Comparative Literature


Dr Florian Mussgnug

Italian and Comparative Literature
I was educated in Germany, Britain, and Italy, and I am particularly interested in the literature and culture of these countries. My research explores how literary themes and forms travel across time and space, and how our understanding of literature has developed in response to the pressures of a fast-changing world. I am Director of Comparative Literature at UCL and responsible for the BA Comparative Literature, which examines world literature from diverse geographical and cultural angles. I write on experimental literature, the modern and contemporary novel, literary theory, utopia, and genre fiction. In this BBC documentary I speak about Italian crime writing and how it differs from other forms of contemporary fiction.

The Sixties
The 1960s were an important decade for Italy. My work investigates how Italian artists and writers embraced and expressed radically new ideas, and how they transformed culture and society. My book The Eloquence of Ghosts (2010) looks at the works of Giorgio Manganelli, an author who became famous in the Sixties. I am also interested in Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, and in the philosopher Umberto Eco, who became a bestselling author in the Eighties. In this BBC4 radio programme, I recall Eco’s extraordinary achievements as an intellectual and as a novelist.

Interdisciplinary Italy
I am very interested in works of art that merge more than one medium, for example sound art, visual poetry, performance, graphic novels. Together with colleagues at the Universities of Birmingham and Royal Holloway I run a large research project, Interdisciplinary Italy, which explores this exciting field. We work with an international team of artists, museum curators, school teachers and academics, and organise exhibitions, conferences, workshops and public events in Italy and in the UK. Our website offers a dynamic space for co-writing across artistic disciplines.


The End of the World
I am fascinated by cultural representations of catastrophe and apocalypse, and why we are so interested in them. I have written on climate change fiction, cold war culture, existential risk, animals and the end of the world, our fear of the future and nostalgia for the past. These themes feature prominently in all the courses I teach at UCL and some will be the topic of my next book.

The works of philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco are among my long-standing interests. This portrait was painted in 1994 by the Italian artist Tullio Pericoli, who recently visited our department for an international workshop on Visual Storytelling (March 2016)

For Florian's full research portfolio you can view his profile on the SELCS site.