Dr Ian Cooper read Modern Languages at Cambridge and took his PhD there in 2007. He came to the University of Kent in 2012 following fellowships in Cambridge and Germany. 

In 2014-16 Ian was Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (Lichtenberg-Kolleg) at the University of Göttingen.

Research interests

Ian's main research interests lie in the intersection between literature in German and English (primarily poetry) and philosophy in the aftermath of German post-Kantian thought up to and including Heidegger. 

He published The Near and Distant God: Poetry, Idealism and Religious Thought from Hölderlin to Eliot with Legenda in 2008, and Poetry and the Question of Modernity: From Heidegger to the Present appeared with Routledge in 2020. 

In addition to publishing numerous journal articles on topics in literature, philosophy and art, Ian was co-editor of volume three (on Aesthetics and Literature) of Cambridge University Press' series The Impact of Idealism: The Legacy of Post-Kantian German Thought (2013). More recently he has co-edited Literature and Religion in the German-Speaking World: From 1200 to the Present Day (Cambridge University Press, 2019).


Ian teaches German literature and culture from 1750 the present, as well as German language at all levels. He has supervised doctoral work on nineteenth and twentieth-century German literature and philosophy. 



  • Cooper, I. (2017). Winterabende: A Romantic and Post-Romantic Motif in Friedrich, Büchner and Stifter. Publications of the English Goethe Society [Online] 86:42-54. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/09593683.2017.1282006.
    This article traces the motif of winter evening in a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, in Georg Büchner’s Lenz and in Adalbert Stifter’s Bergkristall, showing how it is used to convey Romantic convictions about death and transcendence, and how it is subsequently a vehicle of post-Romantic explorations of finitude. The article argues that winter ‘Abenddämmerung’ is in Friedrich a central element of the Romantic subject’s relation to landscape and is related to Schleiermacher’s thoughts on religion; that in Lenz it is associated with the subject’s dislocation; and that in Bergkristall it is a moment in which a form of historical life fades and changes.
  • Cooper, I. and Holmes, D. (2015). Kurze Rede, langer Sinn: the nineteenth-century German short prose narrative Cooper, I. and Holmes, D. eds. German Life and Letters [Online] 68:497-503. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/glal.12094.
  • Cooper, I. (2015). Theodor Storm and Disenchantment. German Life and Letters [Online] 68:584-597. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1111/glal.12101.
    This essay examines Theodor Storm as a practitioner of the novella in the context of ideas about ‘disenchantment’ – a concept given prominence by Max Weber and later taken up by Adorno and Horkheimer. The comparison proceeds from Storm's recognised relation to currents of nineteenth‐century thought from which the philosophical discourse of disenchantment emerged. In the perspectival complexity of Der Schimmelreiter Storm gives expression to problems of narrative legitimation which Weber sees as characteristic of rationalisation; for Adorno and Horkheimer such problems underlie the self‐alienation of the ‘enlightened’ world view, which they understand as becoming mythic. Storm anticipates these tensions in his spectrally infused treatment of nature, which allows him to grasp the crisis of myth and enlightenment as continuous with a discursive primacy of the aesthetic. His text throws such primacy into critical relief as inadequate to the claim of realist narrative art.
  • Cooper, I. (2012). Law, Tragedy, Spirit: Hölderlin contra Agamben. Journal of Literary Theory [Online] 6:195-212. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/jlt-2011-0007.
    This article takes references to Friedrich Hölderlin in the work of Giorgio Agamben as a basis for proposing a broader view of their philosophical relationship, particularly in respect of the themes treated by Agamben in The Time that Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. Hölderlin is a frequent but elusive and ambiguous point of reference in Agamben’s work, and the essay begins by examining Agamben’s invocation, in Homo Sacer, of Hölderlin’s translation of, and commentary on, a Pindaric fragment (›Das Höchste‹) in the context of the ›inclusive exclusion‹ and the dynamics of so-called ›bare life‹. This establishes Hölderlin’s suggestive place in Agamben’s account of law. In a further reference to Hölderlin (this time to his commentaries on Greek tragedy), Agamben implies Hölderlin’s significance for his understanding of poetry (as put forward in The End of the Poem). Furthermore, here Agamben suggests that the Hölderlinian concept of caesura bears on his own thought, and thereby connects Hölderlin to the terms of the political theology, derived from Paul, developed in The Time that Remains.

