHRC PhD funding (maintence grant and fees)

2011-12: AHRC Postgraduate MA Funding (maintance grant and fees)

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