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Emeritus Professor Rob Burns

Profile pictureEmeritus Professor

Email: r dot a dot burns at warwick dot ac dot uk


I studied at the University of Birmingham, with an intercalated year at Hamburg University, and on graduating in 1971 I was awarded the Karl Damann Prize for German. In 1972 I completed an MA in Modern German Studies at the University of Warwick and a PhD in German Studies in 1978. I took up a post as Lecturer in German Studies at Warwick in 1974 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1989, Reader in 1996 and gained a personal chair in 1999. From 1995 until 1999 I was a Visiting Fellow in the Institute of German Studies at the University of Birmingham. In 1993 I became a (founder) member of the editorial board of Debatte – Review of Contemporary German Affairs, a membership I have retained on its successor, Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe. I have been Head of the German Department at Warwick on three occasions, 1991–1994, 1999–2001 and 2007–2012. I am now Professor Emeritus in German.

Research interests

My research falls into three main areas:

  1. I have a long-standing interest in the history of German working-class culture, encompassing the vibrant worker-culture movement that thrived in the Weimar Republic and the post-war manifestations of working-class literature in the Federal Republic.
  2. Secondly, I have researched the broad area of protest and extra-parliamentary politics in the Federal Republic, including the student movement, the peace movement, the political manifestations of feminism and the environmentalist and ecological movement.
  3. Most recently I have worked in the field of diasporic culture in contemporary Germany with particular emphasis on the development of ‘migrant’ or ‘Turkish-German’ cinema. I am currently engaged on a joint monograph (with Jim Jordan) on diasporic literature and film.

Research supervision

I have supervised PhD projects on:

  • Working-Class Literature in the Federal Republic
  • The Aesthetic Theory of the Frankfurt School
  • The Work of Hanns-Josef Ortheil
  • Die kranke Republik – Annäherung an die Krise der Weimarer Republik (Knut Langewand).



  • The Quest for Modernity: The Place of Arno Holz in Modern German Literature (Frankfurt am Main/Bern: Peter Lang, 1981)
  • Arbeiterkulturbewegung in der Weimarer Republik (Frankfurt/Berlin/Vienna: Ullstein, 1982) (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • Protest and Democracy in West Germany: Extra-Parliamentary Politics and the Democratic Agenda (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988) (with Wilfried van der Will)

Edited Volumes

  • Arbeiterkulturbewegung in der Weimarer Republik: Texte – Dokumente – Bilder (Frankfurt/Berlin/Vienna: Ullstein, 1982) (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • German Cultural Studies: An Introduction (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)

Chapters (selected)

  • Ein schöner Tag - Neuer Realismus oder psychologisierter Naturalismus?’, in R. Hinton Thomas (ed.), Der Schriftsteller Dieter Wellershoff, Cologne (Kiepenheuer & Witsch), 1975, 15-40
  • ‘Theory and Organisation of Revolutionary Working-Class Literature’, in Keith Bullivant (ed.), Culture and Society in the Weimar Republic, Manchester (Manchester University Press), 1977, 122-149
  • ‘Prefigurations of Nazi Culture in the Weimar Republic’, in Michael Dobkowski and Isidor Wallimann (eds.), Towards the Holocaust: The Social and Economic Collapse of the Weimar Republic, Westport, Connecticut (Greenwood Press), 1983, 295-314
  • ‘Kulturelles Leben in der Arbeiterbewegung’, in Thomas Meyer et al. (eds.), Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung, Vol. 3, Bonn (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung), 1984, 317-336 (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • ‘The Politics of Cultural Struggle: Intellectuals and the Labour Movement’, in Anthony Phelan (ed.), The Weimar Dilemma. Intellectuals in the Weimar Republic, Manchester (Manchester University Press), 1985, 162-201 (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • ‘Fernsehspiel und Veränderung. Wunschtraum und Realitätsprinzip in Glücksucher und Flüchtige Bekanntschaften’, in Manfred Durzak et al. (eds.), Dieter Wellershoff: Studien zu seinem Werk, Cologne (Kiepenheuer & Witsch), 1990, 215-230
  • ‘From Bondage to Bonding: Saliha Scheinhardt Frauen, die sterben, ohne daß sie gelebt hätten and Tevfik Baser, Abschied vom falschen Paradies’, in Jeff Morrison and Florian Krobb (eds.), Text into Image: Image into Text, Amsterdam (Rodopi), 1997, 339-347
  • ‘Between Market Assimilation and Cultural Resistance: The Migrant Writer in the Work of Alev Tekinay’, in Arthur Williams (ed.), Literature, Markets and Media in Germany and Austria Today – Oxford/Bern/Frankfurt am Main (Peter Lang), 1999, 127-138
  • ‘Authenticity and the Speaking ‘Other’: Günter Wallraff’s Ganz unten as an Industrial Fiction?’, in Michael Butler and Robert Evans (eds), The Challenge of German Culture, Basingstoke (Palgrave), 2000, 110-121
  • ‘German Television’, in John Sinclair and Graeme Turner (eds), Contemporary World Television, London (BFI), 2004, 70-74
  • ‘1964, 29 April – Dramaturgies of Liberation: Peter Weiß’s Marat/Sade’, in David Wellbery (ed.), New History of German Literature, Cambridge Mass. (Harvard University Press), 2004, 925-930
  • ‘Turkish-German Cinema: From Cultural Resistance to Transnational Cinema?’, in David Clarke (ed.), German Cinema Since Unification, London/New York (Continuum), 2006, 127-14