    The thrust of the essay consists in an interrogation of Agamben’s concepts of ›remnant‹ and ›divided division‹, which underlie his messianic political theology. Hölderlin, it is argued, is important for the conceptual structure developed by Agamben in his reading of Paul, and also offers a decisive alternative to the assumptions of Agamben’s project. Questions of law and representation – central themes of The Time that Remains – are treated in Hölderlin’s essay Über Religion (On Religion), which also links these to the violence which Agamben says law inevitably generates. Yet, the article argues, Über Religion suggests a clear difference from Agamben’s political theology, and so a problem for any attempt to co-opt him for the broader terms of Agamben’s philosophy. Where Hölderlin develops a view of law and representation as opening to a sphere of determinate, relational existence in which law and representation are not dispensed with but rather articulate – in their fulfilment and limit – an experience of freedom in love, Agamben takes the messianic division of representation and law to signal a potential overcoming of relation (and so freedom from the sovereign ban explored in Homo Sacer). Hölderlin, it is argued, is both closer to the complexity of Pauline messianic vocation in its relation to law than Agamben, and a powerful corrective to the paradoxes of Agamben’s political theology, defined by the minimal conditions of relation which it needs to admit in order to proceed beyond relation. This is discussed with reference to Agamben’s notion of vocation as a revocation or ›nullifying‹ of determinacy, and the Christological implications of Hölderlin’s analysis of law and desire as it develops from the essay Urtheil und Seyn (Judgement and Being). Dieter Henrich’s analyses of Hölderlin’s thought are employed here.

    In its final section, the essay returns to that area of Hölderlin’s work mentioned by Agamben in his account of poetry – the theory of tragic drama. Antigone can at first sight be seen as exemplifying some of Agamben’s claims about the ›production‹ of bare life: the play demonstrates how what Hölderlin calls the ›lawful calculus‹ of tragedy turns its heroes over to lawlessness while keeping them subject to law – placing them outside the polis but maintaining them in a coercive relation to it. At the same time, Hölderlin’s conception of tragic caesura introduces the idea of a remnant to representation which brings it close to The Time that Remains.However, the Hölderlinian tragic remnant is explicitly named as Spirit, in which representation is not abolished but transfigured, or brought closer to what the essay on religion termed the (spiritual) perfection of law. While Agamben seems to find in Hölderlin a confirmation of that ›messianic‹ time in which law and relations are rendered inoperative and a utopian potential emerges, Hölderlin’s conception of the tragic in fact proposes a reconstitution of law and relational existence under the aegis of (Pauline) love. The essay concludes that Hölderlin thereby offers a powerful (and more properly tragic) alternative to Agamben’s political messianism and its disdain for determinacy.
  • Cooper, I. (2009). Direction, Disruption, Voice: Durs Grünbein’s "Historien" and "Neue Historien". The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory [Online] 84:99-121. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/GERR.84.2.99-121.
    Focusing on Durs Grünbein's presentation of different "histories" ("Historien"), the author offers an approach to his poetry based on voice—the ways in which Grünbein's voice is constituted by the presence of other voices from the German poetic and philosophical tradition. He begins by discussing the pervasive importance of Celan's voice for Grünbein's attempts to explore different layers of place and time, then uses this as a basis for close readings of several poems. He concludes with an account of Grünbein as post-"Wende" poet that develops a concept of the "aporetic" drawn from Celan, Hölderlin, and Derrida.
  • Cooper, I. (2009). ’Equanimity’: Les Murray, Levinas and the Breath of God. Literature and Theology [Online] 23:192-206. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/frp019.
    This article provides a close reading of Les Murray's poem ‘Equanimity’ in the context of Emmanuel Lévinas’ ethical thought. It argues that Murray's poem can be located in relation to Paul Celan's concept of the ‘turn of breath’, a hermeneutics of voice and address that points to Lévinas' understanding of the face of the other. ‘Equanimity’ both works out a conception of encounter with the other that has strong parallels in Lévinas (particularly concerning the themes of speaking and seeing), and seeks to move beyond an ethics based in difference by incorporating speech and vision into a theology of grace.
  • Cooper, I. (2008). Reading Beyond Community: D.F. Strauss’s Das Leben Jesu and Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra. Modern Language Review 103:456-470.
    While Nietzsche's relationship to D. F. Strauss has generally been approached in terms of Nietzsche's attack on Strauss, this article presents a wider intellectual-historical perspective to show that both are part of the philosophical and theological crisis of post-Hegelianism. A study of their major works Das Leben Jesu and Also sprach Zarathustra reveals striking similarities in the problems of language and representation faced by both thinkers.


