Dr Florian Mussgnug

Dr Florian Mussgnug

Reader in Italian and Comparative Literature


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2004

Research summary

My research interests range across a variety of areas, including experimental writing, Postmodernism, literature and music, philosophy of language and literary theory, literature and religion, cultural representations of catastrophe and apocalypse. I am  co-investigator for a large AHRC-funded research project, “Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: Interart/Intermedia”, , and I am working on a comparative study of the European apocalyptic novel.

Experimental Literature and Art, 1955-1975

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, one of Italy’s most original authors, 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. I wish to trace similar tensions on a European level, and have been exploring the possibility of a European network for the study of experimental literature and artistic border-crossings during Europe’s “long Sixties”. 

As co-investigator for the large AHRC-funded research project, “Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: Interart/Intermedia”, , I have been concerned with the recent fascination with interdisciplinarity and the profound crisis of traditional institutions of learning and research. My own research, in this context, explores interdisciplinary practice not only as a research method (“Writing like music”, 2008), but also as a way of strengthening institutions and disciplines, by increasing our ties with those working outside of academia.

Apocalypse Fiction and the Literature of Last Men

This project is inspired by my work on the post-war avant-gardes and originates from the idea that dystopian fiction – as I suggest in “Finire il mondo” (2003) – flourished in the Seventies as an alternative to both traditional realism and radical stylistic experiments. My comparative and interdisciplinary approach highlights the continuities between religious and secular philosophies of history, and examines apocalypse fiction as a privileged point of encounter between literature, philosophy and religious thought, as well as between “high” and “popular” culture. I explore this idea in a recent journal article (“Naturalizing apocalypse”, 2012) and have started collecting material for a monograph, which traces the historical origins of last man fiction to the Romantic period. My interest in solitary survivors is also central to the research-led module LITCG006 “Apocalypse Literature”.  

Teaching summary

My teaching ranges from introductory courses on modern and contemporary Italian literature through to more specialized courses on Postmodernism, avant-garde culture, and Cold War fiction. I teach MA courses on “Comparative Literary Studies” and “Apocalypse Literature”, supervise a number of PhD students, and run regular seminars and workshops for graduate students.

In 2011, when I became director of the UCL Graduate Programme in Comparative Literature, I conducted a substantial curriculum review, which has lead to a restructuring of the entire syllabus. In particular, it has been my aim to move away from large team-taught core courses, to create new modules with a specifically comparative and literary focus, and to build stronger ties with institutions and professional organizations.

I contribute to the BASc Arts and Science as 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 taught large numbers of undergraduate and MA students, and  have been first supervisor or co- supervisor to fourteen research students, and second supervisor to three. My dedication to teaching, learning and assessment is also evident from my appointment as external examiner in Comparative Literature at the University of Glasgow (2008-12), and as PhD examiner, on eleven occasions, for students at UCL, Oxford, Royal Holloway, Goldsmiths, Edinburgh, and Strathclyde.


Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
PhD, Italian Literature | 2003
University of Oxford
DPhil, Italian Literature | 2000
University of Oxford
MA, Italian Literature | 1999
University of Oxford
BA Hons, Philosophy and Modern Languages (Italian) | 1998


Educated in Germany, Britain and Italy, I have been introduced to different and complementary ideas of excellence in scholarship and teaching, which have shaped my activity as an academic, at UCL and beyond. My double interest in literature and theory – originally prompted by an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Italian at Balliol College, University of Oxford – has over the years evolved into an intellectual commitment to several disciplines, and to multidisciplinary inquiry. My research interests range across various areas and include experimental writing, Postmodernism, literature and music, philosophy of language and literary theory, literature and religion, cultural representations of catastrophe and apocalypse. More generally, I have taken a leading role in two fields: Italian Studies and Comparative Literature.

My book "The Eloquence of Ghosts" (2010) was awarded the Edinburgh Gadda Prize 2012. I was Visiting Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Rome (2011) and Visiting Lecturer in Italian Studies at the University of Oxford (2006) and have given lectures at more than thirty universities in Italy, Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, and the Netherlands. I am a member of the editorial boards of six journals, and co-investigator for the large AHRC-funded research project, “Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: Interart/Intermedia”,  which brings together musicians, academics, museum curators, artists and teachers. My strand of the project focuses on experimental writing and artistic border- crossings in the Sixties.

In the field of Comparative Literature, I have served on the executive committees of the British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA) and the Réseau Européen d’Etudes Littéraires Comparées. I am a longstanding member of the organizing committees of Hermes: Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies and Synapsis: European Summer School in Comparative Studies. In 2009, I inaugurated the London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies (LINKS). More recently, I became a founding member of the International Network for Comparative Humanities (INCH), established by the Princeton Global Collaborative Research Fund in 2012. I am also general editor of a book series, New Comparative Criticism, published by Peter Lang, which examines new trends in comparative literature, and encourages critical dialogue between scholars at an international level.