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Dr Thomas Wilks
  • Teaching Fellow
  • Faculty of Arts & Humanities
  • UCL Teaching Fellow
  • Centre for Languages & Intl Educatn
  • VP: International

Dr Thomas Wilks studied at Royal Holloway, University of London (BA French and German; MA European Literary and Cultural Studies; PhD comparing Michel Leiris's and Hubert Fichte's life-writing projects). He held a Teaching Fellowship in German there as well as appointments in French and as an Associate Examiner, including for the University of London External BA German programme, for which he co-authored study guides on modern literature. Qualified in Teaching Skills for Higher Education, he spent much of his career over the nine years prior to joining UCL in three very different regions and institutions in Germany, teaching advanced English, translation, theatre, British cultural studies and media studies extensively at the Universities of Wuerzburg (where he also ran the English Drama Group), Mainz and Braunschweig.  His book on Experimentation and the Autobiographical Search for Identity in the Projects of Michel Leiris and Hubert Fichte was published by Mellen. He has published further on Leiris, including two encyclopaedia commissions in 2013. His research interests are in comparative literature, especially the autobiographical, and translatability in modern and contemporary French and German narrative. His current project, Modelling Distraction in European Literature, investigates connections between discretely signified forms of reconfigured awareness that are unified by the English term 'distraction'; it was boosted by the award to him of the Sylvia Naish Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies in 2009. Appointed fractionally to UCL in 2012, he currently teaches literature and written language, including translation into and out of English, in the German Department of the School of European Languages,Culture and Society. He has designed and taught three School-wide modules: The Autobiographical Child in the 20th Century; Autobiography Beyond Self-Identity: On Belonging And Not Belonging Socially; and Distractions of Manhood in the 21st Century. He also taught German history (gender and class in the 19th Century) and on literary representations of Berlin, a final-year special subject option, in a parallel fractional temporary appointment at the University of Reading in 2014, where he was also an Examiner for several content modules in German. Later in 2014 and again in 2016, he taught academic communication intensively to international postgraduate students entering humanities programmes at the University of Southampton. He has taught combined language and literature courses on French and German drama, including translation elements, for the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York (2016). He is developing a module for UCL's International Summer School for Undergraduates on The European Character of London. He is an experienced translator from German and French into English of material ranging from narratology to psychology to pathology.

Research Summary

My principal interests are in modern comparative literature, German, French, translation and autobiographical studies. My current book project, Modelling Distraction in European Literature, from which I have already published a draft chapter on 'Coming To Terms With Distraction in German', defines, historicises and assesses convergences and divergences of the separately signified modes of what we term 'distraction' in English. An abstract and longer project proposals, targeting contexts in which I would be pleased to place and complete this project are available.

In my earlier monograph, I concentrated on the intertextual connectedness of literatures and on relevant narrative theory. Research for this project explored the relations between thematic and formal approaches to Michel Leiris’s and Hubert Fichte’s multiple volumes of autobiography and their autobiographically motivated work in other genres. Entitled Experimentation and the Autobiographical Search for Identity in the Projects of Michel Leiris and Hubert Fichte (Mellen, 2006), this book in its comparative dimension, exploring contrasts and convergences between their literary œuvres, is distinguished from other scholarship on these authors, of which relatively little had appeared in English when it was produced. My main contention is that life and writing become interdependent for both Leiris and Fichte over the course of their literary self-scrutiny as they develop comparable poetic and performative aspirations. Chapters highlight these authors' preoccupations with their authorial functions, which are manifested in their constant manipulations of language, notably of intertextualities and glosses.

The book, revised during a full-time language teaching appointment, amounts to approximately 118,000 words across eight chapters. It contains a substantial bibliography detailing the majority of secondary material accessible in Britain at the time of publication on both Leiris and Fichte.

I have contributed in an editorial advisory capacity to the Cahiers Leiris, a Francophone journal. My article on the chronology and cohesion of the constellation of beginnings and endings in L'Age d'homme was published in the first volume. I published two further articles on Leiris in 2013, which I am poised to expand to evaluate the qualities of intricacy and precision in his French writing that present challenges to non-Francophone readers, including English and German translators.

