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Emeritus Professor John Sandford


Areas of interest

I joined the German Department at Reading in 1978. Prior to that I had been a Lecturer in German at Bedford College, University of London, where I also did my PhD. I studied for my first degree at Cambridge, taking papers in German, French, and Dutch; and before that I was at the City of Norwich School, where my interest in languages was really kindled.

My initial appointment at Reading was that of Lecturer in German; in 1986 I became Reader in German, and then in 1990 I was awarded a Personal Professorship. In 1995, on the retirement of Professor W.A. (Bill) Coupe, I was appointed to the Chair of German Studies. I served as Head of Department from 1998 until my retirement in 2002.

I belong to the generation of Germanists whose initial experience of our subject - both as undergraduates and then in their first teaching posts - was very much shaped by a traditional notion of something modelled on the 'Germanistik' that was taught in German universities. (My PhD, for instance, was on landscape imagery in the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.)

Many of us expanded our interests beyond that 'lang.-lit.' approach over the course of our careers, and helped to build a broader understanding of what it means - and has meant - to be 'German', which must surely be the key to our subject. We moved, in other words, from 'German' to 'German Studies'.

An important part of the remit of my initial appointment at Reading was to bring elements of this broader notion of the subject into the syllabus, and over the years I introduced courses in German history, politics and society, and in the mass media and film.

As a token of the expanded syllabus, the 'German Department' changed its name in 1994 to the 'Department of German Studies', which also brought us into line with the names of our sister-departments in French and Italian.

I had also long been interested in East Germany, and in the late eighties - by which time there were no fewer than five of us in the Department with GDR specialisms - it was decided to establish the Centre for East German Studies (now the East German Studies Archive), of which I was appointed the first Director. EGSA continues to provide an invaluable focus for research and teaching in the field, and its ever-expanding archive provides a unique collection of material from and about the GDR.

My research interests have included German literature, the German mass media, German cinema, German politics, and the history of German Studies, and I have given conference papers and published books, chapters, articles and reviews in all these areas.

I have given radio and TV interviews on German cultural and political issues, and from1980 to 2015 I was a member of the editorial team of the journal German Life and Letters. My engagements with other universities (in the UK and abroad) have included course assessments, PhD supervision and examining, and external examining at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Selected publications



  • The Mass Media of the German-Speaking Countries, London / Ames 1976: Oswald Wolff / Iowa State University Press, xii + 235pp.
  • The New German Cinema, London 1980: Oswald Wolff; paperback edition London / New York 1981: Methuen / Da Capo, 180pp.
  • Landscape and Landscape Imagery in R.M.Rilke, London 1980: Institute of Germanic Studies, x + 159pp.
  • The Sword and the Ploughshare: Autonomous Peace Initiatives in East Germany, London 1983: Merlin Press / European Nuclear Disarmament, 111pp.



  • Günter Wallraff: Der Aufmacher, Manchester 1990: Manchester University Press, ix + 158pp.
  • The East German Citizens' Movements since the 'Wende', Reading 1995: Centre for East German Studies (CEGS Occasional Papers No. 1), 63pp.
  • Encyclopedia of Contemporary German Culture, London and New York 1999: Routledge, xxx + 696pp. (Contains over 1,100 entries, including 36 by the editor.)


Articles and book chapters:

