Department of European Languages and Cultures

Inaugural Lectures: Laura Bradley

As a playwright and theatre director, Bertolt Brecht’s central ambition was to empower spectators: to train them to watch performances critically, judge what they saw, and consider its relevance to their own lives.

In her Inaugural Lecture for the University of Edinburgh, Professor Laura Bradley (Chair of German and Theatre) makes the case for the systematic study of Brecht and spectatorship.

She argues that Brecht used examples of spectatorship within his plays to encourage audiences to scrutinize and critique different viewing practices, and to show how knowledge gleaned through spectatorship could be put to practical, political use.

In her lecture, Bradley focuses on examples from The Mother and Mother Courage, drawing on Brecht’s directing scripts, drafts, and rehearsal notes.

She then investigates how real-life audiences responded to the plays’ first post-war stagings at the Berliner Ensemble, testing Brecht’s own claims against archival evidence of interviews, post-show discussions, and audience questionnaires.

She shows that spectators’ reactions were more varied than scholars have previously thought, and asks why sections of the audience – and indeed some critics – repeated spectatorial errors that the plays parodied on stage.

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About the Inaugural Lectures

This event is part of a series of Inaugural Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, where newly appointed Professors or Chairs give free public talks on their current and recent research. Other highlights for 2018 in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) include Alexis Grohmann, Chair of Contemporary Spanish Literature, on 28th February, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Personal Chair in English Literature and Professor of Black Studies, on 8th March. 

About Laura Bradley

Professor Laura Bradley’s research and teaching focus on twentieth-century German theatre, with a particular focus on Bertolt Brecht and on East German theatre censorship. Her major publications include 'Brecht and Political Theatre: ‘The Mother’ on Stage' (Clarendon, 2006), 'Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship, 1961-1989' (OUP, 2010), and the co-edited volume (with Karen Leeder) 'Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity' (Camden House, 2011). Laura has published widely in leading peer-reviewed journals, and she is currently working on a monograph on 'Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship'. She is General Editor of the German Monitor series, and she serves on the editorial boards of the 'Brecht Yearbook', the Bithell Series of Dissertations, and 'Modern Languages Open'.

Since 2011, Laura has played a leading role in impact and knowledge exchange activities in the School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures. In 2011, she collaborated with Susan Kemp and Fiona Rintoul on a two-day event at the Glasgow Film Festival, ‘The Stasi Are Among Us’. In 2014-15, Professor Bradley was Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded impact project ‘Who’s Watching Who?’, which commissioned a new play by Peter Arnott and a documentary film by Susan Kemp, based on Laura’s research. Laura has also worked with theatres in the UK, most recently the Unicorn Theatre London, and her research has been used by directors including Silvia Rieger at the Volksbühne, one of Berlin’s leading theatres.

Laura studied at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, where she was awarded a Congratulatory First in the BA (Hons) in Modern History and German (with Distinction in spoken German), a Distinction in the MSt in European Literature, and a DPhil in German. She was appointed to a Junior Fellowship at Merton College, Oxford, in 2003 and joined the University of Edinburgh in 2005. She served as Postgraduate Director of the School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures from 2014 to 2017.

Find out more about Laura

Feb 15 2018 -

Inaugural Lectures: Laura Bradley

Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship

Lecture Theatre G.03
50 George Square