Prof. Dr. Virginia Richter

Ordentliche Professorin
Modern English Literature

Vice Rector for International and Academic Careers

+41 31 684 83 68
B 264
Postal Address
Department of English
Länggassstr. 49
CH – 3012 Bern
Consultation Hour
By appointment

Virginia Richter will take up the position of Rector of the University of Bern on 1 August 2024. Therefore, she no longer accepts new PhD candidates for supervision.

Virginia Richter is Vice Rector for Development at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Since September 2007 she has held the Chair of Modern English Literature at the University of Bern. She was also offered Chairs at the Universities of Göttingen and Jena which she declined. From 2007-09 she was a board member of the German Association of University Teachers in English (Deutscher Anglistenverband), and from 2016-2022 a board member and Vice President of the Swiss Association of University Teachers in English (SAUTE). She serves on the editorial advisory board of The European Journal of English Studies (EJES). At the University of Bern, she was Head of the Department of English (2008-10 and 2019-2021), President of the Institute of Advanced Study (IASH) and its interdisciplinary Graduate School (2010-12 and 2014-15), and Vice Dean (2012-14). She was Dean of the Humanities from 2014-17. She is also President of the Forum für Universität und Gesellschaft (FUG), dedicated to furthering the dialogue between the university and society (

Virginia Richter was born in Czechoslovakia in 1964; her family emigrated to Germany in 1970. She studied English Literature, Comparative Literature, and German Literature at the University of Munich and received her M.A. in 1992. She was a doctoral fellow on the "Gender and Literature" graduate studies programme (DFG-Graduiertenkolleg "Geschlechterdifferenz und Literatur", 1993-95) and manager of the "Postcolonial Studies" graduate studies programme (2001-02). On completion of her doctoral dissertation, she held teaching posts in English Literature and Comparative Literature and received a postdoctoral research grant from the University of Munich. She carried out research on Darwinism, apes, and missing links at the British Library, and as a Visiting Fellow at the KIASH, University of Kent at Canterbury (2004). She completed her postdoctoral thesis (Habilitation) in 2005 and has the qualification (Venia legendi) to teach English and Comparative Literature. Based on this research project, she published her second book Literature after Darwin. Human Beasts in Western Fiction 1859-1939 with Palgrave Macmillan in 2011. For her transdisciplinary research she was awarded the "Therese von Bayern Preis". In 2006 she spent a semester as Visiting Scholar at the University of Leeds. She was Visiting Professor in English at the University of Göttingen and in Comparative Literature at the University of Munich. In spring 2018, she was a Visiting Research Fellow at the IASH, University of Edinburgh, working on a monograph on the beach in modernism. Since August 2020 she is PI of the SNF-funded project The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century (2020-24, The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century ( Her research interests include Victorian and modernist literature and culture, literature and science, literary animal studies, and the beach in modern literature.

Research interests

British literature and culture; Victorianism; Modernity; literary and cultural theory; gender studies; postcolonial studies/cosmopolitanism; literature and science, esp. Darwinism; literary animal studies; the beach in modern literature.

SNF Project: The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century

August 2020 - July 2024. The beach is an important space in Western literature. Ever since the rise in popularity of the seaside holiday, the beach has been depicted as a site of leisure, sensuous enjoyment and play, clearly distinguished from and often in a dialectical relationship with industrialised and metropolitan spaces of work. Despite its significance as a spatial frame in fiction, travel writing and memoirs, however, the beach has played a relatively minor role in scholarship until fairly recently. This project seeks to redress this neglect, focussing on a period in which the beach has undergone dramatic changes, both in everyday culture and in literary and artistic representations: the ‘long twentieth century,’ dating roughly from 1890 to the present. Team: Prof. Dr. Virginia Richter, PD. Dr. Ursula Kluwick, Guðrun í Jákupsstovu, Marion Troxler.


Book projects in preparation

Beach, Coast and Shore: A Fieldguide for Littoral Studies

The Beach in Modernist Literature



“The Missing Link”. Interview. Words to That Effect. Podcast, Episode 42. 26.02.2020.

“300 Jahre Robinson Crusoe”. Interview. SRF 2 Kultur, 23.04.2019.


All Publications

Please click here to see a complete list of Prof. Dr. Virginia Richter's publications.


Applications from doctoral and postdoctoral candidates from outside the University of Bern will only be considered if they submit the complete set of documents specified on our departmental website (see "PhD Studies" under further information).

Postdoctoral Projects (Habilitation)


Dr Marijke Denger: Empire in the East Indies: Literature, Geopolitics and Imperial Awareness in British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, c. 1780-1930

Dr Zoë Lehmann: The Languages of Science in Science Fiction.


PD Dr Ursula Kluwick: Fictions of Fluctuation. An Ecocritical History of Water in 18th and 19th century English Literature. (2017)

Doctoral Projects


Olivia Biber: Keeping the Political in Economics: The Economic Concerns of Female Victorian Writers. (working title)

Guðrun í Jákupsstovu: Making Home in the Littoral: Of Encounters, Undoings, and Assemblages on the Beach. (working title)

Caspar Spillmann: Weird Reactions. (working title) Co-supervision with Dr. Zoë Lehmann

Marion Troxler: Half a Human, Fully a Woman:  Female Hybrid Creatures of the Seascape. (working title)

Sanja Vaudano: Inside the Black Box: Poetics of Dream Narration in Salman Rushdie's Fiction. (working title)


Dr des. Jakhan Pirhulyieva: Space in Polar Exploration: Ships and Ice Realms in Anglo-American Fiction, 1818-1851 (2020)

Dr Marijke Denger: Liminal Communities in Contemporary Postcolonial Novels. (2015)

Dr Zoe Lehmann Imfeld: The Ghost of God: Theology in the Supernatural Fiction of Arthur Machen, M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu and Henry James (2014)

Melanie Mettler, Lic. Phil. Hist.: Cosmopolitanism and Second Generation South Asian Diaspora Writers in English (2014)

Dr Irmtraud Huber: Representing the Unrepresentable -- Magic Realism as Trauma-Narrative (2013)

Recent Courses

  • Richter: Seaside Stories (MA Seminar)
  • Richter: Writing the Great War (MA Seminar)
  • Richter: Oceanic Studies (MA Workshop)
  • Richter: Reading Virginia Woolf (BA Workshop)
  • Richter: Alternative Gender Worlds (BA Seminar)
  • Richter: Nature in Literature: From Romanticism to Ecocriticism (BA and MA Lecture)
  • Richter: Victorian Supernatural Tales (BA Seminar)
  • Richter: Romanticism and Nature (MA Seminar)