Deutsch Intern
Englische Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft


Prof. Dr. Ralph PORDZIK

Akad. Dir.
English Literature and British Cultural Studies
Room 5.E.8
Phone: (0931) 31-85661

Office Hours

During the semester: Monday, 12 to 2 pm or by appointment (also via Zoom)

During the semester break: please make an appointment via e-mail



Weitere Informationen und Anmeldeformulare zu ERASMUS

Current research

My current research project is entitled Radical Desire and the Posthuman Queer and engages the issue of posthumanism trying to obtain for itself a truly alternative agenda, one that acknowledges its potential for disruption and for building and affirming new and unexpected linkages: to other psychic or somatic modes, other species and collectives, other sexualities and agencies. Exploring a variety of different sources, visual and textual, it probes the different ways in which the posthuman works across technological, ethical and epistemological boundaries and uses hyperbole, the grotesque and the farcical to suspend the humanist narrative and bring into play a disorienting 'lie' or fable disrupting normative or biased formulae and thought-processes. This form of rhetorical violence in which a quite natural propensity of ‘queer posthumanism’ to magnify and inflate exposes itself has already deposited sediments in past discourses and let a variety of interventionist projects take root gradually, eliciting radically alternative possibilities of meaning and being. Minion or man (Despicable Me), cyborg or alien (Alien 1), monster or mutant (Frankenstein, Splice), genetic hybrid or zombie (The Walking Dead) — they all figure as perspectival signifiers for the queer in its most exaggerated and excessive modes of appearance, open up thought forms to novel expressions that evoke unexpected experiences and mobilisations. To make such a claim I examine the path of desire as preordained by hyperbole and ex-centric representation in the field of the posthuman, the curve of the unrelenting grotesque and quirky, never fixed or stable, mapping multiple sexual identities, proliferating critical vocabularies, hyperbolic combinations of bodies and objects for what they are: statements in the art of the posthuman as virtual and liminal design, amalgams of the illegitimate and the weird, embodiments of alternative longing that create curiosity for the unknown and the untried.

A good deal of the work that went into this project so far will find its outlet in the publication of a monograph on Queerness, Abjection and Liminality in the writings of George Orwell, provisionally entitled The Other Orwell and forthcoming at the end of 2022 / beginning of 2023.


Antinatalism and Infanticide in Literature and Film

Since publication of David Benatar’s monograph Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence and Sarah Perry’s Every Cradle is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide in 2006 and 2014 the debate about antinatalism has steadily gained momentum in the West. Human beings, it is argued by its advocates, should stop having children for reasons of compassion and, more recently, environmentalism and climate protection. The aim of this research project situated in Literary and Film Studies is to offer a contextualization, refinement, and expansion of the theories and arguments involved in the current discussion (“The overall quality of human life is quite appalling…”, “Even the lives of happy people are worse than they think…”) and, going beyond the confines of a strictly ideologically limited debate, to locate their origins in a venerable philosophical dispute dating back to at least the Ancients (Euripides’ Medea) and having resurfaced repeatedly in the course of the nineteenth (Arthur Schopenhauer) and twentieth centuries (Emil Cioran). Based on a psychoanalytic approach first tried in Serge Leclaire’s contentious study A Child is Being Killed (1975), the project aims to examine and understand better literary texts and films addressing this matter directly or implicitly. How are antinatalism – a more recent and partly media-generated phenomenon – and infanticide connected? If reproducing is intrinsically cruel and irresponsible, and the world would be a better place if sentient life disappeared altogether, what can be stated about the different facets in which this problem is tackled in film and literary writing? To what extent are authors – consciously or unconsciously – engaged in stacking the deck against human existence, reproduction, and the pain of being alive (or, for that matter, the pleasures of imagining themselves as existent)? Are they ambassadors for antinatalism or are they its abject enemies, struggling with desires to kill the ‘inner child’ they cannot control? A sheer inexhaustible range of writings and films does exist to make the point; inscrutable as well as conspicuous texts offer themselves for analysis, ranging from the poetry of William Blake, William Wordsworth, Louis MacNeice, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton to the plays of Samuel Beckett (Endgame), John Osborne (Look Back in Anger), Sam Shephard (The Buried Child) and Sarah Kane (Blasted), novels (Kazu Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Toni Morrison’s Beloved), and films like the almost inaudible horror movie A Quiet Place (2018), Splice (2009), Children of Men (2006), or Lars von Trier’s controversial Antichrist (2009). Several of these not only connect the topic to the concrete issues of the putatively inherent meaninglessness, unpleasantness, misery, squalor, and chronic suffering of life but also to more far-reaching issues and fields of debate such as misogyny, anti-feminism, the rejection of motherhood, genealogy, the modernist “crisis of filiation” (Edward Said), or the more recent concept of ‘digital antinatalism’ which espouses the idea that it would be wrong to create artificially conscious computer programs and robots because doing so would only reproduce and increase human character traits and thus multiply the amount of suffering in the world. 


