Humanitas Weidenfeld Visiting Professorship in Comparative European Literature

The Weidenfeld Chair in Comparative European Literature is a Visiting Professorship at the University of Oxford, and is an established part of the academic year at St Anne's.

The 2016-17 Humanitas Weidenfeld Visiting Professorship will be held by Sean O'Brien. Sean O’Brien is a poet, novelist, playwright, critic, broadcaster, anthologist and editor. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University in the UK and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His first six poetry collections gained awards, most recently The Drowned Book (2007), which won both the Forward and T S Eliot Prizes and was republished in 2015 as a Picador Classic. 

His version of Dante’s Inferno was published in 2006, and the bilingual poetry anthology, The Third Shore, published simultaneously in the UK and China in 2013, includes translations he produced during ground breaking poet-to-poet workshops in China that year. In 2015, his versions of the poems of Cape Verde Portuguese poet Corsino Fortes were published in the USA. 

O’Brien’s own Collected Poems was published in 2012. His eighth and most recent poetry collection, The Beautiful Librarians (2015)shared the Roehampton Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize.

In 2016 his publications have included his second novel, Once Again Assembled Here, a chapbook of poetry and photographs, Hammersmith, and a graphic novel collaboration, The Railwayman. A second collection of short stories, Quartier Perdu, will be published in 2017. 

He is currently working on a new collection of poetry and a book-length poem.

The Humanitas Weidenfeld Visiting Professorship in Comparative European Literature Lecture Series - Hilary Term 2017

Lectures will be given by Sean O'Brien.

Tuesday 7 February 2017  ‘For dreams are licensed as they never were’. What becomes of the history poem?

Tuesday 14 February 2017 Displacement: Irish poetry and poets of Irish descent in Britain.

Tuesday 21 February 2017   ‘I only am escaped alone to tell thee’ or ‘The Faster We Go the Rounder We Get’. 

Tuesday 28 February 2017 In Conversation with Patrick McGuinness

The lectures take place at 5.30 in the Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre at St Anne’s College. The first lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.  All welcome, no need to book.

Weidenfeld Visiting Professors of European Comparative Literature:

1994 - 1995 George Steiner

1995 - 1996 Martha C Nussbaum, Professor of Law and Ethics, The University of Chicago

1996 - 1997 Gabriel Josipovici, Professor of English, School of European Studies, University of Sussex

1998 - 1999 Amos Oz, Professor of Hebrew Literature, Ben Gurion University of Negrev, Israel

1999 - 2000 Roberto Calasso, Author and Publisher, Adelphi Edizioni, Milan

2001 - 2002 Umberto Eco

2002 - 2003 Nike Wagner (Michaelmas Term 2002) and Robert Alter (Trinity Term 2003), Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley

2003 - 2004 Mario Vargas Llosa

2004 - 2005 Sander Gilman, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

2005 - 2006 Michele Le Doueff

2006 - 2007 Wolf Lepenies

2007 - 2008 Bernard Schlink

2008 - 2009 Marjorie Perloff

2009 - 2010 Roger Chartier

2010 - 2011 James Wood

2011 - 2012 Ali Smith was awarded the CBE in 2015. Her Humanitas lectures formed the basis of her book Artful (2012) which was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths prize.

2012 - 2013 Don Paterson

2014 - 2015 Javier Cercas. The third and fourth lectures in the series can be viewed online on the Weidenfeld-Hoffman Trust website.

2015 - 2016 Dame Marina Warner


The Chair was the first of Lord Weidenfeld's Visiting Professorships in Oxford, which are intended to bring leading practitioners and scholars to both universities to address major themes in the arts, social sciences and humanities.