Professor Ingo Cornils
- Position: Professor of German Studies
- Areas of expertise: German Literature and Culture of the 20th/21st Century; Utopian Thought; Science Fiction; German Student Movement ('1968'); Romanticism; Hermann Hesse; German Current Affairs; Zukunftsbewältigung
- Email: I.Cornils@leeds.ac.uk
- Phone: +44(0)113 343 3513
- Location: 2.15 Michael Sadler Building
- Website: Utopian Thoughts | Twitter | Googlescholar | ORCID
I was educated at the Theodor Mommsen Schule in Schleswig-Holstein, and Belmond High School, Iowa. Zivildienst (alternative civilian service) with the Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband. I attended the University of Hamburg (First Staatsexamen/MA; PhD) and the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Following teacher training (Second Staatsexamen/PGCE) and a stint in advertising, I came to England in 1987 as DAAD Lektor at the Leeds Polytechnic from 1987 until 1990. At the University of Leeds, I initially worked as Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of German and as Director of Language Centre Modules the Language Centre. I joined the Department of German full-time in August 1999, serving as Head of Department from 2002–2005, as Head of the newly merged Department of German, Russian and Slavonic Studies (GRASS) from 2007–2010, as Director of Student Education for the School of Modern Languages and Cultures from 2011–2014, as Director of Joint Honours Programmes in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies from 2015–2018, and as Digital Education Lead for the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies and Subject Research Leader for German and Russian from 2019-2022.
- on Research Leave in Semester 1, 2022/2023
My research focuses on the complex relationship between political, utopian and fantastic thought. I have a particular interest in Romanticism, the construction and representation of the German Student Movement, German Science Fiction, and in the works of Kurd Lasswitz, Hermann Hesse, Uwe Timm and Gerhard Henschel. I have presented my work at conferences, symposia and colloquia across the UK and in the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands.
My monograph 'Writing the Revolution. The Construction of 1968 in Germany' (2016, pbk 2020) argues that writing about '1968', in its German context, is no longer about the historical events or the aims and objectives of a by-gone counter-cultural movement, but rather about a moral touchstone, a unique identifier of social groups, and an identity construct, to keep alive a utopian agenda that continues to fire the imagination. It demonstrates that the representation of 1968 as a ‘foundational myth’ suits a number of surprisingly heterogeneous groups, and that even the myth’s deconstruction strengthens it. Most importantly, it shows how a small group of determined writers, intellectuals, journalists and academics have kept ‘1968’ in the foreground of public debate for half a century, thereby ensuring that the experience of this ‘utopian moment’ (Jay Winter) maintains its subversive potential. The book has received excellent reviews in Modern Language Review, German Quarterly, German Studies Review, Journal of European Studies, sehepunkte, and Theory & Event. Hans Kundnani, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, described it as “[A]n illuminating meta-history, not so much about 1968 as about the representation and mythologization of it.” Stuart Parkes, writing in the Journal of Contemporary European Studies, declared that “this volume […] confirms the status of the author as a leading British-based expert in the area.”
My latest monograph, 'Beyond Tomorrow. German Science Fiction and Utopian Thought in the 20th and 21st Centuries' (2020) explores the question of how humanity can match its technological progress with an appropriate social, ethical and moral progress. In an era in which scientific and technological advances have revolutionised our capabilities to radically alter ourselves and the physical world around us, literary responses have become increasingly dystopian in outlook. They reflect the fears and misgivings about: increasingly porous boundaries (global communication network, virtual realities, national identities, cosmetic surgery); conceptual paradigm shifts (artificial intelligence, quantum physics, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, gender reassignment); and persistent global challenges (climate change, food production and war/terrorism), all of which require a new form of consciousness (cf. Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus). Since the turn of the millennium, German writers have increasingly engaged with the moral and ethical dilemmas created by these challenges. Building on the rich tradition of of German Utopian Thought and German Science Fiction from Kurd Lasswitz (1848-1910) to Carl Amery (1922-2005), they explore in thoughtful and accessible mind-experiments the dangers and limits of our new capabilities, and also the opportunities should we succeed in harnessing the potential inherent in these paradigm changes. Beneath their dystopian guise, these writers attempt Zukunftsbewältigung: valuable strategies that may help us cope with an uncertain but also unwritten future. Read a blogpost about the origins of the book. Reviews: Zeitschrift für Fantastikforschung; German Studies Review; Modern Language Review; Monatshefte, and Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts .
