School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS)


Dr Thomas Wilks

Dr Thomas Wilks




  • Teaching Fellow
    Faculty of Arts & Humanities
  • UCL Teaching Fellow
    Centre for Languages & Intl Educatn
    VP: International

Joined UCL


My principal interests are in modern comparative literature, German, French, translation and autobiographical studies. My current book project, Modelling Distraction in European Literature, from which I have already published a draft chapter on 'Coming To Terms With Distraction in German', defines, historicises and assesses convergences and divergences of the separately signified modes of what we term 'distraction' in English. An abstract and longer project proposals, targeting contexts in which I would be pleased to place and complete this project are available.

In my earlier monograph, I concentrated on the intertextual connectedness of literatures and on relevant narrative theory. Research for this project explored the relations between thematic and formal approaches to Michel Leiris’s and Hubert Fichte’s multiple volumes of autobiography and their autobiographically motivated work in other genres. Entitled Experimentation and the Autobiographical Search for Identity in the Projects of Michel Leiris and Hubert Fichte (Mellen, 2006), this book in its comparative dimension, exploring contrasts and convergences between their literary œuvres, is distinguished from other scholarship on these authors, of which relatively little had appeared in English when it was produced. My main contention is that life and writing become interdependent for both Leiris and Fichte over the course of their literary self-scrutiny as they develop comparable poetic and performative aspirations. Chapters highlight these authors' preoccupations with their authorial functions, which are manifested in their constant manipulations of language, notably of intertextualities and glosses.

The book, revised during a full-time language teaching appointment, amounts to approximately 118,000 words across eight chapters. It contains a substantial bibliography detailing the majority of secondary material accessible in Britain at the time of publication on both Leiris and Fichte.

I have contributed in an editorial advisory capacity to the Cahiers Leiris, a Francophone journal. My article on the chronology and cohesion of the constellation of beginnings and endings in L'Age d'homme was published in the first volume. I published two further articles on Leiris in 2013, which I am poised to expand to evaluate the qualities of intricacy and precision in his French writing that present challenges to non-Francophone readers, including English and German translators.

I am also investigating the challenges of translation and reception posed by the specificity of content (narration, intertextualities, milieux, cultural and autobiographical referentiality) in the work of Wilhelm Genazino. I intend to demonstrate how Genazino's novels conceal an approach to comparative literary history that his essays on world writers have gradually revealed. A recent paper compares the challenges of translating Genazino's published stage plays to appeal to a non-German audience with the challenges of staging them.
Award year Qualification Institution
2003 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Modern Languages and Literature
University of London
1999 MA
Master of Arts
European Languages, Literature and related subjects
Royal Holloway
1998 BA Hons
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
Modern Languages
Royal Holloway

Dr Thomas Wilks studied at Royal Holloway, University of London (BA French and German; MA European Literary and Cultural Studies; PhD comparing Michel Leiris's and Hubert Fichte's life-writing projects). He held a Teaching Fellowship in German there as well as appointments in French and as an Associate Examiner, including for the University of London External BA German programme, for which he co-authored study guides on modern literature. Qualified in Teaching Skills for Higher Education, he spent much of his career over the nine years prior to joining UCL in three very different regions and institutions in Germany, teaching advanced English, translation, theatre, British cultural studies and media studies extensively at the Universities of Wuerzburg (where he also ran the English Drama Group), Mainz and Braunschweig.  His book on Experimentation and the Autobiographical Search for Identity in the Projects of Michel Leiris and Hubert Fichte was published by Mellen. He has published further on Leiris, including two encyclopaedia commissions in 2013. His research interests are in comparative literature, especially the autobiographical, and translatability in modern and contemporary French and German narrative. His current project, Modelling Distraction in European Literature, investigates connections between discretely signified forms of reconfigured awareness that are unified by the English term 'distraction'; it was boosted by the award to him of the Sylvia Naish Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies in 2009. Appointed fractionally to UCL in 2012, he currently teaches literature and written language, including translation into and out of English, in the German Department of the School of European Languages,Culture and Society. He has designed and taught three School-wide modules: The Autobiographical Child in the 20th Century; Autobiography Beyond Self-Identity: On Belonging And Not Belonging Socially; and Distractions of Manhood in the 21st Century. He also taught German history (gender and class in the 19th Century) and on literary representations of Berlin, a final-year special subject option, in a parallel fractional temporary appointment at the University of Reading in 2014, where he was also an Examiner for several content modules in German. Later in 2014 and again in 2016, he taught academic communication intensively to international postgraduate students entering humanities programmes at the University of Southampton. He has taught combined language and literature courses on French and German drama, including translation elements, for the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York (2016). He is developing a module for UCL's International Summer School for Undergraduates on The European Character of London. He is an experienced translator from German and French into English of material ranging from narratology to psychology to pathology.


Academic Board Member|*|Arts|*|Blended Learning|*|British Comparatist|*|British Frenchist|*|British Germanist|*|British Linguist|*|British Studies|*|Comparative Literature|*|Contemporary Literature|*|European Cultural Studies|*|French Studies|*|French-English Translator|*|German Media Studies|*|German Studies|*|German-English Translator|*|Humanities|*|Media Analyst|*|Moodle Author|*|Radio Presenter|*|Radio Producer|*|Researcher|*|Teacher|*|Translation Studies|*|Translation into English|*|Twentieth Century Literature|*|Twenty-First Century Literature

Office Hours

Term 1 & 2: Tuesdays 4-5pm

Term 3: by appointment