Angela Esterhammer - Biography#

I work in the areas of British, German, and European Romanticism and nineteenth-century culture, from perspectives that emphasize performativity and performance. My books Creating States (1994) and The Romantic Performative (2000) approach literary texts from the viewpoint of verbal performativity, speech acts, and philosophies of language. In recent years, I have been studying the influence of improvisational poetry across Europe during the Romantic period. My book Romanticism and Improvisation, 1750-1850 uncovers the popularity of on-stage poetic improvisers during this period and shows how improvisation interacts with Romantic ideas about genius, spontaneity, orality, gender, and national identity.

My current research concerns experimental uses of textual, visual, and performative media during the 1820s and investigates the era's preoccupation with personal identity, celebrity, anonymity, and pseudonymity. In the course of this research I am working with literary magazines, innovative forms of theatre, and popular fiction, especially the work of the Scottish writer John Galt. Other areas covered in my research and teaching are English and German Romantic poetry (Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Hemans, Landon, Hölderlin) and fiction (Scott, Godwin, Kleist, Staël).

I am a Founding Member and Executive Committee member of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR), Founding Director of Western University's graduate program in Comparative Literature (MA and PhD) and the University of Zurich's PhD program in English and American Literary Studies, Past President of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association, a member of the Executive Council of the International Comparative Literature Association, and a Trustee of the Wordsworth Conference Foundation. My research has been supported by SSHRCC, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany), and the Zentrum für Literaturforschung, Berlin; I am a past holder of the Distinguished University Professorship (Western) and the John Charles Polanyi Prize for Literature, and a member of the Academia Europaea. (Source:

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