Dr Seán Williams
Impact and Engagement Lead, School of Languages and Cultures & Member of the University Senate
BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker 2016
Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce & Executive Board Member, Association of German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland.
Seán has BA (Congratulatory First), MSt, and DPhil degrees from Oxford and has held research positions at the University of California at Berkeley and the Hegel-Archiv of the University of Bochum. Before coming to Sheffield in 2015, he taught German and comparative literature at the University of Bern in Switzerland.
His book Pretexts for Writing is concerned with print culture around 1800, while his second book project – under contract with Reaktion Books – looks at cultural history since the eighteenth century, through the figure of the hairdresser. Seán has edited special editions of German Life and Letters (on German literary anthologies 1700-1850) and Oxford German Studies (on post-war literature and institutions), and has published articles on topics ranging from Hitler satires and Trump to post-colonial literature and cliché; early consumerism; literary satire and digestion around 1800; and philosophical contests with the eighteenth-century novel form, among others. He is interested most broadly in the major topics of "modern" cultural criticism since the eighteenth century: consumption, the state, nature, and bodily well-being - all mediated through modern traditions of writing.
Seán writes in English and in German and is a regular contributor to radio (in both the UK and abroad). He has spoken at events across Sheffield, at national festivals, and at the Proms. His research has also appeared on British television, and in national and foreign newspapers (e.g. The Guardian and Neue Zürcher Zeitung). Seán contributes to trade magazines such as History Today and BBC History.
Recent writing: a full publications list and links to all media work is on Seán's personal homepage.
‘Consumption, Creativity, and Authors around 1800: The Case of E.T.A. Hoffmann‘, Publications of the English Goethe Society, 2018. 18 pages.
With Kari Nyheim Solbraekke. ‘”Cancer Coiffures”: Embodied Storylines of Cancer Patienthood and Survivorship in the Consumerist Cultural Imaginary’, Body & Society, 2018. 26 pages. Online First.
'The Celebrification of Adolf Hitler', Celebrity Studies, 8 (4) (2017), Forum, 1-5.
‘E.T.A. Hoffmann und die Alltagskultur um 1800’, E.T.A. Hoffmann-Jahrbuch, 2017, 7-28.
‘On clichés, post-colonialism and the politicisation of Swiss literature: an interview with Martin R. Dean‘, German Life and Letters, 70.2 (2017), 284-290.
With Nora Ramtke, Das Erblühen der Blumenlesen. German Anthologies, 1700-1850, special number of German Life and Letters, 70.1 (2017). See introduction, 1-21. Edited book. (136 pages.)
'Philologische Notizen zu Blähungspulver und Jean Paul', Jahrbuch der Jean-Paul-Gesellschaft, 2016, 183-193.
'E.T.A. Hoffmann and the Hairdresser around 1800', Publications of the English Goethe Society, 81.1 (2016), 54-66.
'C.F. Gellert as Vorredner des Genies', in Matthias Schaffrick and Marcus Willand (eds.), Theorien und Praktiken der Autorschaft (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2014), pp. 333-362.
With W. Daniel Wilson, Post-War Literature and Institutions, special issue of Oxford German Studies 43.1 (2014). See also preface, 1-3. Edited Book (105 pages).
'Kant's Novel Interpretation of History', Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, 49.2 (2013), 171-190.
Teaching and Supervision:
Seán teaches the German Enlightenment and Romanticism, Thomas Mann, and contemporary Swiss literature. His own module is "The Birth of Consumerism: Britain and Germany".
Seán is available for postgraduate supervision, and currently supervises two PhD projects: by Jade Johnson (as primary supervisor), and Katherine Calvert (as secondary supervisor).