Dr Seán WilliamsDr Seán Williams

Vice-Chancellor's Fellow; Member of the University Senate

Impact and Engagement Lead, School of Languages and Cultures

BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker 2016

Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

Executive board, Association of German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland

Email: s.m.williams@shef.ac.uk

Twitter: @WiggishHistory

Personal website: www.seanmwilliams.com 

Seán is currently working on his second major project, a cultural history of the hairdresser. This is a comparative study that starts in the eighteenth century and extends into the present. You can read the initial research article. There is also a mobile exhibition that includes both historical prints and contemporary portrait photography. Seán has spoken to local BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Shropshire, national Radio 3 (including his own episode of The Essay), Newsday on BBC World Service as well as independent radio. He has also given interviews in German to Swiss national radio. Seán has appeared on BBC One and BBC Two, and on BBC Arts.  You can find out more on his personal homepage.

Seán was awarded his DPhil from the University of Oxford in 2014, on prefaces in German writing around 1800 (forthcoming as his first book). He was previously a lecturer in Switzerland. Since arriving in Sheffield in October 2015, his work has been funded by organisations such as the Worldwide Universities Network and the Wellcome Trust.

Research Interests

  • The German "long" eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including literary, intellectual and cultural history, in their comparative contexts;
  • Theories of texts, paratexts (particularly prefaces, anthologies and the fragment), and of reading; authorship and print culture since the eighteenth century;
  • German thinkers (Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche etc.);
  • Satire, irony and cliché in contemporary culture (e.g. jokes about Hitler, and Swissness); Aesthetic labour poster
  • "Cultural aesthetics", including interdisciplinary concepts of aesthetic labour;
  • "Characters" of culture (the hairdresser, the pedant, and so on).

Seán publishes widely in English and German. See his personal homepage for details of all research projects, publications and media work. Some recent writings include: 

‘On clichés, post-colonialism and the politicisation of Swiss literature: an interview with Martin R. Dean‘, German Life and Letters, 70.2, 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 and other sessions for the Germanic Studies and Gender Studies in Europe programmes, on German and Comparative Literature from the eighteenth century to the present day. He incorporates Swiss-German literature, culture and translation into Sheffield's Germanic offerings, since there are now exchange opportunities with Bern and a contemporary literature collection, kindly donated by the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK. He is available for postgraduate supervision, and from autumn 2017 will have two PhD students.