Media Semiotics

Further research interests involve the analysis of media effects and media content, photography and the music video. Particular emphases in my work include the semiotics of internet phenomena such as memes, fake news, etc. A selection of papers can be found here:

'And an Image to End all Images...' The Invisible, the Grotesque, and the Alterity of the Real in Fake News Images

Partial Objects, Infinite References: The Punctum and the Photographic 'Effect of the Real' in Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida

Memetic Evolution and the Practices of Cultural Information Transfer: Towards a Semiotic-Structural Analysis of Internet Memes

Audiovisual Aesthetics and Semiotic Excess in the Music Video: Nick Cave's "Jubilee Street"


Victorian Mythmakers: Medievalism, Folklore, and Legend in 19th-Century Literature and Culture

Why Poems Matter: Introduction to Poetry Analysis

Beginning Theory: Key Texts of Contemporary Literary Theory and Criticism

Fictional Universes, Possible Worlds: Einführung in die moderne Erzählanalyse

Einführung in die englische Literaturwissenschaft

Beginning Theory: Schlüsseltexte der angloamerikanischen Literatur- und Kulturtheorie

Victorian Poetry: Poems, Poetics, Politics

Aliens, Cyborgs, Robots: Posthumanism and the Technological Imaginary in Modern Film

Poetry and Ideology

George Orwell

Over their Dead Bodies: Representing Death in Film, Art and Writing

Poets, Activists, Librarians: British Poetry after 1945

Violence on the Screen

Ironische Kommunikation: Struktur, Geschichte, Rhetorik

Victorian into Modern: British Poetry from Matthew Arnold to T. S. Eliot

Into the Modern Wasteland: Apocalyptic Fantasies

Tourists with Typewriters: Episodes in British Travel Writing

Introduction to Cultural Studies

British Cinema of the Sixties and the Permissive Society

The Great Code: The English Bible and/as Literature

The English sonnet in context

Sentimental to Queer: the Literature of Emotional Extremes

British Twentieth-Century Drama

Literature and Science

Culture, Literature and Psychoanalysis

Victorian Painting

The Literature(s) of the Fin de Siècle

British Dystopias

How to Read The Waste Land

British Short Stories

English Literature, colonial to postcolonial

British Romantic Poetry

Applied New Historicism: The Circulation of Social Energies in English Literature (lecture)

The Modernist Novel (lecture)

Since 2005 professor (apl.) of English and British Cultural Studies and AOR at Würzburg University
2002 Temporary professorship (English Literature) at Freiburg University
2000 Habilitation (University Duisburg-Essen)
1999-2001 Research and teaching position at Munich University (DFG-financed project "Postcolonial Utopias")
1997-1998 Post-doctoral researcher at Bayreuth University (DFG-financed project "Intercultural Relations in Africa") and Rhodes University, South Africa
1995 Ph.D. in English Literature (Free University Berlin)
1988-1993 Free University Berlin (M.A. English and American Literature and Linguistics)



The Other Orwell. Conversion, Liminality, and Abject Desire in the Writings of George Orwell, Würzburg: École Noire, 2023. Frei zugängliches pdf-Manuskript.

Das diarische Imaginäre: Zur Phänomenologie und Architektonik des modernen Tagebuchs, Würzburg: École Noire, 2019.

Victorian Wastelands: Apocalyptic Discourse in Nineteenth-Century Poetry, Hei­del­berg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012.

(Hg.), Futurescapes: Space in Utopian and Science Fiction Discourses, Spatial Practices vol. 9. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009.

