Prof Stephanie Bird

Prof Stephanie Bird

Professor of German Studies


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
26th Sep 1994

Research summary

I am interested in novels, narrative technique, literary theory, ethics and cultural treatments of history. I have worked on the interaction of fact and fiction, on the relationship of female and national identity, on shame and on comedy in representations of trauma. 


I'm currently Co-I on the AHRC funded project 'Compromised Identities? Reflections on Perpetration and Complicity under Nazism'. The project analyses entanglement in collective violence under Nazism, developing the concept of 'compromised identities' to explore historical subjectivities under changing circumstances. Objectives include understanding the formation of a 'bystander society', examining strategies of self-representation by individuals involved, understanding the intersections between subjective identity and wider political contexts, and exploring links between personal narratives and wider questions of morality and justice.  


My interest in perpetration and complicity developed from my previous project on comedy and trauma. In Comedy and Trauma in Germany and Austria after 1945 I explore the significance of the comical in postwar cultural representations of suffering by critically examining dominant paradigms such as that of trauma and victim identity. Authors and directors include Ingeborg Bachmann, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, W. G. Sebald, Ruth Klüger, Reinhard Jirgl, Volker Koepp, Edgar Hilsenrath and Jonathan Littell.  

My earlier research projects include the analysis of how fact and fiction are combined in novels exploring the lives of historical women. Recasting Historical Women focuses on novels that reconstruct women's lives by combining fact with linguistic and narrative invention. Wider issues of feminism and historiography are illuminated, as well as ways that historical events are used to substantiate ideological positions in the present.

In Women Writers and National Identity, I look at the twin themes of female and national identity in the fictional narratives of Ingeborg Bachmann, Anne Duden and Emine Özdamar. I argue that the complexity and contradictions of identity are closely tied to the ambiguities and tensions of the narratives. I draw on feminist theory and psychoanalysis and suggest that literary texts are uniquely able to point to the ethical importance of ambiguity through their stylistic complexity. 

I have also engaged with the affect of shame and how it relates to transgression and perpetration. In my analysis of Robert Musil’s work, I have been particularly interested in considering the relationship of shame and narrative ethics. 


Teaching summary

I teach German-language literature and film and Comparative Literature at all levels. I also teach modules on literary theory and gender theory. I currently supervise PhD dissertations on various twentieth-century prose texts and film.


University of Birmingham
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy |
University of Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts |