Wide ranging research interests in 19th and 20th century German culture, philosophy and politics, especially from the end of the First World War to the present. Has published books and essays on German literature and society post-1945, on the worker-culture movement of the Weimar Republic, on culture in the Third Reich, on protest and democracy from the 1960s to the 1980s and on the reception of Nietzsche.
After studies at the universities of Cologne, Vienna and Birmingham I joined the staff of the Department of German Language and Literature at the University of Birmingham where I later held a chair. I was instrumental in setting up the postgraduate Institute for German Studies in the early 1990s and was its first Deputy Director. During my time as a teacher I had the good fortune of guiding some 30 candidates to the completion of their PhDs. Much of my work as a researcher was collaborative, first with Richard Hinton Thomas and later with Rob Burns and Eva Kolinsky.
I am currently involved with research in German philosophy and contemporary cultural studies, retaining connections particularly with the Institute for German Studies at the University of Birmingham.
Apart from articles, latterly on aesthetic theory and on W G Sebald, I have published the following books:
- Voraussetzungen und Möglichkeiten einer Symbolsprache im Werk Gerhart Hauptmanns University of Cologne, 1962 (239pp)
- Pikaro heute. Metamorphosen des Schelms bei Thomas Mann, Döblin, Brecht, Grass Stuttgart (Kohlhammer), 1967 (77pp)
- The German Novel and the Affluent Society (with the late R.Hinton Thomas), Manchester (Manchester University Press), 1968 (167pp)
- Der deutsche Roman und die Wohlstandsgesellschaft (German version of the above, substantially reworked and enlarged by WvdW), Stuttgart (Kohlhammer), 1969 (206pp)
- Arbeiterkulturbewegung in der Weimarer Republik. Historisch-theoretische Analyse der kulturellen Bestrebungen der sozialdemokratisch organisierten Arbeiterschaft (with Rob Burns), Berlin, Frankfurt a.M., Vienna (Ullstein), 1982 (272pp)
- Arbeiterkulturbewegung in der Weimarer Republik. Texte - Dokumente - Bilder (with Rob Burns), Berlin, Frankfurt a.M., Vienna (Ullstein), 1982 (278pp)
- Protest and Democracy in West Germany. Extra-Parliamentary Opposition and the Democratic Agenda (with Rob Burns), London (Macmillan), 1988 (325pp)
- The Nazification of Art. Art, Design, Music, Architecture and Film in the Third Reich (edited with Brandon Taylor), Winchester (Winchester Press), 1990 (280pp)
- The Cambridge Companion to Modern German Culture (edited with Eva Kolinsky), Cambridge (Cambridge University Press), 1998 (365pp