Dr Conor Brennan

Dr Conor Brennan

College Lecturer in German


Before coming to St John's, I completed a PhD in Comparative Literature at Trinity College Dublin, where I also taught courses on German literature and film and German-English translation. My first degree was in English Literature and German at TCD, followed by an MSt in German at Oxford. I grew up in Donegal in the northwest of Ireland, and have spent various periods of time along the way researching and studying in Freiburg, Innsbruck, Vienna and Hong Kong.


I teach modern German literature and translation into English. My teaching duties this year include lecture courses on Kafka and on post-1945 Austrian writing, as well as seminars and tutorials for Prelims Papers III and IV and Final Honours School Papers II, VIII, X (Kafka, Rilke, Bernhard) and XII (Narrative Identities). Current dissertation supervision at undergrad and Master’s level includes comparative work on Kafka and on Rolf Dieter Brinkmann. The small-group teaching at Oxford is a particularly special experience: I enjoy lecturing, but getting a chance to discuss texts in more detail with students is by far my favourite part of the job. It’s a great pleasure and privilege to see how individual students think about the world, and to witness that thinking changing and developing over time.

Research Interests

My research mainly focuses on contemporary fiction and its roots in 20th-century modernism. My recent work is within the field of literary ecocriticism, which tries to think about the complex and ambiguous relationship between art or literature and the biosphere, not least in the context of the climate and biodiversity crises. Other research interests include post-Holocaust writing; modern Austrian fiction and philosophy; and postcolonial writing, a topic which is inseparable from any discussion of ecological destruction and climate justice. I don’t think of literature as being divided along national or linguistic borders, and usually work comparatively across both English and German. While an intimate knowledge of language and cultural context is a crucial foundation for literary study, I am also a translation optimist, and believe in the value of studying translated literature as long as blind spots are duly acknowledged.

Selected Publications

‘An axe for the rising sea: Kafka’s Anthropocene afterlives’, Oxford German Studies 51 (2022) [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00787191.2022.2116811]

‘In Echo’s Cave: Gendered Guilt and Anthropocene Repercussions in Texts by Christoph Ransmayr and Valerie Fritsch’, Austrian Studies 30 (2022) [https://muse.jhu.edu/article/877912]

Podcast episode (guest): 'Why science alone won't solve the climate crisis', https://www.buzzsprout.com/2068680/13496795

Podcast episode: 'Looking East, Looking West: Should we change how we talk about Eastern Europe?', https://soundcloud.com/tlrhub/the-hublic-sphere-looking-east-looking-west-should-we-change-how-we-talk-about-eastern-europe