  • Cooper, I. (2020). Poetry and the Question of Modernity: From Heidegger to the Present. [Online]. New York: Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/Poetry-and-the-Question-of-Modernity-From-Heidegger-to-the-Present-1st/Cooper/p/book/9780367894283.
    Interest in Martin Heidegger was recently reawakened by the revelations, in his newly published ‘Black Notebooks’, of the full terrible extent of his political commitments in the 1930s and 1940s. The revelations reminded us of the dark allegiances co-existing with one of the profoundest and most important philosophical projects of the twentieth century—one that is of incomparable importance for literature and especially for poetry, which Heidegger saw as embodying a receptiveness to Being and a resistance to the instrumental tendencies of modernity. Poetry and the Question of Modernity: From Heidegger to the Present is the first extended account of the relationship between Heidegger’s philosophy and the modern lyric. It argues that some of the best-known modern poets in German and English, from Paul Celan to Seamus Heaney and Les Murray, are in deep imaginative affinity with Heidegger’s enquiry into finitude, language, and Being. But the work of each of these poets challenges Heidegger because each appeals to a transcendence, taking place in language, that is inseparable from the motion of encounter with embodied others. It is thus poetry which reveals the full measure of Heidegger’s relevance in redefining modern selfhood, and poetry which reveals the depth of his blindness.
  • Cooper, I. (2008). The Near and Distant God: Poetry, Idealism and Religious Thought from Hölderlin to Eliot. [Online]. Oxford, UK: Legenda. Available at: http://www.legendabooks.com/titles/isbn/9781906540005.html.
    Poetry and philosophy from the time of Kant to the mid-twentieth century are centrally concerned with the question of how the Spirit — or the Holy Spirit — is present in the world. Cooper argues that a major strand in the development of modern poetry in German and English can be seen as a protracted response to the religious crises of post-Idealist thought. The German tradition develops through poets such as Hölderlin as much as through philosophers such as Hegel and Nietzsche, and in England German ideas profoundly influenced the British Idealist school. This compelling study makes parallel readings of German and English writers, showing that their affinities are deeper and more historically-based than has previously been realised. Eduard Mörike and Gerard Manley Hopkins, both churchmen, each encountered Idealism as students in their respective countries: each responded to it in his spiritual verse. And we find similar parallels in two of the defining works of twentieth-century poetry: Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Book section

