Angus Nicholls

Angus Nicholls's picture
Reader in German and Comparative Literature / Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and Culture
BA (Hons) PhD (Monash)
Arts One 211
+44 (0)20 7882 2683
Research interests: 
Literature and the human sciences, literary theory, literature and philosophy, German thought 1750 until the present, Anglo-German cultural relations, theories of myth, Goethe, Germans in Australia
Angus Nicholls holds a joint appointment in the Departments of German and Comparative Literature and is currently Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and Culture. He was formerly Acting Director of the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations, and was founding co-editor of the Centre's Yearbook, ANGERMION (founded in 2008). He serves on the Council of the English Goethe Society and is co-editor of the Publications of the English Goethe Society (founded in 1886). He also co-edits the journal History of the Human Sciences with Felicity Callard and Rhodri Hayward. Nicholls' first monograph (Camden House, 2006), based on his doctoral dissertation, is a study of the notion of daemonic inspiration, firstly in classical philosophy (the pre-Socratics, Plato, Stoicism and Neo-Platonism) and subsequently in the works of Goethe and his philosophical contemporaries (for example: Hamann, Herder, Schelling). This exploration of the non-rational elements in human experience is continued in a volume on the history of the concept of the unconscious (co-edited with Martin Liebscher, Cambridge UP, 2010), which explores that concept's philosophical and literary manifestations in nineteenth-century German thought. Between October 2011 until April 2013 Nicholls was Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellow at the German Literary Archive in Marbach am Neckar and at the University of Stuttgart. During this period he researched and wrote a book on Hans Blumenberg and the theory of myth (Routledge, 2015) as well as discovering, editing and publishing (with Felix Heidenreich) a text from the Blumenberg archive on the theory of political myth and its application to National Socialism (Suhrkamp, 2014). His current major research project is a study of the relations between literary criticism and scientific method in nineteenth-century Britain and Germany, which analyses case studies on the application of natural scientific methods to literary studies (Goethe, William Whewell), the science of philology during the nineteenth century and its relation to Darwinism (Max Mueller, August Schleicher, Charles Darwin), and debates about science, culture, and the purpose of the academic humanities in the late nineteenth century (Matthew Arnold, Thomas Henry Huxley, Wilhelm Dilthey). Another area of interest is Germans in Australia during the nineteenth century, examined in book chapters and journal articles on Ludwig Leichhardt and Carl Strehlow. Angus Nicholls is especially interested in supervising research projects in the following areas: literature and philosophy; literary theory; German thought (roughly 1750 until the present); myth and myth reception; Anglo-German cultural and intellectual relations.


  • Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2006), 325pp.
      • ReviewsJournal of European Studies 37, no. 2 (2007): 213-14; German Studies Review 30, no.2 (2007): 399-401; New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century (2007):81-2; Goethe-Jahrbuch 124 (2007):285-6; Forum for Modern Language Studies 44, no. 1 (2008): 94-5; The German Quarterly 81, no. 2 (2008): 229-30; Modern Language Review 103, no. 3 (2008): 888-9; Goethe Yearbook 16 (2009): 246-7 

Critical Editions

Edited Volumes

  • (co-edited with Martin Liebscher), Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010; paperback edition, 2012), 340 pp.
      • ReviewsModern Language Review 107, no. 2 (2012): 647-8; German Studies Review 35, no. 2 (2012): 403-5; Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 1, no. 1 (2012): 16-21; Goethe Yearbook 19 (2012):299-302; HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Science 2, no. 1 (2012): 166-9; Society, no. 49 (2012): 188-93; History of the Human Sciences 24, no. 3 (2011):133-7; Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 59 (2011):1079-85; Psychodynamic Psychiatry 42 (2014): 143-9

Refereed Journal Editorial Positions

Upcoming and Recent Public Lectures,  Media Appearances and Press Articles

  • Commentary on the conference Biological Discourses: The Language of Science and Literature Around 1900, St. John's College, Cambridge, April 2015
  • "Oxford is Beautiful but one Longs for German Professors: F. Max Mueller's Encounters with British Culture and Thought." Part of the series Germans in Britain, St. John's College, Oxford, 28 Nov 2014
  • Conference report on Hans Blumenberg research in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7 Feb 2012
  • Extended interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Book Show concerning Ludwig Leichhardt's influence on Patrick White, 25 Jan 2011

Research Group Memberships

  • (2014-17) Empirisierung des Transzendentalen. Epistemologische Voraussetzungen und Erscheinungsformen der Moderne in Wissenschaft, Literatur und Kunst um 1900, funded by the German Research Foundation

Special Issues of Refereed Journals

Book Chapters and Refereed Journal Articles (selection since 2005)

  • (with Felicity Callard and Rhodri Hayward), New Editors' Editorial, History of the Human Sciences 29, no. 3 (2016)
  • "Hans Blumenberg on Political Myth: Recent Publications from the Nachlass." In: Iyyun: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly 65 (January 2016): 3-33
  • "Goethe the Writer." In: The Oxford Handbook of European Romanticism, ed. Paul Hamilton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 293-314

