The department’s literary research covers a broad range of topics, focused on literature from the nineteenth century to the present day. The variety of approaches notwithstanding, two points of departure shared by most department researchers are an inclination towards comparative methodologies and an interest in globally circulating English-language literatures during and after decolonisation. Within this framework, researchers in the department engage with more specific theoretical fields such as environmental humanities, narratology, the sociology of literature, phenomenology, postcolonial theory, post-structuralism and psychoanalysis. Our scholars produce high-impact publications both internationally and nationally, are successful in getting external funding, and are highly active in national and international networks.

Giles Whiteley’s research focuses in particular on comparative literary criticism at the intersection where British writing meets European literature and philosophy, as well as also on classical reception. He has focused predominantly on the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on literary responses to Romanticism, Idealism and literary realism, particularly focused on aestheticism, decadence and early modernism. He has published extensively on figures such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde, as well as on Coleridge, de Quincey, Carlyle, Arnold, Ruskin, Dickens, Kipling, Mansfield and Joyce, while his enquiries sometimes cause him to venture further back into Renaissance and Enlightenment literature. His research combines a focus on close textual analysis with insights drawn from post-structuralism and psychoanalysis.

Another scholar in the department working on the Victorian period is Marina Ludwigs, who has an interest in narrative theory. Ludwigs investigates epiphanic structures – narrative configurations around the central point of epiphany – that act as strategies for bridging the gap of representation. Ludwigs’s other interest lies in theories of desire in philosophical anthropology, such as the theory of mimetic desire by René Girard and Generative Anthropology by Eric Gans. She combines these interests by looking at their intersection in the study of narrative desire.

If Ludwigs’s and Whiteley’s work straddles the threshold between Victorian and modernist literature, within modernism important new scholarship is carried out also by Irina Rasmussen. She specialises in aesthetic theory, historicist criticism, and material culture, working on English-language modernism. Her primary interest is in modernism as an international and transnational movement, which has led to her second specialisation: world literatures from the 19th century to the mid-20th century, with an emphasis on Russian modernism. She is currently working on two projects: firstly, “Vernacular Modernisms: Poetics of the World,” which focuses on how the modernists’ incorporation of vernacular materials affected their artistic practice and helped them to spawn new expressive forms; secondly, “Documentary Modernism: World Sympathies, Ideal Collectivities, and Dissenting Individualism” explores collaborative interventionist projects of the 1920s and 1930s to map the complex ways in which the modernist imagination migrates to a culturally diverse imaginary.​

Within phenomenology, Joakim Wrethed has published widely on John Banville. He is currently studying the phenomenological function of technology in the contemporary novel, especially in the work of Tom McCarthy. More generally, Wrethed studies literature of philosophical resistance in the context of postmodern and post-structuralist discourses. He also does research in literature that in thematises education and perspectives on learning. The tension between fides and scientia is an overarching theme in much of his research.

Approaching literature from the perspective of critical social theory, Bo G. Ekelund has published on the conditions of access to authorship in the US (1940-2000), on the reproduction of foreign literature in the Swedish fields of criticism and translation, and on the fictional world-making of Anglophone Caribbean writers. Also with an eye for the social dimension of literature, Magnus Ullén’s research takes place in the interstices between rhetoric and literary studies. Regardless of whether it deals with canonical literature, such as the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, or controversial phenomena, such as pornography, it insists on situating texts not merely within the cultural context in which they were written, but in relation to the institutional practices and professional beliefs that determine how they are read.

Adnan Mahmutovic has a research interest in Creative writing, which informs the department’s courses in Creative writing and the production, each year, of an anthology of new writing (Stockholm Syndromes in 2011, Two Thirds North henceforth).

Several scholars at the department are concerned with contemporary literatures that demand a comparative, or a “border” perspective. Claudia Egerer has been interested in and investigated conceptions of borders and border-crossings since her dissertation Fictions of (In)Betweenness (1997). She has worked with the international Border Poetics Research Group (housed at the University of Tromsø) to develop a “border poetics” which has led to her engagement in the Environmental Humanities. She is a member of the Lost Waters research group which she initiated together with scholars from the Global Academy of Liberal Arts network. Exploring Anthropocene concerns of the entanglement of the living, she is currently tracing borders between the human and nonhuman in literature and philosophy with a focus on insects (working title: Vexed Affinities: Of the Poetic and Insects in Literature).

Other border writers are explored by Adnan Mahmutovic, who has written on issues of authenticity and new modes of communal existence in the works of Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje and Ben Okri. His current work is on issues of fundamentalism and identity in American Muslim writing since 2001.

Professor Stefan Helgesson has been involved in a number of research projects, including the research programme “Literature and Literary History in Global Contexts” (1999–2006), as well as two individual Research Council-funded projects on post-Second World War literature in Southern Africa and “Inventing World Literature”, a study of translations of and translation in the work of Mia Couto, Clarice Lispector, Assia Djebar and J. M. Coetzee. His work is frequently comparative, with a special focus on writing in English and Portuguese and, above all, on the theoretical and methodological implications of current reconfigurations of “world literature”. In the latter context, he is leading the high-profile research programme “Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures”. This is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, comprises 26 scholars (including Rasmussen, Ekelund and Mahmutovic), and runs from 2016 until 2021. More information about this programme can be accessed here.

As can be seen, the department’s vibrant research environment accommodates a number of scholarly approaches which nonetheless are in dialogue with one another. The long-term goal is to develop a greater number of collaborative projects within the department as well as with other disciplines and universities. In its ambition to create and sustain a cutting-edge research environment, the department regularly invites prominent visiting research fellows and hosts symposia with scholars from Sweden and abroad. The Higher Literary Seminars, which run on a weekly basis each Tuesday afternoon during semesters, serve as the context for work in progress – emanating from the department – discussed in a spirit of critical and constructive engagement. The Tuesday seminars also regularly feature highly regarded guest speakers.

Further information about current research areas is available on the personal webpages of all our academic staff and PhD students.