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Professor Helmut Schmitz

Profile pictureProfessor of German

Tel: (02476) 572524

Office: FAB 4.54
University Road, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL


Professor Helmut Schmitz was educated at Cologne University (1986-1990) and Warwick University (MA 1992, PhD 1996) and has been teaching at the German Dept at Warwick in various positions since 1992.

Research interests

My research is mainly in the field of post-war and contemporary German literature. Over the last years my focus has been on post-war German memory cultures, particularly on the way contemporary literature and culture represents the Nazi period and the Holocaust. This has resulted in a monograph on Representations of National Socialism in post-1990 German fiction (2004) and two edited volumes on representations of German wartime suffering (2006 and 2011). I am particularly interested in the way literature and film configure victim and perpetrator positions and represent issues of responsibility, perpetration and suffering. I have contributed to two AHRC-funded research projects, on ‘Discourses of Normalisation in Post-Unification Germany’ (2001-04) and ‘Constructions and Representations of “German Wartime Suffering”' (2005-08). A further interest is family narratives and auto/hetero-biographies with respect to collective memory in Germany. I was part of the interdisciplinary research project ‘Intergenerationale Beziehungsgestaltung in Autobiographien im politischen Kontext des 20. Jahrhunderts’ (2004-06, headed by Profs Ortrun Niethammer, Ilse Bürmann and Hans-Rüdiger Müller, Osnabrück). Together with German Studies colleagues at the universities of Bremen (D), Ferrara (It), Leiden (H) and Duisburg-Essen (D) I have been co-ordinating the Arbeitskreis für Literatur und Politik which has organised a series of annual conferences on a theme in contemporary German literature.
In spring 2020 I was awarded a 14-months Leverhulme Research Fellowship for the project 'Resonances: Love and Intimacy in Contemporary German Language Literature'.Link opens in a new window The project investigates the diversity, richness and cultural implications of contemporary literary representations of love and intimacy from a variety of theoretical perspectives and assesses the reasons for the re-emergence of love as one of German literature’s dominant topics at the beginning of the 21st century and shall result in a monograph.

Teaching and supervision

German Department:

18th, 19th and 20h-century German Literature and Culture, Post-War German Poetry.

Philosophy Department:

Research Supervisions:

  • Jeanine Tuschling (PhD): 'Reflexionen von Autorschaft im Erzählwerk Elfriede Jelineks' (2007-10)
  • Hanna Schumacher (PhD): 'Konzepte des Posthumanen im zeitgenössischen deutschsprachigen Roman' (2013-2018)
  • Yara Staets (PhD): 'Coming to Terms with the Present: Non-Realist Representations of War in early post-1945 German Literature' (from 2017)

Administrative roles

  • Head of German 2023-24

Selected publications

  • ‘"Die eigentlich humane Leidenschaft’" Adorno’s Conception of Love in Dialektik der Aufklärung and Minima Moralia, Oxford German Studies, 49:2 (2020), 136-54. Special Issue on “Rethinking Community and Subjectivity in Contemporary German Culture and Thought”, ed. by Maria Roca-Lizarazu and Joseph Twist.
  • 'Intimacy and Resonance: Visions of Love in Hanns-Josef Ortheil's Liebesnähe and Ronja von Rönne’s Wir kommen', Humanities, 9(2), 52, 2020. Special Issue on 'Aspects on Contemporary German Fiction', ed. by Helmut Schmitz,
  • (ed., with Peter Davies), Love, Eros, and Desire in Contemporary German-Language Literature and Culture, Rochester/NY, Camden House, 2017 (Edinburgh German Yearbook 11), 2017. opens in a new window.
  • 'Täter Lite - Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter and the Manufacturing of Empathy with German Wartime Trauma', in: German Life and Letters, 3/2016, 265-86.
  • ‘Alternative Gründungserzählungen und andere Legitimationsmuster. Zum Status von Shoah und NS in der Konstruktion von Erinnerung an ‘deutsche’ Kriegserfahrungen’, in: Sven Kramer, Thorben Fischer, Philipp Hammermeister (eds.), Der Nationalsozialismus und die Shoah in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2014, 95-114 (Amsterdamer beiträge zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur 84).

  • 'The "nachtseite des abendlands". Barbara Köhler's Niemands Frau and the Dialectic of Enlightenment', in: Georgina Paul (ed.), An Oddyssey for our Time. Barbara Köhler's Niemands Frau. Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2013, 139-61 (German Monitor 78).
  • ‘Hanns-Josef Ortheil. Das Erzählen der Welt’, in: Allo Allkemper, Norbert Otto Eke, Hartmut Steinecke (eds.), Poetologisch-poetische Interventionen: Gegenwartsliteratur schreiben. Munich, Wilhelm Fink, 2012, 143-60.
  • (ed). Narratives of Trauma. Discourses of German Wartime Suffering in National and International Perspective (with Annette Seidel-Arpaci), Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2011 (German Monitor 73).
  • (ed.) Autobiographie und historische Krisenerfahrung (with Heinz-Peter Preußer), Heidelberg, Winter, 2010 (Jahrbuch Literatur und Politik 4).
  • (ed.) Von der nationalen zur internationalen Literatur. Transnationale deutschsprachige Literatur und Kultur im Zeitalter globaler Migration, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2009 (Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik 69).
  • ‘Zweierlei Allegorie: W.G.Sebalds Austerlitz und Stephan Wackwitz’ Ein unsichtbares Land’, in: Gerhard Fischer (ed.), W.G. Sebald. Schreiben ex patria/ Expatriate Writing. Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2009 (Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik 72), 257-76.
  • ‘“Ich bin der einzige Erbe”. Family, Heritage and German Wartime Suffering in Hanns-Josef Ortheil, Stephan Wackwitz, Thomas Medicus, Dagmar Leupold and Uwe Timm’, in: Stuart Taberner, Karina Berger (eds.), Germans as Victims' in the Literary Fiction of the Berlin Republic. Rochester, Camden House, 2009, 70-85.
  • (ed.) A Nation of Victims? Representations of German Wartime Suffering from 1945 to the Present, Amsterdam and New York, Rodopi, 2007 (German Monitor 67).
  • ‘The Birth of the Collective from the Spirit of Empathy. From the Historians’ Debate to German Suffering’, in: Bill Niven (ed.), Germans As Victims: Remembering The Past In Contemporary Germany. Basingstoke MacMillan, 2006, 93-108.
  • On their Own Terms: The Legacy of National Socialism in Post-1990 German Fiction. Birmingham University Press, 2004.


  • MA (Warwick) 1992
  • PhD (Warwick) 1996