Current Research Projects

  • Artificial Humans in Children’s Literature

Sabine Planka has edited the English-language edited volume Critical Perspectives on Artificial Humans in Children’s Literature (Königshausen & Neumann, 2016) whose contributions explore the sophisticated ways in which children’s literature deals with the idea of artificial human beings, and how society, social fears and wishes are reflected and integrated within it. I have contributed an essay to that volume: “Dystopias of Creation: The Evolution of Artificial Humans in Contemporary Young Adult Literature”. In the article, I argue that, apart from mirroring the growing relevance of scientific research as well as popular-cultural discourse on artificial intelligence (AI) in societies across the globe, literature has played an integral role in fleshing out the consequences of human attempts to generate new forms of sentience. Young Adult Literature adds a specific perspective to the long tradition of occidental storytelling about artificial (human) beings, since its focus on non-adult characters allows exploring the similar challenges shared by adolescents and artificial humans alike: Growing up in a world they are not entirely integrated into yet, embodying a body that still not feels entirely owned, searching for an identity that feels fully theirs. This continues as well as evolves the occidental tradition of telling stories about artificial beings throughout the history of literature and film. Consequently, my article traces the transformations and evolutions of artificial beings in Young Adult Literature, based on a historical overview, followed up by case studies of two recent artificial intelligence narratives: Karl Olsberg’s Rafael 2.0 (2011) and Mary E. Pearson’s Jenna Fox Chronicles (2008-2013).

  • Digital game aesthetics in literature and cinema

Literature and film increasingly are influenced by the content and aesthetics of digital games. These industries are growing together at a rapid pace, while at the same time the economic significance of the digital game industry starts surpassing that of the film industry. The mutual influences are most evident in film: Where in the 1980s and 1990s digital games tried to imitate and vary the way in which Hollywood cinema tells its stories, using cutscenes, film-like plots and game adaptations of popular films, nowadays it is the film industry which tends to adapt the one or other narrative or aesthetic twist from digital games, for instance by relying more and more on non-linear narrative “level” structures, or implementing paratexts reminiscent of video game highscores. I have outlined a typology of the interaction between film and games in the 50th supplement of the Lexikon des Kinder- und Jugendfilms (ed. by Horst Schäfer). The title of the article is “Computer-Spiel-Ästhetik im Kinder- und Jugendfilm”.


  • Michael Ende Intermedial

Tobias Kurwinkel, Annika Sevi and I have co-edited a volume on intermediality in the life and works of the German author Michael Ende. The volume, an outcome of the conference “Michael Ende Intermedial” at the film museum Düsseldorf, focuses on the film adaptations of Ende’s novels and stories, but also addresses Ende and the (puppet) theatre, Ende and the arts, and computer games based on Ende’s work. We have even managed to include a hitherto unpublished interview with Ende. The volume has been published in May 2016 as the fourth volume of the book series Kinder- und Jugendliteratur Intermedial.

  • Fear and self-empowerment in children’s film

From 2014 to 2016, I was an Associate Junior Fellow at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Delmenhorst (Institute for Advanced Study) as part of a conference and publication project: Tobias Kurwinkel, Benjamin Moldenhauer and I have prepared a three-day conference on “fear and self-empowerment in children’s cinema” (Angst und Selbstermächtigung im Kinderfilm) which took place in June 2015. The conference brought together film scholars, child psychologists and filmmakers who reflected on the changing role of fear and self-empowerment as an elementary part of children’s film reception, and as a frequently overlooked aesthetic element in children’s cinema. You can read a German-language conference review on

The Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK) is a foundation of the federal states of Bremen and Lower Saxony and the city of Delmenhorst which promotes the disciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration of internationally renowned scientists and young investigators. More information here.