PD Dr. Benjamin Kohlmann

English Department
University of Hamburg



  • - 2019: University of Hamburg
  • 2011-2019: Assistant Professor, University of Freiburg
  • 2010-2011: Lecturer at the Department of English and American Studies, University of Regensburg



  • 06/2017: Habilitation ("venia legendi"), University of Freiburg
  • 2007-2011: PhD in English Literature, Lincoln College, University of Oxford
  • 2005-2007: M.A. degree in Philosophy and English Literature, University of Freiburg
  • 2004-2005: Graduate study at Yale University (Philosophy Department)
  • 2001-2004: Undergraduate studies, Philosophy and English Literature, University of Freiburg


Visiting Positions and Fellowships

  • Visiting Fellow, English Department, University of California, Davis (2018)
  • Visiting Member, Jesus College, University of Cambridge (2016-2017)
  • Visiting Fellow, English Department, University of East Anglia (2016-2017)
  • Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University (2012-2013)



  • Project funding (three years), "Literature, Liberalism, and the Laissez-Faire Economy, 1776-1900", Elite Programme for Postdocs, Baden Württemberg Foundation (funding for PhD student and additional funding for conference organisation and travel)
  • Research Fellowship, German Research Foundation
  • Feodor Lynen Fellowship, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
  • Michael Foster Memorial Scholarship, awarded by the University of Oxford (waiving university and college fees during doctoral study)
  • PhD scholarship, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)
  • Baden-Württemberg Scholarship (to study at Yale University)
  • Scholar of the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes), 2003-2010
  • Grants for the organisation of international conferences from ZIF (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld University), Thyssen Foundation, DFG, and other institutions
  • Travel grants from DAAD, the University of Oxford, and other institutions




  • British Literature, Reform, and the Idea of the Welfare State [under review]
  • Committed Styles: Modernism, Politics, and Left-Wing Literature in the 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. [Reviewed in Times Literary Supplement; Review of English Studies; Literature and History; Modernist Cultures; Ostrava Journal; ZAA; Year's Work in English Studies; Twentieth-Century Literature]

Edited Volumes

  • Ed. (with M. Taunton) A History of 1930s British Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming.
  • Ed. (with M. Taunton) Literatures of Anti-Communism. Special issue of Literature and History (Spring 2015).
  • Ed. Edward Upward and Left-Wing Literary Culture in Britain. London: Ashgate, 2013. [Reviewed in Times Literary Supplement; Review of English Studies; Literature and History; Key Words: The Journal of the Raymond Williams Society, SHARP News]
  • Ed. (with M. Fludernik) Anglistentag 2011 - Proceedings. Trier: wvt, 2012.


Journal Articles

  • "Konstruierte Sprachen als literarische und gesellschaftliche Utopie in der englischen Frühen Neuzeit". Under review.
  • "Rethinking the Aesthetics of Classlessness". Under review.
  • "The Victorian Crisis of Laissez-Faire: George Eliot, Political Economy, and the Common Good", History of Political Economy 48:4 (2016), 681-704.
  • "Toward a History and Theory of the Socialist Bildungsroman", NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, 48:2 (2015), 167-89.
  • "What Is It Like to Be a Rat? Early Cold War Glimpses of the Post-Human", Textual Practice 28/4 (2014), 655-75.
  • “Awkward Moments: Melodrama, Modernism, and the Politics of Affect”, PMLA 128/2 (2013), 337-52.
  • “An Honest Decade: William Empson and the Ambiguities of Writing in the 1930s”, English Literary History 80/1 (2013), 221-49
  • "Edward Upward, W. H. Auden, and the Rhetorical Victories of Communism", Modernism/Modernity 20/2 (2013), 287-306.
  • “‘Men of Sobriety and Buisnes’: Pepys, Privacy, and Public Duty”, Review of English Studies 61/251 (2010), 553-71 
  • “‘The Heritage of Symbolism: Henry Green, Maurice Bowra, and English Modernism in the 1920s”, Modern Language Notes 124/5 (2009), 1188-1210 
  • “‘Stand Still, True Poet That You Are!’ Remembering the Brownings, Imagining Memorabilia”, ZAA 57/2 (2009), 125-38


