Dr Nigel Harris BA, DPhil

Department of Modern Languages
Reader in German

Contact details

Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I see myself as a medievalist with an extension into the sixteenth century, and as someone with a particular passion for teaching these still deeply relevant periods to modern undergraduates.


I did my first degree at Birmingham (French and German) and my doctorate at Oxford, and have spent my entire career in the Birmingham German Department.


As the Department’s specialist in medieval and early modern literature, I teach a number of courses in these fields at second- and final-year level. My second-year course, entitled ‘Knights, Maidens and Priests’, focuses on a diverse range of short medieval and sixteenth-century texts, whereas my long established final-year course, ‘Epic and Romance’, currently deals with the Nibelungenlied, Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan, and works by Hartmann von Aue. I also contribute to the first- and second-year core courses in German literature, supervise postgraduate research into the medieval and early modern periods, and do a wide range of language teaching.

Postgraduate supervision

I am keen to supervise postgraduates working on any aspect of German literature and culture between, roughly, 1100 and 1650. I am always happy to undertake joint supervisions with other Birmingham colleagues.

Some of the dissertations I have supervised to completion in recent years have been on the following topics:

  • The Schachbuch of Heinrich von Beringen
  • Christian imagery in Hartmann von Aue’s Gregorius, Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and Thomas Mann’s Der Erwählte
  • Utz Eckstein’s Zwinglian dialogues Concilium and Rychsztag; peasants in dialogue with authority in three Reformation dialogues
  • Albrecht Dürer’s scientific writings
  • Max Mell and Reinhold Schneider’s reception of the Nibelungenlied
  • The important fifteenth-century German manuscript British Library Add. 24946.

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


Much of my research activity is devoted to three sometimes related interests: allegorical and symbolic uses of animals in medieval literature; late medieval didactic literature (in Latin and German), and its methods of conveying religious and ethical ideas to an increasingly wide audience; and the ways in which certain authors of the High Middle Ages adapted their French sources. I find myself also developing an increasing interest in the Swiss Reformation. I am currently working on a set of studies of medieval animal imagery, on the various versions of the late-medieval theological compendium known as the Lumen anime, and on the Zurich reformer Huldrych Zwingli.



  • The Shorter Writings of Ulrich Putsch: ‘Diarium’, ‘Oraciones super missam’, ‘Manuale simplicium sacerdotum’, Oxford: Lang, 2013, 226 pp.
  • (with Joel Love), Dialogue and Disputation in the Zurich Reformation. Utz Eckstein’s ‘Concilium’ and ‘Rychsztag: Edition, Translation, and Study (Oxford: Lang, 2013), 497 pp.
  • The Light of the Soul. Lumen anime ‘C’ and Ulrich Putsch’s ‘Liecht der sel’: Parallel Edition with Introduction and Indices, Oxford: Lang, 2007, 487 pp.
  • (with Werner Williams-Krapp) ‘Etymachie-Traktat’. Ein Todsündentiertraktat in der katechetisch-erbaulichen Sammelhandschrift Augsburg, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek 2o Cod. 160. Farbmikrofiche-Edition mit Einführungen (Codices Illuminati Medii Aevi, 36),  Munich: Lengenfelder, 1995,  50 pp. + 3 microfiches
  • The Latin and German ‘Etymachia’. Textual History, Edition, Commentary (Münchener Texte und Untersuchungen, 102),  Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1994,  x + 466 pp. 

Edited books

  • (with Joanne Sayner) The Text and its Context. Studies in Modern German Literature and Society Presented to Ronald Speirs on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, Oxford: Lang, 2008, 356 pp.

