Heym in his own words: Exploring Cambridge University Library’s Stefan Heym Archive

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at The University of Oxford, in partnership with Cambridge University Library. This fully-funded studentship is available from October 2022. Further details about the value of an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP award are available on our Studentships page.

Closing date: midday (UK time) Friday 7 January 2022

Project overview

The German author Stefan Heym (1913-2001) was a major literary and political figure in East German and US cultural history. Born into a Jewish family, he settled in America in 1935 and enjoyed early literary success with his bestseller ‘Hostages’. He served in the US Army’s Psychological Warfare Division during World War 2, but moved during the McCarthy purges to East Germany. Here he had a high profile and his work had considerable influence, but his outspokenness eventually led to his works being banned. He took part in the events of 1989 which led to fall of the Berlin Wall. He was a critical observer of the German unification process and in 1994 he successfully stood for the German parliament and gave the new session's opening address. He continued to write works of fiction and essays until his death.

The Stefan Heym Archive is held by Cambridge University Library (CUL). It consists of literary manuscripts, interviews, correspondence, press clippings, AV tapes, and miscellaneous material, all chiefly in German and English and running to 410 boxes of manuscript and printed matter alone. The archive is remarkable for its richness as Heym painstakingly collected material relating to his life and work. It provides an important resource for scholars working on Heym’s own literary output but also on East German cultural life and on US history for the period when Heym lived there.

The student’s doctoral project would be developed out of work based on the Heym Archive, with a particular focus on the AV material. This consists of 465 audio and 146 video tapes plus 6 reels of 8mm film and is the only part of the archive without full catalogue metadata. These untapped materials include recordings of readings, discussions, TV appearances, interviews and speeches at demonstrations, assembled and often recorded by Heym himself. The student would record metadata for these materials enabling researchers to identify them for the first time. The AV material needs first to be digitised before it can be preserved and made accessible.

The student’s first year would be spent on their literature review and listing the AV materials. Selected digitisation would be undertaken at the end of their first year, as a foundation for more detailed cataloguing and research in year two. The student would also undertake external engagement work including blog posts, a public talk, and shaping an exhibition.

Based on metadata on the cassette cases and other sources, the student would identify a selection of materials of particular relevance to their doctoral research. The aim would be to devise a doctoral project working with a circumscribed amount of the AV archival material, supported by documents from the wider archive. The project could fruitfully focus on a delimited period of Heym’s output as a writer (in the US, in East Germany, or after reunification), on a specific aspect of his role as an author, cultural figure, politician, or witness of national and world history, and/or delineate a set of metatheoretical or methodological questions related to the use of archival material as a key to literary history or the genesis of a particular published work or works. Depending on the project, devised under the guidance of the lead supervisor and in collaboration with the CUL supervisor and archivists, the student might incorporate work with other archival material relevant to Heym: the Heym library held in the municipal library in Chemnitz and/or the post-1993 personal papers currently still held in Berlin.

The CDA would provide a springboard for continuing work on digitising and providing access to, and ultimately preserving, the Heym AV material. This aligns directly with CUL's strategic priority to share its collections and knowledge with the world, and with ongoing investment in digital preservation. The student and CUL would collaborate on a pilot project that would inform work to preserve both the remainder of the Heym AV tapes and other AV material in CUL collections. Outputs would include complete metadata on, and selected digitisation of the AV materials, opening up the final part of the internationally acclaimed archive to researchers.


The lead supervisor for the project is Georgina Paul, Associate Professor in German, whose research specialisms include the literature of the GDR (East Germany), especially in the period 1961 to 1989, and eastern German literature post-unification. She is interested in the interaction between literature and politics in the GDR, which is of particular relevance to Heym’s activities as an East German writer. In 2019-2020, she was co-investigator on a research collaboration with colleagues at the Humboldt University in Berlin and the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, on ‘Literature and Material Culture: Archive, Library Museum’ (funded by the Oxford-Berlin Partnership) which explored the interface between the study of material traces such as manuscripts, autographs, and markings in books and literary scholarship. She has supervised successful MPhil work based on the Christa Wolf library and other archival material on Wolf held in Berlin in collaboration with colleagues in Germany.

The Cambridge University Library supervisor is Christian Staufenbiel, Germanic Specialist at the Cambridge University Library and Assistant Deputy Chairman of the International Stefan Heym Society (Internationale Stefan-Heym-Gesellschaft). He will guide the CDA student through the archive and related resources. He is an experienced cataloguer and trainer, but would be joined by many other CUL colleagues in helping the student during their project. The Department of Archives and Modern Manuscripts (AMM) would advise on the specifics of metadata to be captured for the project and would work with Christian to ensure easy access for the student to the Heym Archive. The student would be given appropriate access to equipment and online systems for their metadata work. The Digital Content Unit and Head of Digital Preservation would work with the student, Christian, and AMM to plan and execute the pilot preservation project. CUL External Engagement colleagues would help the student, with Christian, in the planning and carrying out of impact activities such as exhibitions and talks.

CUL would provide training and help to the student from multiple departments including Collections and Academic Liaison, Archives and Modern Manuscripts, Digital Initiatives, and External Engagement. CUL time would be given chiefly through the involvement of the supervisor (estimated at 0.5-1 day/month over the three years), but intensive periods of training and collaboration involving the supervisor and other CUL colleagues would occur sporadically, chiefly over the course of the first two years of the project. We estimate the equivalent of 1 month of CUL staff time over the course of the project, often at head of department level, for the course of the project, on top of the supervisor’s standard involvement.

How to apply

We invite applications from candidates from all backgrounds and ethnicities. A Master’s degree, preferably in German literary studies, and advanced skills in German language (to enable work with the German-language material in the archive) are essential. Experience in archival work would also be useful, but not essential. Applicants should meet the eligibility criteria for Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC studentships.

There will be considerable scope for the student to shape the thesis subject and research questions according to their strengths and interests.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Georgina Paul (georgina.paul@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk) with questions and for any guidance before submitting their application.

Applications should be submitted for the DPhil in Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford by Friday 7 January 2022 (midday, UK time), indicate your interest in being considered for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship and submit a completed copy of the OOC DTP Application Form at the same time.

Further details on how to apply through Oxford can be found on our How to Apply page. Please reference the advertised CDA project title in the Oxford admissions application form; you do not need to include a reference number.