Book Chapters

  • "Cognitive Sympathy and the Laissez-Faire Economy: Adam Smith and Harriet Martineau". Anglistentag 2017 - Proceedings. Trier: wvt. Forthcoming 2018.
  • "Muße, Work, and Free Time: Nineteenth-Century Visions of the Non-Alienated Life". How to Do Things With Narrative: Theory and Practice. Ed. Jan Alber and Greta Olson. Berlin: De Gruyter. Forthcoming 2018.
  • "Fashioning the 1930s". Cambridge Companion to British Literature in the 1930s. Ed. James Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Forthcoming 2018.
  • "'The End of Laissez-Faire': Literature, Economics, and the Idea of the Welfare State". Late Victorian into Modern, 1880-1920. Ed. Laura Marcus, Michèle Mendelssohn, and Kirsten Shepherd-Barr. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 448-62.
  • "Das Ich in der Revolte: Der Bildungsroman nach 1945 aus komparatistischer Perspektive". Vom 'unrettbaren' zum 'wiedergefundenen' Ich? Identitätsnarrative im 20. Jahrhundert. Ed. Heribert Tommek and Christian Steltz. Frankfurt: Lang, 2016. 145-63.
  • "'Possible Failures': Doris Lessing and Individual Formation in a Tragic Key". Anglistentag 2014 - Proceedings. Trier: wvt, 2015. 353-63.
  • "Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward". The American Isherwood. Ed. Jim Berg and Christopher Freeman. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2015. 198-214.
  • "Versions of Working-Class Idleness: Non-Productivity and the Critique of Victorian Workaholism". Leisure, Idleness and Indolence in British Literature. Ed. Monika Fludernik and Miriam Nandi. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2014. 195-214.
  • "Introduction". Edward Upward and Left-Wing Literary Culture in Britain. London: Ashgate, 2013. 1-18.
  • "Introduction". Utopian Spaces of Modernism: British Literature and Culture, 1885-1945. Ed. Rosalyn Gregory and Benjamin Kohlmann. London: Palgrave, 2012. 1-18.


Handbook and Dictionary Entries 

  •  “Thomas Love Peacock”, “Thomas Lovell Beddoes”, “Edmund Burke”. Encyclopaedia of Literary Romanticism. Ed. Andrew Maunders. New York, 2010 
  • “Edward Upward”, Literary Encyclopedia,, 2010 [2500 words]



  • Review of Peter Stansky, Edward Upward: Art and Life. Woolf Studies Annual, 23 (2017), 199-202.
  • Review of Marius Hentea, TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara. Modernism/Modernity, 22/1 (2015), 206-8.
  • Review of Jock Macleod, Literature, Journalism, and the Vocabularies of Liberalism. ZAA, 61/1 (2014), 93-95.
  • Review of Jed Esty, Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development. Modernist Cultures, 9/2 (2014), 310-14.
  • Review of Ina Habermann, Myth, Memory, and the Middlebrow: Priestley, du Maurier, and the Symbolic Form of Englishness. ZAA, 61/1 (2013), 93-95.
  • Review of Kristin Bluemel, ed., Intermodernism: Literary Culture in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain. Modernist Cultures, 6/1 (2011), 196-98
  • Review of Paul Crosthwaite, Trauma, Postmodernism, and the Aftermath of World War II, Modern Language Review, 105/2 (2010), 546-47



  • Poems by Silke Scheuermann. Inventory Journal (2014)



Invited and Keynote Lectures

"Rethinking the Aesthetics of Classlessness", University of California (Santa Cruz), 2018.

"The Reformist Literary Mode and the Welfare State", University of Colorado (Boulder), 2018.

"Surface Reading", Centre for Uses of Literature, University of Southern Denmark, 2017.

"Speculative States: British Literature's Hegelian Moment", Center for Welfare State Research, University of Southern Denmark, 2017.

"Means and Ends: Anglistische Perspektiven auf das Verhältnis von Literatur und Politik", University of Erlangen, 2017.

"Towards a Literary Prehistory of the Welfare State", English Department, Durham University, 2017.

"Proletarian Modernism in the Long 1930s", English Department, University of Manchester, 2017.

"States of Welfare: Modernism and the Reformist Literary Mode", English Department, University of East Anglia, 2017.

"Democracy and Dictatorship: Literary Visions of Classlessness", English Department, Sheffield Hallam University, 2017.

Keynote, "Outside of the Frame of Theory: Literature and the Place of Politics", Outside the Frame of Theory Conference, University of Freiburg, 2017.

"Slow Politics: Modernism, Reform, and the Idea of the Welfare State", English Faculty, University of Oxford, 2016.

"Proletarian Modernism", English Department, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016.

"The State Beyond Governmentality: Literary Reformism and the Emergence of the Welfare State", English Department, University of Notre Dame, 2016.

"Modernism and the Idea of the Welfare State", English Department, University of California, Davis, 2016.

Keynote, "The State Beyond Governmentality", Welfare and Welfare Narratives Conference, Center for Welfare State Research, University of South Denmark, 2016.

"Automatic Subjects", Novel Marxisms Workshop, Center for the Study of the Novel, Stanford University, 2016.

"Government and the State: Late Victorian Literature and the Politics of Reform", School of English, University of Sussex, 2016.

"The Apolitical Unconscious of 1930s Literature", English Department, University of Gent, 2014.

"Rethinking the 1930s: Literature, Politics, and the Communist Voice", English Department, Stanford University, 2013.

"'Higher Feelings' and the State: Literature, Economic Discourse, and the End of Laissez-Faire, 1870-1930", Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Centre for "History of the Emotions"), Berlin, 2012.

"Awkward Moments: Modernism, Melodrama, and the Politics of Affect", English Department, Brunel University, 2011.


Conference Papers (Selected)

"Proletarian Modernism", American Comparative Literature Association Conference, Utrecht 2017.

"'Machinery with a Common Purpose': Reformism and the Ends of the State", Modernist Studies Association, Pasadena, 2016.

"Proletarianiziation and Its Discontents", Modernist Studies Association, Pasadena, 2016.