As a follow-on project, Leverhulme Visiting Professor Dr. Lars Schmeink and I worked on the recently published New Perspectives on Contemporary German Science Fiction (2022). The volume demonstrates the variety and scope of German science fiction (SF) production in literature, television, and cinema. We argue that speculative fictions and explorations of the fantastic provide a critical lens for studying the possibilities and limitations of paradigm shifts in society. The volume makes clear that German SF is both global and local—the genre is in balance between internationally dominant forms and adapting them to Germany’s reality as it relates to migration, the environment, and human rights. The essays explore a range of media (literature, cinema, television) and relevant political, philosophical, and cultural discourses.
I am currently working on the following projects:
- a special issue of the academic journal Literatur für Leser:innen on the German writer Gerhard Henschel
- a paper on German SF writer Andreas Eschbach’s novel Eines Menschen Flügel for the Once and Future Fantasy Conference
- with Neale Cunningham (Tokyo): Magister Mundi? Hermann Hesse’s Global Impact
- the ‘Hyperion Connection’ (Hesiod, Friedrich Hölderlin, John Keats, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Richard Cowper, Dan Simmons)
I am also one of the organisers of the Transcultural Fantastic, a research project based at the University of Leeds focusing on the local and global traditions, and the potential, of the fantastic from an intercultural and interdisciplinary perspective.<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>
- First Staatsexamen (MA) in English, German and Pedagogy
- Second Staatsexamen (PGCE)
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Association for German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland
- German Studies Association (USA)
- International Hermann Hesse Society (Calw)
- Scientific Board of the International Center for Protest Research
- Co-Editor of the academic journal literatur für leser:innen (Peter Lang)
- Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung / Association for Research in the Fantastic (Hamburg)
- Internationale Vereinigung für Germanistik
I helped to set up the institution-wide ‘Languages for All’ programme at Leeds which offers general and specialised language tuition from ab initio to advanced level. For many years I taught an innovative lecture course on German current affairs involving task-focused group work and extensive use of a custom-built German news archive. Committed to teaching in German, I have coordinated and developed numerous modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including those on language, translation, science fiction, Anglo-German cultural relations, the German student movement, and the novels of Hermann Hesse. I was awarded a grant to develop the German dissertation so that students approach it as a research project in its own right (a forerunner of the Final Year Project). Finished projects were presented at a student-led conference and in an e-journal.
At School level, I contribute to a variety of modules, including world literatures, audio-visual cultures, comparative literature, crime and the fantastic, protest and resistance, social movements, and global environmental humanities.
My module on German Utopian Thought in Fiction and Film achieved 100% student satisfaction and was praised by external examiners: "A new final year module, German Utopian Thought, covers an exciting variety of primary material. This module inspired students to some fine performances and written work in the target language was well supported as part of the module structure." I have been shortlisted for the Leeds University Union Partnership Awards in 2016 and 2021.
My module Behind the Headlines. Germany in the 21st Century, taught and assessed in German, introduces students to the German media discourse and encourages them to critically analyse current events (e.g. the German reaction to Covid 19, the rise of the AfD, the Energy Transition) with the help of the latest research and through role plays / simulations, debates and video blogs.
I am interested in supervising suitably qualified candidates who want to pursue research in the area of utopian thought, be it political, romantic or fantastic. My particular expertise is in the German Student Movement (“1968”), German Science Fiction from Kurd Lasswitz to Andreas Eschbach, and the works and influence of Hermann Hesse.
Chantal Sullivan-Thomsett (Professionalised Protest? Gentrification of Protest in the German Green Party).- PhD 2022
Neale Cunningham (Hermann Hesse and Japan: A Study in Reciprocal Transcultural Reception) – PhD 2018.
Adam Roberts (Masks of Fiction. The Function of the Nietzschean Mask in the Works of Hermann Hesse) – PhD 2016.
Kevin Pike (Removing the Boot-Boys from German Politics. Unconstitutionality Proceedings pursuant to Article 21, Paragraph 2 of the German Constitution: The Case of the NPD) – MA 2003.
Research groups and institutes
- Centre for World Literatures
- Literary studies
- Popular culture