I was born in Dublin and educated in Ireland. I graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a BA in Modern Languages (German and French), and spent a decade at the University of Kiel, Germany, teaching English to German students, and German to foreign students. During this time I studied German literature and linguistics at Masters and Doctoral levels. After completing my doctoral thesis on Romantic and 20th-century German nature poetry in 1983 (Natursprache: Ein dichtungstheoretisches Konzept der Romantik und seine Wiederaufnahme in der modernen Naturlyrik), I joined the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bath. Here I worked initially on East German literature and the nature poetry of Germans in exile. As well as teaching German literature, language and history, I contributed to a Masters programme in European Cinema, and led the Departmental research group ‘Memory, History and Identity’ (2007-14). I published the book, Nature, Technology and Cultural Change in Twentieth-Century German Literature: The Challenge of Ecocriticism in 2007, and was appointed to a personal chair in 2008.
My main research fields are literary representations of nature and environment, and ecocritical theory. I was a founding member of both the British/ Irish and European scholarly organisations affiliated to the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). I served as first President of the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and Environment (EASLCE) 2004-6, and was Associate Editor of its journal, Ecozon@ from 2010 to 2020. University of Bath sabbaticals, projects funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council, and a research fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society in Munich in 2015 enabled me to extend my research into German and comparative literary ecocriticism, energy humanities, climate change discourse and climate fiction.
Since retiring from teaching in 2017, I have been a Visiting Scholar at Bath Spa University’s Centre for Environmental Humanities. Recent publications include the co-edited volume, Cli-Fi: A Companion, a special number of Resilience on ‘Stories of Energy’, and the co-authored book, Climate Change Scepticism: A Transnational Ecocritical Analysis. I am co-editor of the Rodopi/ Brill book series ‘Nature, Culture and Literature’. Climate fiction and gardening writing are among my current research interests.