Laura Bradley

Dean of Postgraduate Research, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Personal Chair of German and Theatre.

  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • German Section, Department of European Languages and Cultures
  • School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Contact details



Room 3.34
50 George Square

Post code


  • Office hour: Wednesday 11:30-12:30 (teaching weeks only)


After studying for an MA in German and History at the University of Oxford (St Edmund Hall), Prof. Laura Bradley completed an MSt in European Literature and a DPhil in German, also at Oxford. She held a Junior Research Fellowship at Merton College, Oxford, for two years before coming to Edinburgh in 2005.


MA (Hons), MSt, DPhil (Oxon)

Undergraduate teaching

Prof. Laura Bradley teaches German language and literature to undergraduates at all levels. Her specialisms include an Honours Option on Bertolt Brecht, a second-year option on Culture, Modernity and the City in the Weimar Republic, and lectures on Christoph Hein and poetry written by Brecht, Wolf Biermann and Heiner Müller.

Postgraduate teaching

At MSc level, Laura supervises dissertations for students on the MSc in Comparative Literature and MSc in Translation Studies, and she has supervised several MSc by Research students working on their own tailor-made programmes of research.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Laura would be interested in supervising PhDs on Bertolt Brecht, German or Austrian theatre and performance, censorship, spectatorship, representations of crime, or the GDR. As the Dean of Postgraduate Research for the College, Laura has substantial experience of supporting postgraduate students, including with highly competitive funding applications, and she also has experience of cross-institutional supervision. Prospective students are very welcome to contact her via email ( with a short outline of their ideas for a PhD project.

Current PhD students supervised

Lucy Byford: Staging the Carnivalesque: Subversive Strategies in Print and Performance from Simplicissimus to Dada. Funded by SGSAH.

Anna McEwan: Gendered Citizenship and Women's Relationship to Systems of Social Care: Investigating the GDR’s Frauenparadies (1971-1989). Joint supervision with the University of Glasgow. Funded by SGSAH.

Past PhD students supervised

Katie Hawthorne: Contextualising Liveness: A Comparative Study of Digitally Distributed, Mediated and Located Performances in Edinburgh and Berlin, 2016-19. Funded by the Wolfson Foundation. Katie went on to hold a Fellowship at the Academy for Theatre and Digitally in Dortmund.

Lizzie Stewart: 'Turkish-German Scripts of Postmigration: Mimesis and Mimeticism in the Plays of Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Feridun Zaimoglu/Günter Senkel'. Funded by the AHRC. Monograph published by Palgrave Macmillan. Lizzie is now Senior Lecturer in Modern Languages, Culture & Society at King's College London.

Michael Wood: ‘Making the Audience Work: Textual Politics and Performance Strategies for a "Democratic" Theatre in the Works of Heiner Müller. Funded by the AHRC. Monograph published by Camden House. Michael went on to hold a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh.

Patrick Harkin: 'On the Horns of a Dilemma: Clarity and Ambivalence in Oppositional Writing in the Wake of the Uprising of 17 June 1953 in the German Democratic Republic'. Funded by the AHRC. Patrick published his research on Brecht in volume 5 of the Edinburgh German Yearbook.

Research summary

Prof. Laura Bradley’s research focuses on the relationship between culture and politics, including factors such as state policy and censorship, the politics and identity of institutions, and the negotiation of space for artistic experimentation in theatre, film, television and literature. She has carried out major research projects on Brecht and on GDR theatre censorship, has published representations of crime in GDR film and television, and is currently writing a book about Brecht and spectatorship. Her research has a strong historical focus, and she has worked extensively in a wide range of archives in the former GDR.

Knowledge exchange

Laura regularly works on outreach activities connected to her research on Bertolt Brecht. In 2020, she gave a talk on Brecht to over 200 students and teachers across South Africa via Zoom at a revision course organized by St John's College, Johannesburg. Her YouTube video on Brecht's play The Caucasian Chalk Circle, made by the Unicorn Theatre in London, has attracted over 49,000 views, and Laura has recently followed this up with a video on the play in German, aimed at A Level students. Laura's research on Brecht's play The Mother was used by director Silvia Rieger for her production at the Volksbühne, one of Berlin's leading theatres. She also provided academic support for productions of Brecht's Arturo Ui at the Liverpool Everyman/Playhouse and of The Threepenny Opera by Fourth Monkey Theatre in Camden. Laura is very happy for theatres and schools to contact her about opportunities for collaboration.

