• KY16 9PH

    United Kingdom

Accepting Postgraduate Research Students

Personal profile

Research overview

Professor Seán Allan studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and at the Humboldt Universität in what was then East Berlin. Before taking up his first post at the University of Reading, he spent a number of months as a researcher at the Freie Universität in Berlin funded by a DAAD Grant for Young Academics. From 2001-16 he worked at the University of Warwick before moving to the University of St Andrews in 2016 as Professor of German. In  2017-18 he was Director of Teaching in the School of Modern Languages, from 2018-2022 was Head of School of Modern Languages, and from Jan -June 2023 was Acting Dean of Arts & Divinity. He is a Bonn University Ambassador and currently holds a Joint Research Professorship für Neuere Deutsche Literaturwissenschaft at the University of Bonn.

His research falls into two main areas. The first of these embraces the culture of the European Enlightenment and, in particular, issues around the Public Sphere and the German Social Imaginary around 1800. Together with Christian Moser (University of Bonn) he is editing a bilingual volume entitled Re-Imagining the Public Sphere in the Long 19th-Century: Literatur, Theater und das soziale Imaginäre (Bielefeld: Aisthesis, forthcoming 2024).  In May 2019 he co-organised the symposium German Culture and Napoleonic Occupation at the University of St Andrews and this was followed by a volume (co-edited with Jeffrey L. High) entitled Inspiration Bonaparte? German Culture under Napoleonic Occupation published by Camden House in 2021. He also has published extensively on the writer Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) and co-directed a three-year project with Ricarda Schmidt (University of Exeter) supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), entitled “Kleist, Education and Violence. The Transformation of Ethics and Aesthetics”. This project led to two substantial outputs: a volume of essays specifically on the theme of literature and violence published under the title Konstruktive und destruktive Funktionen von Gewalt im Werk Heinrich von Kleists, ed. Ricarda Schmidt, Seán Allan and Steven Howe (2012); the second was a jointly authored monograph by the same team Unverhoffte Wirkungen. Erziehung und Gewalt im Werk Heinrich von Kleists (2014). 

His second main area of expertise is DEFA and the cinema of East Germany. His current work on DEFA is focused on documentary cinema and, in particular, the legacy of Bertolt Brecht. He staged a major international conference on East German documentary cinema in May 2022 and is currently working (with Sebastian Heiduschke) on an edited volume entitled Documenting Socialism. East German Documentary Cinema which is due to be published by Berghahn in the summer  of 2024.

In 2016-7 he was awarded a Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust to support the research underpinning his most recent monograph Screening Art. Modernist Aesthhetics and the Socialist Imaginary which was published in March 2019 and re-issued in paperback in 2022. This research also informed the Summer Institute ‘Cuture in the Cold War. East German Art, Music and Film’ organised by the DEFA Film Library in 2019 and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanties.

Together with Sebastian Heiduschke  he co-edited the volume Re-Imagining DEFA. East German Cinema in its National and Transnational Contexts  which was published by Berghahn Books in 2016. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

University Ambassador, University of Bonn

1 Sept 2019 → …

External Examiner for all BA and taught MA programmes in German , University of Exeter

1 Sept 201831 Aug 2021

External Examiner for all BA and taught MA programmes in German Studies , University of St Andrews

1 Sept 201431 Jan 2016

External Examiner for all BA programmes in German Studies , UNIVERSITY OF READING

1 Sept 201031 Aug 2013

Fellow, The Higher Education Academy

1 Sept 2009 → …

External Examiner for all BA and taught MA programmes in German Studies , UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL

1 Sept 200631 Aug 2009


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