Begehrte Texte: Literaturwissenschaft als Poetik des Unbewussten, Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovaç, 2007.

The Wonder of Travel. Fiction, Tourism and the Social Construction of the Nostalgic. Hei­del­berg: Universitätsverlag  Winter, 2005.

Der englische Roman im neunzehnten Jahrhundert. Grundlagen der Anglistik und Ameri­ka­ni­stik. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2001.

The Quest for Postcolonial Utopia: A Comparative Introduction to the Utopian Novel in the New English Literatures. Studies of World Literatures in English vol. 10. New York: Pe­ter Lang, 2001.

Die moderne englischsprachige Lyrik in Südafrika 1950–1980. Eine Darstellung aus funkti­ons- und wirkungsgeschichtlicher Perspektive. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Win­ter, 2000.

Signaturen der Postmoderne. Lyrik als Paradigma postmoderner Literatur. Eine Unter­suchung ihrer Formen und Funktionen am Beispiel der Dichtung Geoffrey Hills, James Fen­tons, Fleur Adcocks und Tom Paulins. Essen: Die Blaue Eule, 1996. (zugl.: Diss. Freie Uni­versität Berlin, 1995)


"The Poetics of Etcetera: A Materialist-Semiotic Reading of George Orwell's Literary Lists", in: Media Ecologies of Literature, ed. Susanne Bayerlipp, Ralf Haekel and Johannes Schlegel, New York et al.: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023: 52-69.

"George Orwell’s Imperial Bestiary: Totemism, Animal Agency and Cross-Species Interaction in 'Shooting an Elephant', 'Burmese Days' and 'Marrakech'", in: Anglia 135.3 (2017): 440-466.

"Poesie der Liste. Sammelleidenschaft und Sprachkritik in der modernen deutschen Lyrik", in: Sammeln. Eine (un-)zeitgemäße Passion, hrsg. von Martina Wernli. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2017: 207-230.

"Verführte Körper, reversible Gaben. Der pornographische Diskurs als gesellschaftlicher Mythos und semiurgische Herausforderung", in: Kulturen der Pornographie. Annäherungen an ein Massenphänomen, hrsg. von Daniel Schulze und Andrea Stiebritz. Trier: wvt, 2016: 119-134.

"Biopleasures: Posthumanism and the Technological Imaginary in Utopian and Dystopian Film", in: The Palgrave Handbook of Posthumanism in Film and Television, ed. by Michael Hauskeller et al. Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015: 260-268.

"Orwell’s Queer Desire. The Art of Innuendo in Burmese Days, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Coming Up For Air," in: Jena Electronic Studies in English Language and Literatures 4 (2012): 57-78.

„Wenn die Ironie wild wird, oder: lesen lernen. Strukturen parasitärer Ironie in Christian Krachts Roman Imperium,“ in: Zeitschrift für Germanistik. Neue Folge XXIII, Heft 3 (2013): 574-91.

"Not in the African Image: Utopia, Dystopia and the Politics of Destitution in the Fiction of Dambudzo Marechera," in: Spaces of Utopia, ed. Bill Ashcroft, second series vol. 1 (2012): 18-33.

"The Posthuman Future of Man: Anthropocentrism and the Other of Technology in Anglo-American Science Fiction," in: Utopian Studies 23.1 (2012):142–61.

Inside Argument Clinic. Tiefendimensionen des Komischen in Monty Pythons Flying Circus,” in: Facetten der Popkultur. Über die ästhetische und politische Kraft des Populären, hrsg. Florian Niedlich. Bielefeld: transcript, 2012, 89–107.

"The Poetry of Lastness: Reconsidering a Neglected Motif in Nineteenth-Century Liter­ature," in: Anglia 128.3 (2010): 406–30.

„Rückwärtige Illusionen. Die Psychoanalyse und das unbewusste Wissen der Kultur“, in: Die Wissenschaft des Unbewussten, hrsg. Kathy Zarnegin. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neu­mann, 2010, 85–99.

"Verspätete Zukunft. Resignation und Hoffnung in angloamerikanischen Utopien der zwei­ten Hälfte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts", in: Bluescreen. Visionen, Träume, Alb­träume und Reflexionen des Phantastischen und Utopischen, hrsg. Walter Delabar und Fraucke Schlieck­au. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2010, 189–205.