Articles (selected)

  • ‘The Theme of Non-Conformism in the Work of Heinrich Böll’, Warwick Occasional Papers in German Studies, No.3 (1974), 1-84
  • ‘Wedekind’s Concept of Morality: an extension of the argument’, New German Studies, Vol.III, No.3 (1975) 155-64
  • ‘Language, Reality and Political Commitment: an introduction to the work of Helmut Heißenbüttel’, Warwick Occasional Papers in German Studies, No.7 (1975), 1-45
  • ‘West German Intellectuals and Ideology’, New German Critique, Vol.3, No.2 (1976), 3-19
  • ‘Understanding Benjamin’, Red Letters, No.7 (1977), 16-33
  • ‘The Necessity of Cultural Struggle: the German working-class sports association’,Capital and Class, No.10 (1980), pp.166-181 (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • ‘West German Social Democracy and the socialist vision’, Marxism Today, Vol.24, No.12 (1980), 18-23 (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • ‘The Development of the West German Intellectual’, Journal of the Modern Language Association of Northern Ireland, No.6 (1981), 26-41
  • ‘Social Reality and Stylisation in Fear Eats the Soul: Fassbinder’s Study in Prejudice’, New German Studies, Vol.9, No.3 (1981), pp.193-206 (with Stephen Lamb)
  • ‘Pessimismus des Verstandes - Optimismus des Willens’, Debatte - Zeitschrift für Politik, Kunst und Wissenschaft­, No.6 (1985), 29-36
  • ‘The Women’s Movement in the Federal Republic of Germany’, Contemporary German Studies, No.3 (1987), 5-22 (with Renate Becker)
  • ‘Work and Class in Contemporary German Literature’, Contemporary German Studies, No.9 (1993), 52-75
  • ‘Fassbinder’s Angst essen Seele auf: a Mellow Brechtian Drama’, German Life and Letters, Vol.XLVIII, No.1 (1995), 56-74  
  • ‘Promise Unfulfilled? Margarethe von Trotta’s Germany Film Das Versprechen’, Debatte - Review of Contemporary German Affairs, Vol.4, No.2 (1996), 130-147
  • ‘Representations of the Multicultural Society in Contemporary Germany’, Discussion Papers in German Studies, No. 97/7, Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham (1997), 1-48
  • ‘Images of Alterity: Second Generation Turks in the Federal Republic’, Modern Language Review, Vol.94, No.3 (1999), 744-757
  • ‘German Cultural Policy: An Overview’, The International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol.9, No.2 (2003), 133-152 (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • ‘Intellectuals as Cultural Agenda-Setters in the Federal Republic?’, The International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol.12, No.3 (2006), 291-322 (with Wilfried van der Will)
  • ‘Towards a Cinema of Cultural Hybridity: Turkish-German Filmmakers and the Representation of Alterity’, Debatte Journal of Contemporary central and Eastern Europe, Vol.15, No.1 (2007), 3-24
  • ‘The Politics of Cultural Representation: Turkish-German Encounters’, German Politics, Vol.16, No.3 (2007), 358-378
  • ‘On the Street and on the Road: Identity in Transit in Turkish-German Travelogues on Screen’, New Cinemas, Vol.7, No.1 (2009), 7-26