  • Cooper, I. (2019). Literature and Religion in Germany 1770-1830. In: Cooper, I. and Walker, J. K. eds. Literature and Religion in the German-Speaking World: From 1200 to the Present Day. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 122-160. Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/literature-and-religion-in-the-germanspeaking-world/E43089913C37460AD2DBC69930417E3F.
    In the period 1770-1830 the progressive dissolution of the antithesis between religious inwardness and Enlightenment critique gave rise to historically unparalleled creativity in German literature and thought. This is also the age in which human subjectivity was decisively redefined by critical and then post-critical Idealism in German philosophy. Between 1770 and 1830 the twin heritages of rationalism in German Idealist philosophy and Pietism in the beginnings of modern biblical criticism came together. In so doing, both decisively affected the vocabulary of German literature and its function as a mode of cultural critique in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Germany. The development in German writing from the literature of Empfindsamkeit (Sentimentality) and Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) to Romanticism reflects the evolution of a specifically literary idea of inwardness which variously expresses and challenges theological and political constructions of the subject.
  • Cooper, I. (2013). Idealism in Nineteenth-Century German Literature. In: Boyle, N. and Disley, E. eds. The Impact of Idealism: The Legacy of Post-Kantian German Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 92-120.
  • Cooper, I. (2013). Grünbein and Anglo-American Poetry: Dickinson, Pound, Larkin. In: Eskin, M., Leeder, K. and Young, C. eds. Durs Grünbein: A Companion. Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter, pp. 39-66. Available at: http://www.degruyter.com/view/product/43643.
  • Cooper, I. (2013). "Short of History": Les Murray and the Communion of Saints. In: Walker, J. ed. The Present Word: Culture, Society and the Site of Literature - Essays in Honour of Nicholas Boyle. Oxford, UK: Legenda, pp. 80-91.
  • Cooper, I. (2008). Nietzsche, Money and Bildung. In: Siemens, H. and Roodt, V. eds. Nietzsche, Power and Politics: Rethinking Nietzsche’s Legacy for Political Thought. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, pp. 605-629.

Edited book

  • Cooper, I. (2019). Literature and Religion in the German-Speaking World: From 1200 to the Present Day. [Online]. Cooper, I. and Walker, J. eds. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108284622.
    The relationship between literature and religion in German is unique in the European tradition. It is essential to the definition of German, Austrian and Swiss cultural identity in both the Protestant and Catholic traditions, and is crucial to our understanding of what has been called the 'special path' of German intellectual life. Offering in-depth essays by leading scholars, Literature and Religion in the German-Speaking World analyses this relationship from the beginnings of vernacular literature in German, via the Reformation, early-modern and Enlightenment periods, to the present day. It shows how such fundamental concepts as 'subjectivity', 'identity' and 'modernity' itself arise from the interrelation between religious and secular modes of understanding, and how this interrelation is inseparable from its expression in literature.
  • Cooper, I. (2013). The Impact of Idealism: The Legacy of Post-Kantian German Thought: Volume 3: Aesthetics and Literature. [Online]. Jamme, C. and Cooper, I. eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at: http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/history-ideas-and-intellectual-history/impact-idealism-legacy-post-kantian-german-thought-volume-3.
    The first study of its kind, The Impact of Idealism assesses the impact of classical German philosophy on science, religion and culture. This third volume explores German Idealism's impact on the literature, art and aesthetics of the last two centuries. Each essay focuses on the legacy of an idea or concept from the high point of German philosophy around 1800, tracing out its influence on the intervening period and its importance for contemporary discussions. As well as a broad geographical and historical range, including Greek tragedy, George Eliot, Thomas Mann and Samuel Beckett, and key musicians and artists such as Wagner, Andy Warhol and Frank Lloyd Wright, the volume's thematic focus is broad. Engaging closely with the key aesthetic texts of German Idealism, this collection uses examples from literature, music, art, architecture and museum studies to demonstrate Idealism's continuing influence.
  • Cooper, I. (2013). Dialectic and Paradox: Configurations of the Third in Modernity. Cooper, I. and Malkmus, B. F. eds. Oxford, UK: Peter Lang.
  • Cooper, I. (2008). Third Agents: Secret Protagonists of the Modern Imagination. Cooper, I., Knörer, E. and Malkmus, B. eds. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.
    "Third Agents: Secret Protagonists of the Modern Imagination" brings together a varied and fascinating range of contributions to explore the role of third agents in the post-Enlightenment literary imagination, including modern narratives such as film. It centres on the figure of 'the third' - conceived imaginatively as a liminal agent transgressing social, cultural and spatio-temporal boundaries, and conceptually as the vital yet often problematic element in theories of discourse that seek to operate beyond binary codes of meaning. This figure is revealed to be a 'secret protagonist' of modernity, neglected by, and eluding the scope of, existing intellectual and literary histories. Contributors to this volume are drawn from diverse theoretical backgrounds, encompassing work in dialectics, psychoanalysis and systems theory. Through their focus on literature and media, they seek to understand how those conceptions of the third relate to imaginative figurations.This volume offers the first comprehensive account of third agency in modern literature and its intellectual and imaginative pre-history. It provides an accessible combination of close readings and theoretical reflection, presenting figures who inhabit in-between territories such as the adventurer, the bastard, the priest, the angel, the adulterer, the poet and the outcast. These figures are read as protagonists in a genealogy of modernity that has not yet been written. The essays here also provide fascinating answers as to why these secret protagonists often became major figures in modern philosophy and literary theory, and give new insights into such writers as Benjamin, Barthes and Derrida.