  • 'The Anonymous Characters in Dürrenmatt's Der Besuch der alten Dame', German Life and Letters, 24 (1970/71), 335-345.
  • 'Kafka as Myth-Maker: Some Approaches to "Vor dem Gesetz"', German Life and Letters, 29 (1975/76), 137-148.
  • 'The New German Cinema', German Life and Letters, 32 (1978/79), 206-218.
  • 'Film and the Study of German Politics', Bulletin of the Association for the Study of German Politics, Autumn 1979, 10-15.
  • 'Literaturverfilmung and the New German Cinema', Publications of the English Goethe Society, 52 (1982), 67-89.
  • 'West German Elections: No Mandate for Cruise', Sanity, 5 (May 1983), 4-5.
  • 'Zur Friedensbewegung in Großbritannien und der BRD', Atomwaffenfreies Europa, 4/5 (May 1983), 63-67.
  • 'The Paid Pipers of Oberhausen: Public Sponsorship and the West German Cinema', ASGP Journal, 6 (1983), 3-23.
  • 'The Press in the GDR: Principles and Practice', in Culture and Society in the GDR, ed. Graham Bartram and Anthony Waine (GDR Monitor Special Series No. 2), Dundee 1984, pp.27-36.
  • Entries on Volker Schlöndorff and Hans Jürgen Syberberg in Cinegraph: Kritisches Lexikon zum deutschen Film, ed. Hans-Michael Bock, Munich 1984 et seq.: edition text + kritik.
  • 'Asking about the German Question', END Journal, 16/17 (Summer 1985), 35-38.
  • 'Alternative Approaches to the German Question', German Life and Letters, 38 (1984/85), 427-441.
  • "'Wollt ihr das totale Fernsehen?" The New Media Debate in West Germany', Journal of Area Studies, 12 (Autumn 1985), 24-29.
  • 'The New Peace Movement in West Germany', Contemporary German Studies, Occasional Papers No. 2 (University of Strathclyde) (1986), 18-33.
  • 'Was "Ich bin Germanist" auf englisch heißt', Prisma: Zeitschrift der Gesamthochschule Kassel, 37 (December 1986), 3-10.
  • Introduction to Rudolf Bahro, Building the Green Movement, London / Philadelphia 1986: GMP Publishers / New Society Publishers, pp. 7-12.
  • 'The Church, the State and the Peace Movement in the GDR', GDR Monitor, 16 (1986/87), 27-54.
  • 'The GDR and the German Question: The Unofficial Debate in the Peace Movement', in Studies in GDR Culture and Society 7, ed. Margy Gerber, Lanham MD, New York and London 1993: University Press of America, pp. 221-236.
  • '"Was führt zum Frieden, was zum Krieg?": Arguments on Peace in the GDR', East Central Europe, 14-15 (1987/1988), 179-210.
  • 'What are the Media for? Philosophies of the Media in the Federal Republic and the GDR', Contemporary German Studies, Occasional Papers No. 5 (University of Strathclyde) (1988), 5-24
  • 'The West German Media', in West Germany Today, ed. Karl Koch, London and New York 1989: Routledge, pp. 108-138.
  • '"Germanistische Medienwissenschaft" in Großbritannien: Das Beispiel Reading', Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik, Reihe C, Band 4/1 (1989), 27-46.'The "Literaturverfilmungswelle"', in After the 'Death of Literature': West German Writing of the 1970s, ed. Keith Bullivant, Oxford / New York / Munich 1989: Berg, pp. 155-175.
  • Men, Women, and the "Third Way"', in Günter Grass's Der Butt: Sexual Politics and the Male Myth of History, ed. Philip Brady, Timothy McFarland and John White, Oxford 1990: Clarendon Press, 169-186.
  • 'The Peace Movement and the Church in the Honecker Years', in The German Revolution of 1989: Causes and Consequences, ed. Gerd-Joachim Glaeßner and Ian Wallace, Oxford and Providence 1992: Berg, pp. 124-143.
  • '"Wer zu spät kommt . . .": Neues Deutschland and the '"Wende"', German Life and Letters, 45 (1992), 268-278.
  • 'Hans Jürgen Syberberg: Films from Germany', in Syberberg: A Filmmaker from Germany (booklet for Edinburgh International Film Festival 1992), ed. Heather Stewart, London 1992: British Film Institute, pp. 5-12.
  • 'The Opposition on the Eve of the Revolution', in The End of the GDR and the Problems of Integration: Selected Papers from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth New Hampshire Symposia on the German Democratic Republic (= Studies in GDR Culture and Society 11/12), ed. Margy Gerber and Roger Woods, Lanham MD, New York and London 1993: University Press of America, pp. 19-36.
  • 'The Transformation of the Media in East Germany since the Wende', Journal of Area Studies, 2/1993 ('Perspectives on German Unification'), 25-36.
  • 'Chaos and Control in the Weimar Film', German Life and Letters, 48 (1995), 311-323.
  • 'The German Media', in The New Germany: Social, Political and Cultural Challenges of Unification, ed. Derek Lewis & John R.P. McKenzie, Exeter 1995: Exeter U.P, pp. 200-219.
  • 'The Press in the New Länder', in Changing Identities in East Germany: Selected Papers from the Nineteenth and Twentieth New Hampshire Symposia (= Studies in GDR Culture and Society 14/15), ed. Margy Gerber and Roger Woods, Lanham MD and London 1996: University Press of America, pp. 211-222.
  • 'Television in Germany', in Television in Europe, ed. James A. Coleman and Brigitte Rollet, Exeter 1997: Intellect Books, pp. 49-60.
  • 'What does "Culture" mean in German Cultural Studies?', in German Studies: Old and New Challenges. Undergraduate Programmes in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, ed. Peter Rolf Lutzeier, Bern 1998: Peter Lang, pp. 33-55.
  • 'German Studies at the Millennium', in The Humanities in the New Millennium, ed. Susanne Peters, Michael Biddis, and Ian F. Roe, Tübingen and Basel 2000: A. Francke Verlag, pp. 63-78.
  • 'The Opposition that Dare not Speak its Name', in Finding a Voice: Problems of Language in East German Society and Culture, ed. Graham Jackman and Ian F. Roe, Amsterdam and Atlanta 2000: Rodopi, pp. 19-37.
  • 'Mutual (Mis-)Perceptions: The GDR and the British Peace Movement in the 1980s', in Britain and the GDR: Relations and Perceptions in a Divided World, ed. Arnd Bauerkämper, Berlin and Vienna 2002: Philo, pp. 353-373.
  • 'German Studies. Einige Anmerkungen aus britischer Sicht', in German Studies - zwischen Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften, ed. Lothar Probst and Walter Schmitz, Dresden 2002:Thelem, pp.111-117.
  • 'The GDR and the British Peace Movement in the 1980s', in The Other Germany: Perceptions and Influences in British-East German Relations, 1945-1990, ed. Stefan Berger and Norman LaPorte, Augsburg 2005: Wißner-Verlag, pp.159-171.



