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Catherine Smale studied German and French at the University of Cambridge, where she then completed an MPhil in European Literature and Culture and a PhD in German Literature, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. During her studies, she spent a year as a Language Assistant in Schleswig-Holstein, and carried out research at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel and the Freie Universität Berlin, supported by the Tiarks German Scholarship Fund.

In January 2011, she returned to Berlin to carry out post-doctoral research at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule für literaturwissenschaftliche Studien, where she was the holder of a Hanseatic Scholarship funded by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation. She was appointed to the Department of German at King’s College London in September 2011.

Research Interests and PhD Supervision

  • 20th and 21st century German literature
  • Feminist theory and women’s writing
  • Literature and political activism
  • World War I and its cultural legacy

Catherine Smale’s research spans the late 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and covers literature, politics and cultural history. A central concern in all her work is the relationship between culture and politics and, more specifically, the role of cultural products (texts, films etc.) in expressing and shaping women’s political experiences.

One strand of Catherine’s work focuses on women writers in the former German Democratic Republic. Her book, Phantom Images: The Figure of the Ghost in the Work of Christa Wolf and Irina Liebmann (London: MHRA, 2013), examines the work of two major East German authors, revealing how the ongoing legacy of the Third Reich and German division impinges on the present of the Berlin Republic. The book contributes to contemporary memory debates, proposing a major re-reading of German culture since 1989 and establishing ‘hauntology’ and ‘spectrality’ as key analytical categories in German Studies. In addition, Catherine has published numerous articles and book chapters on a range of topics relating to female authorship in the context of German division and reunification.

The other main strand of Catherine’s research focuses on the connections between literature, gender and political activism in the first half of the 20th century. She is currently working on a book on women writers and activism before, during and after the First World War. The book seeks to recover the often forgotten voices of female authors who were politically active in this period and examines the strategies they used to provoke and activate their readership. Catherine has also published articles and chapters on a range of writers from this period, and has co-edited a special issue of the journal German Life and Letters on female authors in the Wilhelmine Empire and the Weimar Republic.

Catherine has supervised a range of MRes and PhD dissertations on topics covering literature, film, performance and cultural memory from the 19th-century to the present. Any students wishing to undertake postgraduate study with her are welcome to get in touch.

For more details, please see her full research profile.


Catherine Smale currently teaches at all levels in the German Department, with modules spanning literature, culture and history from the Middle Ages to the present. She regularly makes use of the Department’s London location by incorporating walking tours, trips to museums and hands-on archival work in her teaching. She has also co-designed and teaches two cross-period modules which explore unusual connections between medieval and early modern culture and the present day.

Expertise and Public Engagement

Catherine Smale regularly presents her research through public talks and podcasts. She has given talks at the Southbank Centre and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry, collaborated with curators at both Tate Britain in London and the Bröhan Museum in Berlin, and organised public film screenings as part of the German Screen Studies Network. She is currently one of the judges of the Schlegel-Tieck Prize, awarded annually by the Society of Authors.

Catherine is happy to speak or advise on any aspect of German literature and cultural history in which she has specialist expertise.