  • Moffat, L. (2017). Subjects of the Unconditioned: Kant’s Critical Metaphysics and Aesthetics and Their Reconstruction in Schelling’s Identity-Philosophy.
    My thesis examines Kant's metaphysics and its critical appropriation by Schelling, particularly in his early identity-philosophy. My first two chapters focus on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of the Power of Judgement, wherein I discuss core themes in Kant's metaphysics and aesthetics. In the first chapter these themes include intellectual intuition, the ideas of reason, and das Unbedingte (the unconditioned or absolute). In the second chapter I deal with aesthetic judgment, aesthetic ideas and genius. In chapter three and four I offer a critical analysis of Kant's ideas and Schelling's identity-philosophy, defending the powerful, if little known arguments Schelling formulates to overcome the limitations Kant imposes upon metaphysics. I relate this analysis to three central themes common to Kant and Schelling; intellectual intuition, aesthetic experience, and the unconditioned. I argue that Schelling struggles to overcome Kant's critical limitations, particularly with regard to the status of intellectual intuition for human cognition. My discussion of Schelling focuses on two of his essays; Presentation of my system of philosophy (1801), and Further presentations from the system of philosophy (1802). These texts consolidate Schelling's identity-philosophy in the wake of his more well known work, System of transcendental idealism from 1800. In addition, I examine Schelling's Philosophy of art lectures from 1804. These are all crucial texts in the history of German idealism which are rarely discussed. In the course of my thesis I engage and respond to recent research by Paul Guyer, Dalia Nassar, Daniel Whistler, Manfred Frank, Karl Ameriks, Dieter Henrich, and others.
  • Rolland, N. (2016). Bodies in Composition: Women, Music, and the Body in Nineteenth-Century European Literature.
    This thesis examines the relations between music and literature through fictional women musicians in nineteenth-century European literature and more particularly through their bodies. The female body appears to be a rich juncture between music and literature, facilitating musical references in literature as well as creating complex musical narrative systems anchored in social, cultural and scientific discourses of the long nineteenth century. All types of women musicians are examined (singers, instrumentalists, composers, and even listeners) along with different discourses on the body (social, philosophical and scientific), shedding a new light on gender and the arts. Our chronological as well as thematic approach strives to highlight a common representation of the body and of female musicians in literature. German Romantic texts thus present women musicians as elusive figures who play a key role in the impossibility to materialise the abstract. Realist and sensation novels are analysed through a clinical perspective on the body and envision female musicians as monomaniacs. On the contrary, fiction written by female authors introduces empowered musicians as priestess of art. Finally, fin-de-siècle novels stage the female body as a degenerate entity of society. The parallel analysis of literary case studies with different perspectives on the body posits the women-music-body triangle as a new approach to gender, music and literature.
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