  • Editor of German Life and Letters  from 1980- 2015.
  • Review Articles and Reviews (selection)
  • Kurt Batt, Revolte intern: Betrachtungen zur Literatur in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Munich 1975: C.H. Beck. German Life and Letters, 32 (1978/79), 91-92.
  • Peter Handke, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, trans. Michael Roloff, London 1978: Quartet Books, and Peter Handke, Short Letter, Long Farewell, trans. Ralph Manheim, London 1978: Quartet Books. New German Studies, 7 (1979), 221-223.
  • 'Neue Sachlichkeit and German Realism of the Twenties' (Exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, 11 November 1978-14 January 1979). Quinquereme, 2/2 (July 1979), 263-268.
  • Siegbert Prawer, Caligari's Children: The Film as Tale of Terror, Oxford 1980: OUP. German Life and Letters, 34 (1980-81), 337-343.
  • Timo Tiusanen, Dürrenmatt. A Study in Plays, Prose, Theory, Princeton 1977: Princeton University Press. Durham University Journal, New Series Vol. 42, No. 2 (June 1981), 264-265.
  • James F. Trent, Mission on the Rhine: Reeducation and Denazification in American-Occupied Germany, Chicago and London 1982: University of Chicago Press. History of Education, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1985), 77-79.
  • Elim Papadakis, The Green Movement in West Germany, London and Canberra 1984: Croom Helm / New York 1984: St Martin's Press. Quinquereme, 2/8 (July 1985), 239-241.
  • Philip Payne, Zeitungen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Eine Einführung mit Unterrichtsmaterialien, Lancaster 1988: University of Lancaster. German Teaching, Vol. 2, No. 2 (June 1989), 34-35.
  • Thomas Elsaesser, New German Cinema: A History, Basingstoke 1989: Macmillan. The Times Higher Education Supplement, 6 April 1990, 21.
  • Anthony Phelan, Rilke: 'Neue Gedichte', London 1992: Grant and Cutler. Modern Language Review, Vol. 90, No. 1 (1995), 253-254.
  • Anthony Glees, The Stasi Files: East Germany's Secret Operations against Britain, London 2003: The Free Press. (Online commentary, posted October 2005, at


Other media:

  • The German Press', Exeter Tapes, Exeter 1979: University of Exeter (audio recording).
  • Various interviews on German topics on radio and television (BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Berkshire, Radio 210, BBC2, etc.).


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