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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles





I work on the ‘auditory imaginary’ in literature. My PhD examines conceptions and representations of hearing and listening in German modernist writing with particular reference to the works of Rilke, Kafka, Walter Benjamin and Robert Walser. My other academic interests include aesthetics and media studies, performance and art history, Indo-German film and writing, and comparative studies from the eighteenth century onwards.

I am also interested in the role of the arts in the rehabilitation of prisoners, and have been both a participant and mentor on Learning Together courses at HMP Whitemoor offered by the university’s Institute of Criminology and the Faculty of Divinity.


Qualifications and affiliations

Visiting Student at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies, FU Berlin (2020; 2021-22)

MPhil in European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures (2017) 

BA in Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge (2016)

Visiting Student at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris (2014-15)


Key publications: 


Articles and chapters (peer-reviewed)

Roberts, Syamala, ‘Konturen’ and ‘Trübungen’: Der Tod in Venedig and Rilke’s ‘Dritte Elegie’, Publications of the English Goethe Society, 88:2 (2019), 108-119

Forthcoming: ‘Kafka beim Zeitverschwenden. Zur Kafkaschen Hörpoetik’, chapter in edited volume Kafkas Zeiten, Forschungen der Deutschen Kafka-Gesellschaft Vol. 7 (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2022)



Roberts, Syamala, 'Grenzgänge zum Anorganischen bei Rilke und Celan by Friederike Felicitas Günther', in Austrian Studies, 27 (2019), 269–270. 

Roberts, Syamala, ‘Franz Kafkas akustische Welten by Rüdiger Görner’, in Austrian Studies 29 (2021), 169-171


Online work

Podcast: ‘On the phone with Kafka and Benjamin’ (August 2020), [

Book Review: The Age of Noise in Britain: Hearing Modernity by James G. Mansell, LSE Review of Books, 2017 [

Book Review: Foucault: The Birth of Power by Stuart Elden, LSE Review of Books, 2017 [


Other publications: 


Conference papers

‘Kafka beim Zeitverschwenden. Zur Kafkaschen Hörpoetik’, Tagung der Deutschen Kafka-Gesellschaft (Oct 2021)

‘“The number you have dialled is unavailable”: On not picking up the phone’, Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association (April 2021)

‘“Als Samen sonnst du dich”: Dissemination and inheritance in Rainer Maria Rilke’, German Graduate Symposium, University of Oxford (May 2019)

‘Rilke and Mann Listening to the Gramophone’ – Graduate Conference, ‘Mediating the Modern: Sound, Image, Text’, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (September 2017)

‘Sounds of the Modern City’ – DAAD Postgraduate Summer School, ‘Metropolis’, Institute of Modern Languages Research, London (June 2017)

‘Gallery Politics’ – Graduate Conference in German Studies, ‘Aesthetics and Politics’, University of Cambridge (May 2017)

Teaching and Supervisions

Department: German
Supervisor: Dr. Lucia Ruprecht
College: Jesus
AHRC subject area: Languages and literature
Title of thesis: Conceptions of Hearing in German Modernist Writing
 Syamala  Roberts