  • "'How to Do Nothing with Words': Hans Blumenberg's Reception of Plato's Protagoras." In: Prometheus gibt nicht auf: Antike Welt und modernes Leben in Hans Blumenbergs Philosophie, ed. Melanie Möller (Munich: Fink, 2015), 61-75
  • "Against Darwin: Teleology in German Philosophical Anthropology." In: Historical Teleologies in the Modern World, ed. Henning Trüper, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 89-113
  • "Leichhardt and Voss Revisited." In: Patrick White: Beyond the Grave, ed. Ian Henderson and Anouk Lang (London: Anthem Press, 2015), 35-63
  • "Max Müller and the Comparative Method." In: Comparative Critical Studies 12, no. 2 (2015): 213-34 
  • (with Felix Heidenreich), "Mythos," trans. Daniel Weidner. In: Blumenberg lesen. Ein Glossar, ed. Robert Buch and Daniel Weidner (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2014), 214-27
  • "The Goethe Complex: Hans Blumenberg on Das Dämonische." In: Das Dämonische. Schicksale einer Kategorie der Zweideutigkeit nach Goethe, ed. Lars Friedrich, Eva Geulen and Kirk Wetters (Munich: Fink, 2014), 97-119
  • "A Germanic Reception in England: Friedrich Max Müller's Critique of Darwin's Descent of Man." In: The Literary and Cultural Reception of Charles Darwin in Europe, vol. 3, ed. Thomas F. Glick and Elinor Shaffer (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 78-100
  • "The Young Leichhardt's Diaries in the Context of his Australian Cultural Legacy." In: The Leichhardt Papers: Reflections on His Life and Legacy, ed. Roderick J. Fensham, Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, Culture 7, no. 2 (2013): 541-59 

  • (with Martin Liebscher), "Rethinking the Unconscious." In: Intellectual History Review 23, no. 2 (2013): 263-68
  • "The Core of This Dark Continent: Ludwig Leichhardt's Australian Explorations." In: Transnational Networks: German Migrants in the British Empire, 1670-1914, ed. John R. Davis, Stefan Manz and Margrit Schulte Beerbühl (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 141-62
  • "Between Natural and Human Science: Scientific Method in Goethe's Noten und Abhandlungen zum West-östlichen Divan." In: Publications of the English Goethe Society 80, no. 1 (2011): 1-18
  • "Scientific Literary Criticism in the Work of Wilhelm Dilthey and Matthew Arnold." In: Comparative Critical Studies 8, no. 1 (2011): 7-31
  •  "The Fremdling of Teleology: On Roger Smith's Being Human." In: History of the Human Sciences 23, no. 5 (2010): 194-201
  •  (with Martin Liebscher), "Introduction: Thinking the Unconscious." In: Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth Century German Thought, ed. Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 1-25 
  •  "The Scientific Unconscious: Goethe's Post-Kantian Epistemology." In: Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth Century German Thought, ed. Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 87-120
  • "Das Spannungsverhältnis von Wissenschaft und Mythologie in Deutschland um 1800 und in Großbritannien um 1850-1900." In: Wissenschaftsgeschichte als Begriffsgeschichte. Terminologische Umbrüche im Entstehungsprozess der modernen Wissenschaften, ed. Michael Eggers and Matthias Rothe (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2009), 133-56
  •  "Goethe and Twentieth-Century Theory: An Introduction." In: The Goethe Yearbook 16 (2009): 163-72
  •  "The Inadequacy of Life: Observations on Adorno." In: History of the Human Sciences 20, no. 4 (2007): 147-66
  •  "Anglo-German Mythologics: The Australian Aborigines and Modern Theories of Myth in the Work of Baldwin Spencer and Carl Strehlow." In: History of the Human Sciences 20, no. 1 (2007): 83-114
  •  "The Subject-Object of Wissenschaft: On Wilhelm Dilthey's Goethebilder." In: Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift für Germanistik 39, no.1 (2006): 69-86
  •  "The Philosophical Concept of the Daemonic in Goethe's Mächtiges Überraschen." In: The Goethe Yearbook 14 (2006): 147-70
  •  "The Hermeneutics of Scientific Language in Goethe's Critique of Newton." In: Sprachkunst. Beiträge zur Literaturwissenschaft 36, no. 2 (2005): 203-26; reprinted in: Passagen: 50 Jahre Germanistik an der Monash University, ed. Franz-Josef Deiters, Axel Fliethmann and Christiane Weller (St. Ingbert: Röhrig Universitätsverlag, 2010), 519-58.
  • "On Science and Subjectivity." In: History of the Human Sciences 18, no. 1 (2005): 143-58

Online Review Essays

Current PhD Supervisions

  • The Existential Function of Metaphor (PhD in Comparative Literature)
  • Work on Myth in Ovid (PhD in Comparative Literature, co-supervised with Katie Fleming)

Recent and Current Undergraduate Teaching: 

  • Myth and Modernity (first year Comp Lit);
  • European Literature and its Contexts (first year Comp Lit);
  • Foundations of German Studies (first year German);
  • Literature and Philosophy (second year Comp Lit);
  • Colonial Literatures, Post-Colonial Perspectives (second year Comp Lit);
  • German Thought (second year German and Comp Lit);
  • The Scene of Writing (final year Comp Lit)

Recent and Current Postgraduate Teaching: 

  • Cultures of Comparison (MA Comp Lit);
  • Walter Benjamin on Memory (IGRS MA in Cultural Memory);
  • Theory and Practice of Anglo-German Cultural Relations (MA Anglo-German Cultural Relations);
  • Anglo-German Travel Writing (MA Anglo-German Cultural Relations);
  • In Pursuit of Prejudice (MA Anglo-German Cultural Relations);
  • Anglo-German Aesthetics in the Long C18th (MA Anglo-German Cultural Relations)
Office hours: 
Semester Two 2015-16: Tuesdays 10:00-12:00 or by appointment