Projects per year
The focus of my research, teaching and consultancy work is on the intersection between language and community. It is based on the recognition that words are actions that matter in specific social situations. I analyse language use across various communities and support the development of communicative practices that are effective and appealing, most recently around the language of Brexit.
This work is based on research into the way in which linguistic and social practices intersect; applying Richard Sennett’s theory of craftsmanship to literature I have identified and described the poet Stefan George’s ‘workshop’ as his major work. The resulting monograph was #2 on the NDR/SZ list of the best new non-fiction books. It was followed by a five-year working group I led at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Study, deepening the exploration of linguistic creativity and community and resulting in an edited volume published with Klostermann. In parallel, I examined the need for a reconceptualisation of the link between encounter on the one hand and textual criticism on the other. This notion of a possible phenomenology of language use was put to the test in work on the various medial traces of conversations between the writer Ernst Jünger and the ‘interview artist’ André Müller. I edited these materials and have since published two articles on them. Part of this work was supported through a Marie Curie Fellowship held at the University of Bristol.
My teaching is an ongoing inquiry into the various forms in which language aids or hinders the emergence of communities. I have designed courses on discourses around the ‘centre’ in society and politics, the language of economic policy-making, and the poetics and practices of German humour. My aim is to help students understand the extent to which they can actively participate in the processes analysed, because I contend that the current historical moment of crisis is a crisis of agency – of translating values and ambitions into action. Research and teaching can clarify the ways in which this is possible, and I see it as my job to do so.
In my translation teaching this concerns the way in which new graduates become entrepreneurs, in an industry dominated by freelancers and marked by a tension between automation and creativity that linguists today can harness. I am hoping to expand the ways in which the study of language and the joys of venture creation can be linked up. As a former managing partner of a research and consultancy firm I can offer the business development perspective needed in the process.
I was, from 2010 to 2018, a founding partner at Nimirum, a research and consultancy firm tracking the language of socio-economic change and consumer biographies. I was responsible for around 300 completed projects, enabling over 100 clients across multiple industries to sharpen their profile, win a record number of bids, base strategic decisions on a secure footing, and increase revenue. I was also in charge of recruiting, training, and deploying researchers in 65 countries, and for Nimirum’s research methods portfolio. Many of the projects carried out at Nimirum serve as proof that a sense of individual agency, business success and linguistic competency can be brought into close alignment.
In terms of my own contribution to creative language use I am the German translator of a number of bestselling and highly-acclaimed writers, including Guardian columnist Owen Jones, Atlas of Prejudice internet sensation Yanko Tsvetkov, science writer Hugh Aldersey-Williams and American poet Joshua Mehigan. As a creative writer I am the author of two volumes of poetry and two travel books, the most recent one outlining 111 reasons to love England, which was featured in broadsheets, tabloids and on radio.
All of these things happen across sectors and also generations, and one of my greatest pleasures is to work with Deutsche Schülerakademie, the German government’s summer school programme for exceptionally talented sixth-formers, where I can share my ideas on language and community with a particularly eloquent group of teenagers who become a close-knit community over the course of their 16 days together.
In terms of my biography I might add that I was a post-doc, head of Business German and, briefly, acting German language programme director at Duke University. I studied German literature at Oxford, where I was awarded a D.Phil in German in 2006. My doctorate was supported by a Lamb & Flag Studentship, financed by the St John’s college pub. My M.A. is from Dalhousie University, where I was an Izaak Walton Killam Pre-doctoral Scholar. As an undergraduate, I studied Politics, German Literature and (some) Musicology at Freiburg and the National University of Singapore.
I serve as adviser to Krachkultur, one of Germany’s leading literary journals, and am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Research Output per year
Research output: Other contribution
Research output: Book/Report › Edited book
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter in a book
Activities per year