Journal articles and chapters in edited books

  • ‘Salzburg’, in David Wallace (ed.), Europe: A Literary History, 1348‒1418, 2 vols, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, vol. 2, pp. 589-602.
  • ‘Gesta Romanorum’. A New Translation by Christopher Stace with an Introduction by Nigel Harris (Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture), Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016, xxxi + 502 pp. (introduction xiii-xxvi)
  • ‘Hans Vintler, Ulrich Putsch, Michel Velser und die Tiroler Übersetzungsliteratur um 1400’, in Max Siller (ed.), Hans Vintler: ‘Die Blumen der Tugend’. Symposium nach 600 Jahren: Aktenband (Schlern-Schriften, 362), Innsbruck: Wagner, 2015, pp. 165-86
  • ‘Monsters, Pictures and Translations. Some Observations on the Reception of Virgil in the Sixteenth Century, in Katie Fleming and Anne Simon (eds), The Reception of Classical Antiquity in German Literature (London German Studies, 14), Munich: iudicium, 2013, pp. 36-63
  • ‘“Das es teutsche zung vernimpt”. Zur Übersetzungsliteratur Tirols um 1400’, in German Life and Letters 66 (2013), pp. 233-53
  • ‘Der Pfau bei Konrad von Megenberg – und anderswo’, in Edith Feistner (ed.), Konrad von  Megenberg: Ein spätmittelalterlicher Enzyklopädist im europäischen Kontext (Jahrbuch der Oswald von Wolkenstein–Gesellschaft 18, 2010–11), Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2011, pp. 175-88
  • (with Linda Archibald and Will Hasty) ‘German Studies: Medieval Literature’, in The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 67 (2005; published 2007), pp.546-90
  • ‘Animals and Exile in the Ecbasis cuiusdam captivi’, in Sieglinde Hartmann (ed.), Fauna and Flora in the Middle Ages. Studies of the Medieval Environment and its Impact on the Human Mind. Papers Delivered at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, in  2000, 2001,and  2003 (Beihefte zur Mediaevistik, 8), Frankfurt: Lang, 2007, pp.53-65
  • ‘The Camel: Perspectives and Meanings in Medieval Literature’, in Hartmann (as above), pp. 113-31
  • (with Linda Archibald and Will Hasty) ‘German Studies: Medieval Literature’, in The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 66 (2004; published 2006), pp.499-543
  • ‘Didactic Poetry’, in Will Hasty (ed.), German Literature of the High Middle Ages (Camden House History of German Literature, 3), New York: Camden House, 2006, pp.123-40
  • (with Richard Newhauser) ‘Visuality and Moral Culture in the Late Middle Ages: The Emblematic Conflictus and Its Literary Representatives’, in Richard Newhauser (ed.), In the Garden of Evil. The Vices and Culture in the Middle Ages (Papers in Mediaeval Studies, 18), Toronto: Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies, 2005, pp.234-76
  • (with Linda Archibald and Will Hasty) ‘German Studies: Medieval Literature’, in The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 65 (2003; published 2005), pp.492-533
  • ‘German Studies: Medieval Literature’, in The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 64 (2002; published 2004), pp.576-620
  • ‘God, Religion, and Ambiguity in Tristan’, in Will Hasty (ed.), A Companion to Gottfried  von Strassburg’s ‘Tristan’, Columbia SC: Camden House, 2003, pp.113-36
  • ‘German Studies: Medieval Literature’, in The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 63 (2001; published 2003), pp.614-57
  • ‘Tiersymbolik. IV: In der Geschichte des Christentums’, in Theologische Realenzyklopädie 32  (2002), pp.542-53
  • ‘German Studies: Medieval Literature’, in The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 62 (2000; published 2002), pp.596-636
  • ‘Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. Some Observations on the Presentation and Function of Natural Phenomena in Willehalm and in the Old French Aliscans’, in Martin H. Jones and Timothy McFarland (eds), Wolfram’s ‘Willehalm’ : Fifteen Essays, Columbia SC: Camden House, 2002, pp.211-29
  • ‘The Teaching of Medieval German Literature at American Universities: A Survey’, in Forum for Modern Language Studies 37 (2001), pp.429-40
  • ‘Willehalm and Puzzat. Guillelme and Baucent: The Hero and His Horse in Wolfram's Willehalm and in the Bataille d'Aliscans’, in Michael Butler and Robert Evans (eds), The Challenge of German Culture. Essays Presented to Wilfried van der Will, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000, pp.13-24
  • ‘"Noch im Untergang triumphiert die Liebe" – or does it? Günter de Bruyn’s Nacherzählung of the Medieval Tristan Legend’, in Dennis Tate (ed.), Günter de Bruyn in Perspective (German Monitor, vol.44), Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999, pp.53-64
  • ‘gar süezen smac daz pantir hât. Der Panther und sein Atem in der deutschsprachigen Literatur des Mittelalters’, in Alan Robertshaw and Gerhard Wolf (eds), Natur und Kultur in der deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters. Colloquium Exeter 1997, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1999, pp. 65-75
  • ‘The Presentation of Clerical Characters in Hartmann’s Gregorius and in the Vie du pape Saint Grégoire, in Medium Aevum 64 (1995), pp.189-204
  • ‘Teaching Böll's Katharina Blum’, in German Teaching 12 (1995), pp.29-36
  • ‘Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum: The Problem of Violence’, in Michael Butler (ed.), The Narrative Fiction of Heinrich Böll, Cambridge: C.U.P., 1994, pp.198-218
  • ‘Animal Symbolism in Late Medieval Germany: The Etymachia Treatise’, in Paul Michel (ed.), Tiersymbolik (Schriften zur Symbolforschung, vol.7), Bern: Lang, 1991, pp.111-31

Online article

  • Contribution on the camel to the online lexicon animaliter – Tiere in der Literatur des Mittelalters (edited by Sabine Obermaier), (2010)

Shorter encyclopaedia entries

  • Breve Chronicon monasterii Stamsensis’, ‘Kleine Stamser Chronik’ and ‘Johannes Spies’, in Graeme Dunphy (ed.), Encyclopaedia of the Medieval Chronicle.  Leiden: Brill, 2010, pp. 213, 968 and 1382
  • ‘Sebastian Brant, The Ship of Fools’, ‘The Nibelungenlied’ and ‘Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival’, in Olive Classe (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Literary Translation into English,Chicago; Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001, pp.178f., 999f. and 1502f.
  • ‘Sebastian Brant’ and "Oswald von Wolkenstein’, in Matthias Konzett (ed.), Encyclopaedia of German Literature, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000, pp.139f. and 781-3
  • ‘Sebastian Brant: Das Narrenschiff’, in Lesley Henderson (ed.), Reference Guide to World Literature, London: St James’ Press, 1995, p.166


Numerous reviews for Medium Aevum, Arbitrium, Modern Language Review, Journal of European Studies, and others.

View all publications in research portal