"True Ownership: Edward Carpenter and the Nationalization of Land", NAVSA, Phoenix, 2016.

"Edward Carpenter, Land Nationalisation, and Late Victorian Popular Politics", BritCult Conference, University of Erlangen, 2015.

"The Long 1930s", Writing Literary History, University of Leuven, 2015.

"The Socialist Bildungsroman and the Time of the Revolution", Anglistentag, Hanover, 2014.

"Genealogies of Welfare: Ideas of the Common Good in E.M. Forster", Modernist Studies Association, Pittsburgh, 2014.

"'A Romance about Capital': E.M. Forster and the Idea of the Welfare State", Modernist Communities, Paris, 2014.

"Politics Without Footnotes", Modernist Studies Association, Brighton, 2013.

"Spiral Descent: Communist Anti-Communism after World War II", Anti-Communism: Literature, Culture, Propaganda, Institute of English Studies, London, 2013.

"Forms of Preparedness: E.M. Forster, Risk, and Unemployment Insurance", Cultivating the Economy, Columbia University, 2013.

"The Drama of Preparedness: Unemployment Insurance and E.M. Forster's (New) Liberal Aesthetic", On Liberties: Victorian Liberals and Their Legacies, Gladstone's Library, Hawarden (UK), 2013.

"'Playing with Bright Images': The Making and Unmaking of Surrealist Black Humour", Space Between Conference, DePaul University, Chicago 2013.

"Auden, Isherwood, and Post-Liberal Citizenship", Modernist Studies Association, Las Vegas, 2012.

"A Lost Generation: The Literature of the 1930s and Writing after Modernism", Generation M: Resetting Modernist Time. UVA, Amsterdam, 2012.

"'Brittle Ghosts': Surrealism, History, and Black Humour in the 1930s", History and Humour. Freiburg, 2012.

The Poverty of Surrealism: Social Critique in Early Mass-Observation”, The ‘Space Between’ Conference, McGill University, Montreal, 2011.

"What Is It Like To Be a Rat? Thomas Pynchon and Early Cold War Glimpses of the Post-Human", Research Seminar, Regensburg University, 2011.

"A ‘Radical Aesthetic’? Social Facts and Poetic Authority in Mass-Observation”, Modernism and Utopia, University of Birmingham, 2010. 

“‘The Heart of Standing Is You Cannot Fly’: William Empson and Taking Sides”, Utopian Spaces of British Literature and Culture, 1890-1945, University of Oxford, 2009.

“Henry Green, Maurice Bowra, and the ‘Heritage of Symbolism’”, Twentieth-Century Literature Research Seminar, University of Oxford, 2009.

“The Uses of Poetry: From T. S. Eliot to William Empson”, MLA Convention, Poetry Division (chaired by Susan J. Wolfson and Alan Golding), San Francisco, 2008.

“Poetical Remains: Robert Browning in the Marketplace”, Bodies and Things: Victorian Literature and the Matter of Culture Conference, University of Oxford, 2008.



Conference, The Proletarian Moment: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Comparative Perspectives, ZIF (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research), University of Bielefeld, 2018 (with Sabine Hake); funded by ZIF

Conference, Post-, Neo-, Anti-: The Futures of Critique, University of Freiburg, 2018

Conference, Modern Literature, Organisations, and Institutions, University of East Anglia, 2017 (with Rachel Potter and Matthew Taunton)

Conference, Symmetry, Proportion, Seriality: Convergences in Science and the Arts, Academia Europaea Conference, University of Freiburg, 2015 (with Andreas Buchleitner, Monika Fludernik, Martin Middeke); funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Conference, EUCOR PhD and MA Conference, University of Freiburg, 2014 (two days; with Wolfgang Hochbruck and Monika Fludernik)

Conference, "Anti-Communism: Culture, Literature, Propaganda", Institute of English Studies, London, 2013 (with Matthew Taunton); funded by the Leverhulme Trust

Conference, "Cultivating the Economy: Literature, Politics, Economics, 1870-1940", Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, 2013; funded by Thyssen Foundation

Conference, “Utopian Spaces of British Literature, 1890-1945”, English Faculty, University of Oxford, 2009 (with Rosalyn Gregory)

Seminar, "The Long 1930s: Rethinking the Politics of Writing", MSA Convention, Pittsburgh, 2014 (with Glyn Salton-Cox)

Panel, "British Literature and the State, 1870-1940", MLA Convention, 2013

Panel, "British Literature and the Interventionist State", MSA Convention, 2012

Teaching Experience

At Freiburg, Oxford, and Regensburg I have taught introductory classes as well as advanced courses, mainly on nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature. Topics have included: "Twentieth-Century British Drama", "History and Politics in Virginia Woolf's Novels", "Contexts of Modernism", "Victorian Poetry and Prose", "Victorian Literature in the Age of Extremes", "The Textual Worlds of Early Modern England". I have also taught a workshop for high school teachers at Regensburg University.


Professional Memberships

International Association of University Professors of English (elected member)

Young Academy of Europe (elected member)

Modern Language Association

Modernist Studies Association

North American Victorian Studies Association

British Association of Modernist Studies

The William Hazlitt Society


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