Q&A with English Professor Ian Duncan, LMU-UCB Program Visiting Professor and Fellow

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October 6, 2022

The Division of Arts & Humanities has a number of esteemed faculty who have participated in the LMU-UCB program for humanities research. In this series, we interview faculty who have had enriching experiences as part of a visiting professorship or fellow. In 2007, the University of California, Berkeley Division of Arts & Humanities and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich) established a joint program to pursue innovative, collaborative research in the Humanities. The program facilitates academic exchange of faculty members, graduate students and postdocs in the areas of the Humanities.

Ian Duncan, Professor, English Department

What programs have you participated in as part of the LMU-UCB program for humanities research? 

I have spent two semesters at LMU as part of the LMU-UCB program, in the fall of 2012 and again in 2015. 

The first occasion was through the faculty exchange. My LMU counterpart, Professor Christoph Bode, came to Berkeley and taught my classes (including a graduate seminar in Romanticism), and I taught his classes. My two classes were a graduate-level seminar "Darwin and Culture" and an upper-level undergraduate seminar "The Romantic Novel.” I also ran a Romanticism workshop and research colloquium for faculty and doctoral students, in which we read some works covered in the seminars in greater depth, exploring historical and theoretical contexts. 

In 2015 I had the opportunity to return to Munich, this time as a visiting fellow at LMU's Center for Advanced Studies (CAS). I attended CAS events, met faculty there (both visiting and resident), and talked to graduate students. I gave the Berkeley Lecture at CAS, as it's called, based on my book in progress. 

During your participation in the faculty exchange program, what obstacles did you encounter? How was your experience teaching abroad? 

Administratively, professor Christoph Bode and I were able to maintain our appointments at our home institutions. Since the German academic calendar doesn't coincide with ours, some fancy footwork was required so that I could fulfill my obligations there and also be back in Berkeley in time for my spring semester teaching here. 

I found it all enormously enjoyable and enriching -- teaching students at another institution, especially outside the US, and generally being part of a quite different university apparatus, was eye-opening.

What were some of the highlights for participating as a visiting fellow? 

At CAS I mainly had to do with historians -- whom I found to be unfailingly generous and interesting. I enjoyed it all enormously -- much of that enjoyment coming from residence in the center of Munich, a few minutes' walk away from museums, the English Garden, the Bavarian State Opera and other cultural amenities. I made good progress with my book, which was published by Princeton University Press four years later. 

For future faculty and postdocs interested in participating, what are some of the perks of participating in the program? 

Program participants are very well treated -- housed at the IBZ (apartments for visiting scholars), which is part of the main university campus on the Amalienstrasse. My experience there has enriched my teaching and research -- I didn't know it at the time, but attendance at the Staatsoper (one of the very finest companies in Europe)  fed into a course I've subsequently taught here about "Opera and Literary Form." 

Ian Duncan studied at King's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1977) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1989), and taught for several years in the Yale English department, before being appointed Barbara and Carlisle Moore Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Oregon in 1995. He came to Berkeley in 2001, and was appointed to the Florence Green Bixby Chair in English in 2011. 
He is a recipient (2017) of the university's Distinguished Teaching Award. Duncan is the author of Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel (Cambridge, 1992), Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh (Princeton, 2007), and Human Forms: The Novel in the Age of Evolution (Princeton, 2019). He is currently writing a short book on Scotland and Romanticism, and editing The Cambridge History of Scottish Literature. 
Fields of research and teaching include the theory and history of the novel, British literature and culture of the long nineteenth century, Scottish literature, literature and the natural sciences, and literature in relation to other storytelling media (opera; film). Duncan is a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a member of the editorial board of Representations, a General Editor of the Collected Works of James Hogg, and co-editor of a book series, Edinburgh Critical Studies in Romanticism. He has held visiting positions at the Universities of British Columbia and Konstanz, Boğaziçi University, LMU Munich, Princeton University, and Aix-Marseille University.