Prof Florian Mussgnug

Prof Florian Mussgnug

Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian Studies


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2004

Research summary

As co-investigator for the large AHRC-funded research project, “Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: Interart/Intermedia”, I have been exploring different strands of radical literature, visual and performative art from the 1960s and 1970s. I will present these findings in a forthcoming monograph that will be co-authored with Clodagh Brook (Trinity College Dublin) and Giuliana Pieri (Royal Holloway).

My book The Eloquence of Ghosts (2010, winner of the 2012 Edinburgh Gadda Prize) examines the creative possibilities of hybrid genres and open form, as they emerged in the context of Italy’s literary and artistic neo-avant-garde of the Fifties and Sixties. I explore the influence of literary and philosophical models, the relationship between literary and visual texts, and changing assumptions about realism and fantasy. I am also interested in the idea of a nostalgic and deliberately anachronistic “late modernism”, in explicit contrast with Postmodernism’s radical displacement of established norms. Giorgio Manganelli's oeuvre has been at the centre of this project, but I am also interested in the works of Italo Calvino, Primo Levi, Elsa Morante, Guido Morselli, Paolo Volponi. 

Another strand of my research explores the growing interest in narratives of emergency, global catastrophe and survival in a damaged world. My forthcoming monograph argues that apocalyptic thinking plays a key role in contemporary conceptions of human vulnerability, shaping pervasive stories and values. Coherence will be achieved through three broad, cross-disciplinary concepts: revelation, resilience and radical hope. Each term corresponds here to a corpus of primary texts and to a different social and political conception of apocalypse fiction: as an articulation of anxious paralysis, a site of progressive activism and a means to building more liveable futures. 

Teaching summary

My undergraduate teaching ranges from introductory modules on modern and contemporary literature through to more specialised courses on the Gothic, Twenty-First Century Fiction and posthuman ecologies. I also teach an MA module on Apocalypse Literature.

Between 2016 until 2019, I directed the undergraduate programme in Comparative Literature, which I founded and developed. I also contribute to the BASc Arts and Science as co-convenor of BASC2003: Qualitative Thinking, a second-year core course which introduces students to qualitative methods and value judgement through a variety of phenomena such as taste, poetry, design, language, food and photography.

I have been first supervisor or co- supervisor to eighteen research students. 


Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
Doctorate, Dottorato di Ricerca | 2003
University of Oxford
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2000
University of Oxford
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 1999
University of Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) | 1998


Educated in Germany, Britain and Italy, I have been introduced to different and complementary ideas of excellence in scholarship and teaching. My double interest in literature and critical theory – originally prompted by an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Italian at Balliol College, University of Oxford – has over the years evolved into a commitment to several disciplines and to cross-disciplinary inquiry. 

I am particularly interested in the emergent, cross-disciplinary framework that links comparative literature, the modern languages and the creative humanities. My research focuses on modern and contemporary literature in Italian, German and English. I currently work on radical artistic practice, the posthuman and on cultural representations of catastrophe and apocalypse.


I am co-investigator for a large AHRC-funded research project, “Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: Interart/Intermedia”, which has been successful in two consecutive rounds of AHRC funding. The project explores creative practice across different media, with a specific focus on literature, art, architecture, music and design. 

I am also the founding director of the UCL undergraduate programme in Comparative Literature and the first academic director of UCL’s Cities partnerships Programme (CpP), which was launched in 2018 as one of three pillars of UCL’s comprehensive strategy to deliver a greater depth of partnership and academic collaboration across Europe. 

My publications to date include two monographs, one co-authored book, five co-edited volumes, three co-edited special issues, eighteen journal articles and fifteen book chapters. I am the recipient of two international awards: the Premio Nicoletta Quinto (2002) for early-career research, and the Edinburgh Gadda Prize (2012).

I held visiting professorships and research fellowships at Oxford, Siena, Sapienza University Rome, Cagliari,  Roma Tre University and the British School at Rome, and I am a regular advisor on national research funding in Portugal (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) and Italy (Valutazione della Qualità della Ricerca). I have served on the editorial boards of six specialist journals, on the executive committees of two subject associations (BCLA, ENCLS) and on the jury of four international book prizes (Campiello, Strega, Gadda, John Dryden). 


I am jointly responsible for the running of a London-wide research network (LINKS) and an annual, international summer school (Hermes: Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies) and I am general editor of two established book series: New Comparative Criticism (Peter Lang) and Comparative Literature and Culture (UCL Press, with Timothy Mathews).