The impact of Laura's research on theatre censorship has been highlighted in two impact case studies, submitted to REF2021 and REF2014. The 2021 case study focused on impact and knowledge exchange work that Laura led through her work as Principal l Investigator on the AHRC-funded project 'Who's Watching Who? Theatre Censorship in East Germany and Beyond', which was co-designed by her colleague Susan Kemp and was conducted in partnership with the Playwrights' Studio Scotland. For this theatre and film project, the award-winning playwright Peter Arnott wrote a play about East German theatre censorship, using Laura's research. Former BBC film producer Susan Kemp made a documentary film about the process of developing the play and taking it to an audience at a series of rehearsed readings and events in 2014-15. The project culminated in a showcase event and debate on theatre censorship at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the film was premiered at the Glasgow Film Theatre in 2016 and was screened at the Edinburgh Filmhouse in 2017. It was followed by a symposium 'Creating Impact: Theatres and Universities', which Laura organized with the Playwrights' Studio Scotland in 2017 in order to bring together playwrights and academics.

This project followed on from Laura's impact case study for REF2014. This centred on ‘The Stasi Are Among Us’, a two-day event at the 2011 Glasgow Film Festival, which Laura collaborated on with Susan Kemp, Fiona Rintoul and Jane Sillars. The event featured 6 film screenings, introduced by the directors Thomas Heise, Claus Löser, Hannes Schönemann, and Rainer Simon. It also included roundtable discussions with the directors and readings of underground literature by the writers Johannes Jansen and Gabriele Stötzer. Laura also worked with the Glasgow-based company Theatre Found on two events on censorship. The first was held at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, during Scottish Refugee Week and featured the Artistic Director of the Belarus Free Theatre. The second was a three-day event at the Forest Fringe, entitled 'Censored. Banned. This Land.'

Laura contributed to a BBC Radio Scotland feature on politics and cabaret (2007), and has worked with the RSC (2006) and Visiting Moon Theatre Company (2001).

Project activity

Laura Bradley's first monograph was published by Oxford University Press in 2006, under the title Brecht and Political Theatre: 'The Mother' on Stage. It traces the performance history of Brecht’s play Die Mutter from its origins in the Weimar Republic, through Brecht’s exile and the division of Germany, to the Berlin Republic. As Die Mutter is the only text that Brecht staged in the Weimar Republic, in exile and the GDR, it is uniquely placed to offer insights into his development as a theatre director. His three contrasting productions show how he became more sensitive to cultural difference and more pragmatic about making concessions for particular audiences, in order to increase their receptivity towards his work. In turn, post-Brechtian directors have used Die Mutter to promote their own political and theatrical concerns, from anti-authoritarian theatre to reflections on the legacies of state Socialism.

Laura’s second monograph was published by Oxford University Press in 2010, under the title Cooperation and Conflict: GDR Theatre Censorship, 1961-1989. The key questions concern how theatre censorship worked, in contrast to censorship of the book; how theatre censorship developed between 1961 and 1989; and how (far) it varied from one theatre and region to the next. The material includes state and Party papers from regional and federal archives; the Stasi files; and material from theatre archives, such as prompt books, rehearsal notes, set designs, photographs and correspondence. This research was generously supported by the AHRC, British Academy, Carnegie Trust and DAAD. Laura has published a series of related articles on theatre censorship in peer-reviewed journals and edited books, and she has also published on contemporary German theatre, the representation of crime and detection in GDR film and television, the Turkish-German writer Emine Sevgi Özdamar, and the poet Kito Lorenc.

Laura is currently completing her third monograph, which is on Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship. It examines his plays and productions from a fresh angle by showing how he presented spectatorship within the stage action. Brecht’s plays showcase positive and negative examples of spectatorship through scenarios in which characters act as spectators, for example as they watch trials or punishments, engage in surveillance, witness acts of injustice, or observe scientific experiments. Such scenarios show the theatre audience what characters notice and what they overlook. They also demonstrate what characters do next: how they decide to use or ignore the knowledge that they have gained through spectatorship. The monograph explores how Brecht uses characters as spectators in twelve of his plays, how he and his collaborators presented onstage spectatorship in productions from the Weimar Republic to the early GDR, and how real-life spectators responded. Finally, it investigates Brecht’s attempts to cultivate critical spectatorship and to transform the composition of the audience at the Berliner Ensemble, the theatre he founded with his wife, the actor Helene Weigel, in East Berlin after the Second World War. The archive research for this monograph has been supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Research Grant.

Laura is General Editor of German Monitor, a member of the Editorial Board of the Bithell Series of DIssertations, and a member of the Editorial Board of the Brecht Yearbook. She co-edited Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity, with Karen Leeder (University of Oxford). It was published in 2011 as volume 5 of the Edinburgh German Yearbook.

Past project grants

AHRC Follow-On Funding for Impact and Engagement (2014-15)
Carnegie Trust Awards (2012, 2009. 2006)
DEFA-Stiftung Grant (2010-11)
AHRC Research Leave Award (2009)
British Academy Small Research Grant (2006-8)
DAAD Award (2004)
AHRC Studentships (2000-2003, 1999-2000)

View all 42 publications on Research Explorer