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Dr Polly Dickson

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures+44 (0) 191 33 42457


I am Assistant Professor in German in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. I took up this position in 2023 after arriving in Durham as as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in 2019. In 2018 I was awarded my PhD at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Wolfson Foundation, and I have held postdoctoral scholarships at Cambridge and at the HU Berlin. 

My research interests lie in German, French and English literary and visual cultures of the nineteenth century. I am currently writing a book on writers' doodles from the nineteenth century to the present day, a project that has involved diversions into several other unsanctioned and marginal forms of visual art — sketches, squiggles, blots, graffiti, arabesques. This work is rooted in a longstanding interest in the German writer E. T. A. Hoffmann.

My research is broadly motivated by a concern for how scenes of writing and reading are contoured by the senses, particularly vision and touch. This has inspired work on embodied theories of representation and imitation; on writing’s intimate affinity to drawing; on psychoanalytic approaches to literature; and on the ways in which we read, fondle, copy, de-face, and mis-read texts. My first book (forthcoming 2024) gives an account of mimesis between Romanticism and Realism, charted across a series of capricious lines (arabesques, facial contours, crosses) in works by E. T. A. Hoffmann and Honoré de Balzac. 

Esteem Indicators

  • 2018: MHRA Postdoctoral Research Scholarship: University of Cambridge
  • 2015: Katherine Mansfield Society Essay Prize: Competition Winner
  • 2014: Society of Dix-Neuviémistes Postgraduate Paper Prize: Competition Winner


Authored book

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

Other (Print)