I am also investigating the challenges of translation and reception posed by the specificity of content (narration, intertextualities, milieux, cultural and autobiographical referentiality) in the work of Wilhelm Genazino. I intend to demonstrate how Genazino's novels conceal an approach to comparative literary history that his essays on world writers have gradually revealed. A recent paper compares the challenges of translating Genazino's published stage plays to appeal to a non-German audience with the challenges of staging them.
Teaching Summary
Please consult the individual course pages for details of current courses at UCL that I am teaching: the following is an outline of my experience.
My main interests are in modern and contemporary literature and thought, particularly the autobiographical. I also situate modern narrative forms in the national and cultural contexts to which they are discernibly connected through constant engagement with their source language as well as translations they have undergone to become comprehensible to an international audience. My substantial experience of English, German and French university language teaching enlivens this work.Content courses I teach combine literary and documentary material to illuminate past and present perspectives on events that have shaped European cultures. In my appointments at Royal Holloway, UCL, Reading and York I have covered a broad selection of material from across the modern period from both the general (and formatively assessed) perspective of introducing key concepts and tracing cultural developments in post-war German and French history, and the summatively assessed perspective of more advanced scrutiny of selected authors and texts. My school-wide teaching at UCL is partly generated from my current research on modes and manifestations of distraction in European Literature. My approach to critical theory covers a broad base, with particular attention to autobiographical theory and conceptions of intertextuality, but taking account of the philosophical origins of these theories where this material is likely to enhance my students’ understanding. I present theories, practices and readings in a lively, personalised manner that pluralises potential authorities within the text and in response to it.

The intersections of literature and translation also inform my teaching. I have taught translation from both French and German into English, and all of my courses have included substantial literary components as well as concentrating on questions of stylistics, critical theory(including semiotics and mediation in a course I devised in my Braunschweig appointment) and methodology. My own translations into English in several academic and professional genres (including a 500-page study of Cultural Narratology in Anglo-Scottish folk balladry) promote the cultural relevance of translation skills beyond the classroom. Among areas in which I have taught and developed materials are gender and genre studies; the relationship between literature,the individual and historical events; and reading theatre, staging texts, and performance in literature.

My extensive practical language teaching has been informed by my recent experience of living and working in several regions of Germany. I am especially familiar with the language teaching needs of students who have had little contact with the target culture or practice beyond school in the target language, as well as with accommodating bilinguals and those with near-native abilities. I designed and delivered an ab initio German language course for adult education where the ‘widening participation’ agenda was promoted, which gained external accreditation from the Open College Network, and through which I developed a rapport with mature and non-traditional students. Through my duties as an examiner, including for the federal External Programme of the University of London, I am familiar with stringent assessments.I am skilled in providing individual tutorials for students, notably in an advisory capacity for extended coursework projects for BA and MA final assessments at Royal Holloway. I have developed blended learning provision in bespoke, commercial and open-access  virtual learning environments (Mainz’s ReaderPlus; Reading's and Southampton's Blackboard; and UCL's and Braunschweig's different configurations of Moodle), which I maintain proficiently.

21-JUL-2014 – 14-SEP-2014 Pre-Sessional Tutor (Postgraduate Arts and Humanities) Centre For Language Study University of Southampton, United Kingdom
01-JAN-2014 – 30-APR-2014 Sessional Lecturer (part-time and temporary); Examiner School of Modern Languages and European Studies University of Reading, United Kingdom
15-SEP-2012 Teaching Fellowship German [SELCS] University College London, United Kingdom
17-AUG-2009 – 16-AUG-2012 Lecturer [Lehrkraft f. bes. Aufgaben] University Language Centre [Sprachenzentrum] Carolo-Wilhelmina Technische Universitaet Braunschweig, Germany
12-MAY-2009 – 12-JUN-2009 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Germanic Studies University of London School of Advanced Study, United Kingdom
01-OCT-2007 – 31-MAR-2008 Lecturer (Lehrkraft fuer bes. Aufgaben) English & Linguistics (British Studies) Johannes Gutenberg-Universitaet Mainz, Germany
16-OCT-2003 – 30-SEP-2006 Lecturer [Lektor] English [Neuphilologisches Institut, Anglistik] Julius-Maximilians Universitaet Wuerzburg, Germany
01-JAN-2003 – 31-JUL-2003 Teaching Fellowship German Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom
15-SEP-2002 – 15-JUN-2003 Ab initio German language tutor Adult Education Centre Strode's College, Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom
01-MAY-2001 – 30-JUN-2003 Examiner [2001 and 2003] German University of London External Programme, United Kingdom
01-JAN-2001 – 30-JUN-2003 Teaching & Examining Associate French, German, Modern Languages Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom
01-JUL-2000 – 01-SEP-2007 English language tutor [seasonal] Cambridge Gardens College, Hastings, East Sussex Association Langues et Cultures, United Kingdom
15-JUN-1996 – 31-AUG-1999 English language tutor, tour guide [seasonal]   STS Sprakresor (School of English), Hastings, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2003 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Modern Languages and Literature University of London
1999 MA Master of Arts – European Languages, Literature and related subjects Royal Holloway
1998 BA Hons Bachelor of Arts (Honours) – Modern Languages Royal Holloway
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