School of Modern Languages

Staff Profiles

Professor Bernhard Malkmus

Professor of German Studies, Head of German


  • Staatsexamen and M.A., Universität Konstanz
  • PhD, University of Cambridge

Before joining Newcastle University, Bernhard Malkmus taught German language, comparative literature, and intellectual history at the Ohio State University for ten years. Prior to that, he held teaching positions at the Charles University in Prague, Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, and Goldsmiths University London.

He has held research fellowships at the following institutions:

  • Rachel Carson Center for the Environment and Society, Munich
  • Institut für Philosophie, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg (DAAD)
  • Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften (IFK), Vienna
  • Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

Bernhard Malkmus teaches German literature and intellectual history from the 18th century to the present. He has particular research interests in Goethezeit and Romanticism, modernity and modernism, and contemporary culture.

His current work reflects on the way humans have imagined and envisaged their relation to nature, their role in the history of life, and their position in the web of life throughout the modern age. He has a particular interest in the history and philosophy of biology and ecology. Part of this research agenda is also the scientific debate on the Anthropocene and its social, political, and cultural ramifications. He is currently convening the Anthropocene research Group with the river scientist Andy Large.

Bernhard Malkmus has a particular interest in poetry, both as a teacher, translator, and writer. Poets he has translated into German include Raúl Zurita, Peter Balakian, and W.S. Merwin.

Apart from his work as a teacher and scholar, he regularly contributes to German and English language journals and newspapers, for example Times Literary Supplement, Neue Rundschau, Sinn und Form, Merkur, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, Der Freitag.

Other interests include classical music and jazz, hiking and track & field running, ornithology and botany, smart cities and internet commons.

Areas of Expertise

  • narratives and theories of modernity
  • environmental humanities
  • comparative literature
  • poetry and translation


In his current scholarship Bernhard Malkmus explores the history of ecological imaginaries and their relation to other intellectual developments in modernity. He is currently working on a book-length essay entitled "Menschendämmerung: On Living in an Anthropomorphic World", which deals with the epistemological and ethical implications of the Anthropocene concept. His new project "Deep Time: The geological imaginary in contemporary literature" engages with the literary rendition of specific landscapes (the Alps, North American deserts, Patagonian pampa) that cannot be fully absorbed into the industrial paradigm. It seeks to compare the relation between specific colonial historical experiences and the global experience of environmental degradation and precarity. He is also particularly interested in the history of the concepts of Darwinism and ecology and their various interrelations since the late 19th century.

His publications in the environmental humanities include a special issue of New German Critique entitled Between Humanism and Posthumanism: The Challenge of Ecology to the Humanities (co-edited with Heather Sullivan), an essay on Max Frisch's environmental histories in PMLA, and various book chapters on environmental ethics and aesthetics in the writings of Peter Handke, W.G. Sebald, Graham Swift, as well as in Stanley Cavell and the French and German phenomenological traditions.

He is currently preparing a German edition of Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard in the Naturkunden series of the publisher Matthes & Seitz (forthcoming, Berlin 2020).

Other fields of research interest include narratives of modernity, philosophical anthropology, intertextuality and intermediality, the relation between ethics and aesthetics, the history and philosophy of nature conservation (with a particular focus on national parks), the cultural history of mountain regions (with a particular focus on the Alps).

In the academic year 2018-19, he is giving lectures and workshops at the following conferences:


Professor Malkmus's teaching covers German cultural and literary history from the 18th century to the present. He is interested in embedding historical narratives in broader comparative cultural frameworks. Special thematic foci include the environmental humanities, the relation between the life sciences and the humanities, the theory and philosophy of history. Through the lens of the German intellectual legacy, in dialogue with other European cultures, his modules are exploring what it means to be a human individual, a social being, and a biological species in the web of life. Practicing foreign languages and thinking through a foreign culture affords us with a fresh perspective on these vital and pressing questions.

In 2012, Bernhard Malkmus was awarded the Rodica C. Botoman Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring at the Ohio State University.

In fall semester 2018, he is teaching the following seminars:

  • SML1022 Introduction to Cultural Studie
  • German 4016 The Future: Its History and Its Future
  • German 4081 Advanced Writing

Bernhard Malkmus is currently supervising PhD dissertations on contemporary German literature and on ecocinema. He welcomes expressions of interest to work on research projects in any subject related to his areas of expertise.