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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Ms Syamala Roberts

Close up of Syamala Roberts on a bridge in a city
Fellow and Director of Studies in German, Emmanuel College
Affiliated Lecturer, German
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages & Linguistics
Contact details: 

Emmanuel College
United Kingdom


Syamala Roberts studied German, French and Comparative literatures in Cambridge, Paris and Berlin, and recently submitted her PhD thesis on hearing in German modernist writing at the University of Cambridge. 

Teaching interests: 

German and Comparative Literatures and Cultures, 18th century – present

Translation (German – English) 

Undergraduate supervision offered in 2022-23: Ge1, Ge5, Ge6, Ge12

Undergraduates wishing to do a Year Abroad Project or dissertation relevant to Syamala’s research interests are encouraged to contact her via email. 

Research interests: 
  • Modernism 
  • Poetry 
  • Sound and media studies
  • Art history and aesthetics
  • Indo-German film and writing in the 20th century 
Recent research projects: 

Syamala’s doctoral research, carried out under the supervision of Prof. Lucia Ruprecht, was submitted in September 2022. Titled ‘Conceptions of Hearing in German Modernist Writing’, it traces the emergence of an ‘aural imaginary’ in German-language writing of the early twentieth century. Drawing on a wide range of material from canonical writers (Rilke; Kafka; Thomas Mann) and figures less known outside German Studies (Robert Walser; Paula Modersohn-Becker), the thesis examines how hearing and listening were conceptualised, represented and enacted in the medium of text. 

As part of a research fellowship at Emmanuel College, Syamala will also pursue postdoctoral research on Indo-German cultural production in the twentieth century. The project will consider the shifting uses and perceptions of Indian and South Asian culture during a period of transition and turmoil in German history, as well as the place of German culture in pre-independent India. Particular attention is paid to the literary and artistic output of German, Swiss and Austrian intellectuals who imagined, wrote about, and travelled to India after 1900, as well as of Indians who visited or worked in Germany. The decades around and between the two world wars saw a genuine cross-fertilisation of Indian and German cultures, and attending to this reciprocity will be at the core of Syamala’s research. 

Published works: 

Articles and chapters

Forthcoming in 2022: ‘Kafka beim Zeitverschwenden. Zur Kafkaschen Hörpoetik’, chapter in edited volume Kafkas Zeiten, ed. by Johannes Lehmann and Alexander Kling, Forschungen der Deutschen Kafka-Gesellschaft, Vol. 7 (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann)

‘Konturen’ and ‘Trübungen’: Der Tod in Venedig and Rilke’s ‘Dritte Elegie’, Publications of the English Goethe Society, 88:2 (2019), 108-119

Book reviews

‘Franz Kafkas akustische Welten by Rüdiger Görner’, Austrian Studies, 29 (2021), 169-171

‘Grenzgänge zum Anorganischen bei Rilke und Celan by Friederike Felicitas Günther’, Austrian Studies, 27 (2019), 269–270

Online contributions

Podcast: ‘On the phone with Kafka and Benjamin’ (August 2020)