Stockholm university

Axel EnglundProfessor

About me

Professor of Literature and Wallenberg Academy Fellow at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics, member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, as well as President of the International Association of Word and Music Studies (WMA).


My teaching at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics includes literary interpretation and modernist poetry, as well as the supervision of graduate students. I am also the coordinator for the Master's Programme in Literature at the Faculty of Humanities.


My research centres on relations between words and music, especially from modernism and onward; operatic performance, music-related poetry and prose representations of music-making are all among the phenomena I study. Beyond intermediality, my theoretical interests include, for instance, hermeneutics, aesthetics, critical theory and gender-and-sexuality studies.

One strand of my research concerns German-language poetry from the 20th century, especially in its relationship with music as idea and practice. My dissertation dealt with the Jewish Holocaust survivor Paul Celan, focusing on music as a motif and influence in his work, as well as on contemporary musical settings of his poetry. It was revised into a book and published under the title Still Songs: Music In and Around the Poetry of Paul Celan (2012, paperback 2016). After that, I have also applied similar perspectives on Rainer Maria Rilke, Nelly Sachs and Ingeborg Bachmann. I have also published several articles (and a book in Swedish) on the little-studied poetry of W.G. Sebald.

My work on opera has focused chiefly on the guises in which the art form appears on stage today. My book Deviant Opera: Sex, Power, and Perversion on Stage (2020) addresses eroticized power relations, fetish aesthetics and sadomasochism in contemporary productions of canonical opera (such as, for instance, Handel, Mozart, Wagner and Puccini). I have also guest-edited a double issue of The Opera Quarterly with the title Beyond the Performative Turn (issue 1–2, 2019), which addresses the particulars of live performance, technology and mediation, opera and posthumanism, experimental indie opera, and other vital areas of current opera studies.

My current research project deals with chamber music in the novel of the early 20th century. It focuses on the literary representation of the body as an interface between music and sexuality, in a period when both went through radical changes. The project will explore a broad range of novels from the period 1900–1930: modernist staples like Thomas Mann, Robert Musil and Marcel Proust as well as less familiar names will be examined in relation to the discourse on music, mediation and sexuality that circulated at the time.

I am also active as a translator. In recent years I have published Swedish editions of Stéphane Mallarmé, W.G. Sebald, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.