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 Heinrich von Kleist's thought on politics, law and military matters under the supervision of Professor Michael Perraudin. Following two postdoctoral projects I joined the University of Birmingham in 2005. 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 have also supervised doctoral work on German-language cinema and have a particular interest in contemporary German and Austrian film. I am currently supervising a number of PhD projects, on German-language writing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 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 culture and society from 1750 to 1850. 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 conceptualisations of obedience in the 18th and 19th centuries and a second project on Heinrich von Kleist.

Other activities

I am a trustee of Yardley Educational Foundation.


Highlight 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

Hill, D, Griffiths, E & Tommek, H 2007, Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz. Schriften zur Sozialreform: Das Berkaer Projekt. Historical-Critical Works on German Literature, vol. 42, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main.

Griffiths, E 2004, Political Change and Human Emancipation in the Works of Heinrich von Kleist. Camden House, Rochester, NY.

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>

Recent publications


Griffiths, E 2023, 'Filial dependence and autonomy in the Sturm und Drang: reading Klinger, Wagner and Müller with Rousseau', German Life and Letters, vol. 76, no. 1, pp. 21-42. https://doi.org/10.1111/glal.12370

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 2023, 'Adrian Robanus: Romantiere: Zoopoetik bei Wieland und Wezel. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2021 (Cultural Animal Studies). 325 pp.', Arcadia, vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 279-283. https://doi.org/10.1515/arcadia-2023-2017

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

Griffiths, E 2013, 'Tim Mehigan, Heinrich von Kleist: Writing after Kant. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2011', Monatshefte, vol. 103, pp. 142-144.

View all publications in research portal


German literature, 1770-1815; contemporary German film

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