DOI: 10.1515/zaa-2023-2023 ISSN: 0044-2305

Mary Ashraf and the “Research Group on Working Class Literature”: The Programmatic Pursuit of a New Research Field in the GDR Anglistik

Helga Schwalm
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


Aiming to contribute to the historiography of English Studies, this essay explores the research agenda and collective work of a particular network of academics that made a committed and systematic effort to implement working-class literature and culture as a new research field in (GDR) English Studies. Set up as a “Research Group on Working Class Literature” in 1965, its key actors were a group of academics based at the Humboldt University or Pädagogische Hochschule Potsdam who had come to the GDR from the UK or US as immigrants or remigrants. The driving force was Dr. Mary Ashraf, whose papers contained in the Bundesarchiv [Federal Archives] shed light on the Group’s work. On the basis of these archival papers and the Group’s publications, this essay studies the programmatic and conceptual nature as well as the praxeological dimension of their work, including their teaching legacy.