Research projects, centres and networks in German Studies.
In the latest Research Excellence Framework - REF 2021 - our research was submitted in Modern Languages and Linguistics (Panel D - Arts and Humanities; Unit of Assessment 26).
The results reaffirm Edinburgh’s position as one of the UK’s leading research universities - third in the UK.
As published in Times Higher Education's REF power ratings, this result is based on the quality and breadth of our research in Modern Languages and Linguistics.
Selected research centres and networks
Research centres and networks range from formal collaborations to informal groups of researchers working together on a theme or challenge.
A number are based in - or are affiliated with - German Studies; others are based elsewhere in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the University of Edinburgh, or the wider academic community, but involve our staff and students.
The groups provide opportunities for researchers at all career stages to work together with partners and stakeholders in organising events, workshopping publications, engaging audiences outside the academy, and exploring ideas for future projects and funding bids.
Spanning a range of disciplines in European, Islamic, American and Asian studies, including medieval literatures and cultures, the Centre brings together around 70 researchers across the University of Edinburgh.
Established by PhD students in European Languages and Cultures in 2017, this collaborative interdisciplinary network brings together researchers working on memory. Originally active through keynote lectures, symposia and film screenings, the network pivoted to podcasting in 2020 and continues to broadcast talks and interviews online. Founders Dr Paul Armstrong Leworthy (German) and Dr Bárbara Fernández Melleda (Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies) are now working at the Universities of Edinburgh and Hong Kong respectively.
Based around a series of events, and led by colleagues in German and Russian Studies, this research strand interrogates the ways in which cultural encounters and cultural dialogues take place.
Growing out of conversations started in a group on Emotionally Distressing Research, this is a forum for researchers experiencing the ‘pressure on thinking’ from the ethical dilemmas their research gives rise to. Involving researchers from across the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, including colleagues in German Studies and Translation Studies, it embeds ethical reflection in research culture and collaboration.
Based in European Languages and Cultures in LLC, this research strand explores the interplay between violence and language in various historical and cultural contexts and from different disciplinary perspectives (including literary and linguistic studies, translation, and memory studies).
Selected research projects
The Holocaust is known through translation: survivors’ voices have come down to us through translation, or in languages other than their first. Particularly raw and difficult is the experience of testifying in court, in the face of the accused and under public scrutiny. How are Victims' Voices Heard? explores the work of translators and interpreters in the trial of 22 former SS Auschwitz personnel in Frankfurt in the mid-1960s. Including the voices of dozens of witnesses, speaking 10 different languages, this event had a profound impact on public understanding of the Holocaust in Germany and beyond.
How are Victims' Voices Heard? involves a series of archival research trips in which Professor Peter Davies is engaging with key sources and archive specialists. Working towards a monograph, he is exploring interpreters' professional practice and ethical self-understanding during the Frankfurt trial, showing how these affected the ways in which victims’ voices were heard in and beyond the courtroom. The research asks vital questions about how victims of genocide can make their voices heard in legal systems. It has the potential to transform the way we understand the legal processes by which perpetrators are brought to justice and the crucial role of translation in defining public perceptions of the survivor experience.
Funded by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship: September 2022 to August 2024
LLC team: Professor Peter Davies (Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellow)
This body of interdisciplinary work spans culture, identity, and politics to consider questions of representation, inclusion, and power. Across multiple projects, Dr Leanne Dawson examines film and screen studies, literature, theatre, performance art, archives, and festivals across European, Asian, and North American cultures. Work on representation on page, stage, and screen focuses on working-class and LGBTQI+ identities, the latter taking in themes of 'passing', and queer femininities, among others. Having a profound impact beyond academia, the research also explores queer spaces and the people who use them, including film festivals and archives, and on improving accessibility, equality, diversity, and inclusion in the arts.
Most of the work is textual analysis, although Dawson’s other methodologies include qualitative and quantitative approaches, and historical analyses in order to theorise gender, sexuality, and class/socio-economic position. In addition to finalising a monograph on queer identities on the German screen from the 1930s to the present day, she is currently researching an AHRC-funded monograph (Poor Queers), which explores the intersection of LGBTQI+ and working-class identities on British screens, a project which will also lead to a range of other publications, including best practice documents.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, Goethe Institut, British Council, DAAD, and British Film Institute.
LLC team: Dr Leanne Dawson (Principal Investigator)
Restless Earth examined German-language literature about the Second World War to look at how non-Jewish writers approached the topic of the Holocaust atrocities committed outside concentration camps and prisons. The history of face-to-face mass killing by the German armed forces on the Eastern Front has remained marginal to collective understandings of the Holocaust until relatively recently but this project looked at how this and similar phenomena have been acknowledged in literary texts since the war, albeit not often explicitly.
The project involved a three-day conference in August 2021 on Germany’s historical and contemporary perspective on Eastern Europe, asking among other questions how the East’s construction as an exotic, vast and violent space has contributed to the side-lining of certain aspects of Holocaust history in German popular discourse. Dr Jenny Watson’s first paper on the research, looking at Romanian German Literature in particular, was published in The Modern Language Review in 2021.
Funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship: February 2019 to January 2021
LLC team: Dr Jenny Watson (former Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, now Chancellor's Fellow)
Building on Laura Bradley’s earlier AHRC-funded project on theatre censorship in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) 1961-1990, Who’s Watching Who? marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The public engagement project involved award-winning dramatist Peter Arnott writing a play, Ensemble, based on the research, and sharing this creative process with audiences. The relationship between film, research and audience was traced by film-maker, academic and project co-designer, Susan Kemp, in the 2016 documentary Writing Ensemble. The project was developed in partnership with Playwrights' Studio, Scotland, which connects playwrights with audiences and encourages critical discussion about playwriting.
Who’s Watching Who? comprised 13 events in four UK cities, including rehearsed readings of the play-in-progress and screenings of the film. The project website showcased archival and contemporary resources, including a blog by playwright Peter Arnott. Through this extensive engagement, audiences reported learning more about how GDR censorship functioned, the psychology of surveillance, the ethics of playwriting and research, and the complexities and possibilities of verbatim theatre. A collaborative symposium promoted awareness of opportunities for collaboration between theatre practitioners and the Higher Education sector.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): November 2014 to January 2016
LLC team: Professor Laura Bradley (Principal Investigator), Susan Kemp (Co-designer)
Postgraduate research and supervision
Doctorate-level study is an opportunity to make an original, positive contribution to research in German Studies.
Join our interdisciplinary community and undertake your PhD under the guidance of our experienced and well-published supervisors. We also offer a one year Masters by Research degree, which is a good stepping stone between undergraduate and doctoral study.
German was one of the first European languages to be offered at the University of Edinburgh. Since 1894, our subject area has grown into one of the University’s largest in Modern Languages and a significant centre for research. We support a broad range of cultural and literary research themes, from the medieval period to the present.
Beyond the books
Beyond the Books is a podcast that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at research in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures and the people who make it happen.
In Series 2 - Episode 7 host Emma Aviet talked to Peter Davies, Professor of Modern German Studies. They discussed Peter's Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship on the role of translators and interpreters in the trial of 22 former SS Auschwitz personnel, and reflected on the crucial role of interpreting and translation in defining public perceptions of the survivor experience.