"Closet Fantasies and the Future of Desire in E. M. Forster's 'The Machine Stops'," in: English Literature in Transition 53.1 (2010): 54–74.

"Affective Performances: Monty Python's Comic Deconstruction of Post-Imperial Dis­course," in: Anglistik. International Journal of English Studies 21.1 (2010): 141–57.

"Fiction, the Law and the Docile Body: The Uncanny Presence of Kant and the Marquis de Sade in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," in: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 57.1 (2009): 109–23.

"Persistence of Obedience: Theological Space and Ritual Conversion in George Orwell's Nine­­teen Eighty-Four," in: Futurescapes: Space in Utopian and Science Fiction Dis­courses, ed. Ralph Pord­zik. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi 2009, 127–43.

"Of Popular Spaces: Northern Heterotopias, Morrissey and the Manchester Britpop Scene," in: Thinking Northern: Textures of Identity in the North of England, ed. Christoph Ehland. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi 2007, 325–46.

"Orientalism Reconsidered Yet Again: Alexander Kinglake’s Eothen (1844) and the Dis­course of Eastern Travel," in: Symbolism. An International Annual of Critical Aesthetics 6 (2007): 305–28.

"Der verkörperte Augenblick. Überlegungen zum Ursprung und Wandel erzählerischer Struk­tu­ren in der viktorianischen Malerei zwischen 1840 und 1860 (narrative painting)", in: Anglia 124.3 (2006): 407–31.

"Travels in Technotopia: Modernisation and Technology in Postcolonial Utopian and Dystop­ian Fiction," in: Beyond the Black Atlantic: Relocating Modernisation and Technology, ed. Walter Göbel und Saskia Schabio. London und New York: Routledge 2006, 184–97.

"Die Zukunft als Neurose: Ein struktural-psychoanalytischer Versuch zu George Orwells Nine­teen Eighty-Four," in: Anglistik. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Anglistenverbandes 17.2 (2006): 151–64.

"'A fine ghost in a case of iron': Zum Verhältnis von Dekonstruktion und künstlerischem Pro­jekt im Romanwerk von Nathaniel Hawthorne", in: Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Ameri­ka­nistik 26.1 (2001): 13–26.

"A Postcolonial View of Ireland and the Irish Conflict in Anglo-Irish Utopian Literature since the Nineteenth Century," in: Irish Studies Review 9.3 (2001): 331–47.

"Mapping the Future(s): Formen und Funktionen der Metafiktionalität im englischen utopi­schen Roman", in: Anglia 118.1 (2000): 41–66.

"An African Utopographer: Ben Okri’s Astonishing the Gods and the Quest for Postcolonial Utopia," in: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 48.1 (2000): 44–56.

"Realismus und Naturalismus. Überlegungen zur ästhetischen Wirkungsstruktur erzäh­len­der Texte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts am Beispiel der Romane Thomas Hardys und George Gissings", in: Sprachkunst 31.1 (2000): 69–84.

"'No Other Mystery but Reckoning or Counting': Margaret Cavendishs The Blazing-World und die Konstruktion des wissenschaftlichen Weltbilds im 17. Jahrhundert”, in: Ger­manisch-Roma­nische Monatsschrift 49.3 (1999): 275–90.

"'No longer need I shout freedom in the house': Arthur Nortje, the English Poetical Tra­dition and the Breakdown of Communication in South African English Poetry", in: English Studies in Africa 41.2 (1998): 35–53.

"Monologizität versus Dialogizität: Intertextualität in der Lyrik am Beispiel von Geoffrey Hills Mercian Hymns", in: Anglia 116.1 (1998): 30–55.

"Postmoderne Lyrik als Negativutopie. Untersuchungen zur Karnevalisierung der Dichtung am Beispiel des Martian Poet James Fenton", in: Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 21:1 (1996): 33-61.

"Die Postmoderne als eine Ästhetik des Erhabenen: Barocke Elemente in Geoffrey Hills Sonett­zyklus 'Lacrimae, or Seven Tears Figured in Seven Passionate Pavans'", in: Zeit­schrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 44.1 (1996): 11–26.