Dr Elystan Griffiths MA (Cantab), PhD, SFHEA

Photograph of Dr Elystan Griffiths

Department of Modern Languages
Reader in Modern Languages

Contact details

Room 207, Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research interests focus on the relationship between social and political inequalities and German culture in the period between 1750 and 1850. I have a particular interest in outsider figures, and above all the work of J.M.R. Lenz and Heinrich von Kleist. I have recently published a monograph on German-language pastoral writing, and am currently working on projects on the relationship between obedience and agency in German culture and on the Sturm und Drang. I teach widely across the curriculum in Modern Languages, including  language, literature and cinema.


  • MA (Cantab) in Modern and Medieval Languages
  • PhD in German Studies
  • PG Cert HE, University of Birmingham


I grew up in Cardiff and attended a comprehensive school. I went on to study Modern Languages (German and French) at Robinson College, Cambridge and completed my doctorate on the relationship between nationalism and liberalism in the work of Heinrich von Kleist at the University of Birmingham under the supervision of Professor Michael Perraudin. I have been a staff member at the University of Birmingham since 2000. Alongside my work of teaching and research in German Studies, I am also Deputy Director of Education for Quality Assurance and Enhancement in the College of Arts and Law.


Within the Department, I teach German language, literature, history and film, and I contribute to modules on European film. I also teach a final-year option on German-Language Cinema since 1960.

Postgraduate supervision

My main research interests are in German literature of the period 1750-1850, with a particular interest in how social and political tensions manifest themselves in German culture. I am happy to supervise postgraduate projects within my areas of interest. I have also supervised doctoral work on German-language cinema. I am currently supervising a number of PhD projects, including one on translations/adaptations of Heinrich von Kleist and another on contemporary German literature and migration. If you have a project in mind, please do get in touch.

Find out more - our PhD German Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research is focused on German literature from 1750 to 1850, with a particular focus on outsider figures. I am the author of books on Heinrich von Kleist's politics (2005), and on German-language pastoral from 1750 to 1850 (2020). Along with David Hill, I edited the first edition of J.M.R. Lenz's writings on social and military reform (the so-called 'Berkaer Projekt') (2007). I am currently working on a project dealing with conceptions of obedience and agency in the 18th and 19th centuries and a second project on the Sturm und Drang.

Other activities

I am a trustee of Yardley Educational Foundation.


Recent publications


Griffiths, E 2020, The Shepherd, the Volk, and the Middle Class: Transformations of Pastoral in German-Language Writing, 1750-1850. Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture, Boydell and Brewer, Rochester NY. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787446762


Wagner, M & Griffiths, E 2021, 'The Drama of Obedience: Introduction', Oxford German Studies, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 269-284. https://doi.org/10.1080/00787191.2021.1958567

Griffiths, E & Wagner, M 2020, 'Introduction: Genres of Obedience', Seminar A Journal of Germanic Studies, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 85-91. <https://muse.jhu.edu/article/753886#info_wrap>

Griffiths, E 2020, 'Sophie von La Roches Zeitschrift Pomona für Teutschlands Töchter und der literarische Markt der 1780er Jahre im Lichte unveröffentlichter Briefe', German Life and Letters, vol. 73, no. 2, pp. 161-211. https://doi.org/10.1111/glal.12259

Griffiths, E 2014, '"Oft reiss' ich mich aus der Stadt los, und fliehe in einsame Gegenden": Social Criticism in Salomon Gessner’s Idylls', Publications of the English Goethe Society, vol. 83, pp. 22-36. https://doi.org/10.1179/0959368314Z.00000000029, https://doi.org/10.1179/0959368314Z.00000000029

Griffiths, E 2014, 'Sophie von La Roche, Shaftesbury and the Problem of Virtue: Inheritance and Self-Creation in Die Geschichte des Frauleins von Sternheim', Forum for Modern Language Studies, vol. 50, pp. 82-96. https://doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqt045

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Griffiths, E 2021, “Der große Schauspieler, Napoleon Buonaparte”: August von Kotzebue’s Antitheatrical Politics. in S Allan & J High (eds), Inspiration Bonaparte? : German Culture and Napoleonic Occupation. Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture, Camden House.

Griffiths, E & Hill, D 2016, Die Berkaer Schriften. in J Freytag, H-G Winter & I Stephan (eds), J. M. R. Lenz Handbuch. De Gruyter Reference, De Gruyter, pp. 257-267. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110237610-011

Griffiths, E 2015, 'Die Napoleonische Kolonialpolitik und die Zerstörung der Idylle: Kleists Die Verlobung in St. Domingo und Salomon Gessners Inkel und Yariko'. in C Zelle, A Lütteken & W de Bruyn (eds), Kleist in der Schweiz - Kleist und die Schweiz. Wehrhahn, Hanover. <http://www.wehrhahn-verlag.de/index.php?section=&subsection=details&id=1032>

Book/Film/Article review

Griffiths, E 2015, 'Heinrich von Kleist and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Violence, Identity, Nation. (Studies in German Literature, Linguistics and Culture). By Steven Howe. Rochester/New York: Camden House, 2012.', Modern Language Review, vol. 110, pp. 285-87.

Griffiths, E 2015, 'Heinrich von Kleist and Modernity. Ed. by Bernd Fischer and Tim Mehigan. Rochester, NY: Camden House. 2011.', Modern Language Review, vol. 110, pp. 284-85.

Griffiths, E 2014, 'Mary-Elizabeth O’Brien, Post-Wall German Cinema and National History: Utopianism and Dissent (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012) and A New History of German Cinema, ed. by Jennifer M. Kapczynski and Michael D. Richardson (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012)', Journal of European Studies, vol. 44, no. 4, pp. 445-46.

Griffiths, E 2013, 'Book review: Theo Buck, ‘Der Poet, der sich vollendet’: Goethes Lehr- und Wanderjahre (Cologne: Böhlau, 2008)', The German Quarterly, vol. 86, no. 2, pp. 222-223. https://doi.org/10.1111/gequ.10179

Special issue

Griffiths, E & Wagner, M (eds) 2021, 'The Drama of Obedience', Oxford German Studies, vol. 50, no. 3. <https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/yogs20/50/3>

Griffiths, E & Wagner, M (eds) 2020, 'Genres of Obedience', Seminar A Journal of Germanic Studies, vol. 56, no. 2. <https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/42196>

View all publications in research portal


German literature, 1770-1815; contemporary German film

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