The Department aims to represent English Linguistics, Literary Studies and Cultural Studies in all their breadth and diversity, as well as in historical depth. The spectrum of teaching in Literary Studies extends from the core texts of British and North American literature through literary and cultural theory to a variety of newer English literatures and cultures. Early modern literature is as much an integral part of what we deal with as experimental texts and the very latest publications – these are subjected to critical scrutiny in a seminar entitled “Hot off the press”, which has gained something of a cult status. Linguistics, too, increasingly focuses on more recent, international varieties of English alongside its traditional engagement with descriptions of British and American English and their regional varieties. The description of contemporary English, the study of language change and the teaching of historical varieties of English, knowledge of which is indispensable for the full appreciation of historical texts, all play an important part in the teaching of the Department's linguists.
The Department has consistently gained top marks in various university rankings over the past few years, an achievement due primarily to its strength in research. With five permanent chairs, the same number of professorial assistants, several additional professors and numerous researchers, the Department provides ideal conditions for both teaching and research to flourish and boasts a particularly high number of students achieving doctorates.
Current areas of research in Literary and Cultural Studies:
Research initiatives in modern and historical linguistics include:
English Studies is the study of the language, literature and culture of the English-speaking world. The traditional focus is on the UK and the US, but we also offer a range of lectures and seminars on other English varieties, literatures and cultures. The various degree programmes we offer contain varying degrees of emphasis on linguistics, literature, cultural studies and language classes.
Linguistics is the study of the description of language and its function in human societies. Modern linguistics is a richly varied field comprising many specialised areas of study: to name just a few examples, linguists examine language systems including writing systems, sound systems, grammar and vocabulary; they research first and second language acquisition: they engage in language typology, the classification of languages according to structural similarities and differences; and they investigate differences between the spoken and the written language and between the standard variety of a language and its regional dialects; and they study changes in the English language from its beginnings 1,500 years ago up to the present day, including the development of dialects and the use of language in changing social contexts. Linguistics is not restricted, however, to academic descriptions and theories. A further, more practical aim of linguistics is to facilitate improvements in areas such as second language teaching and dictionary compilation. The status of English as a global language makes these and other fields of applied linguistics particularly relevant to the world today.
Literary Studies deals with literature written in English from its beginnings to the present. We examine the (major) works themselves and the periods in which they are set, and we also work towards developing a methodologically sound understanding of these works as aesthetically and culturally significant texts. Literature is regarded not as an isolated phenomenon but as a practice embedded in multifaceted social, political and cultural contexts. Placing a text in its context in this way is just as much part of literary studies as studying literary theory.
Cultural Studies explores a wide range of cultural phenomena of the English-speaking world from the Middle Ages up to the present. An essential element of this discipline is the study of theories, methodologies and models that enable students to develop a nuanced view of the material, cognitive and social dimensions of culture. Thus provided with an overview of the most influential strands of cultural theory, students learn to recognise patterns and meanings in the workings of culture, and to evaluate the ways in which these meanings and their symbols are articulated by and represented in the media. A further aim of Cultural Studies is to shed light on the dominant cultural issues of the various eras. Combining cultural and literary studies, we offer seminars dealing with the analysis of literary works in a broader cultural context, with the aim of examining the connections between works of literature written in English and the cultural issues of their time. Topics of particular interest are the commercialisation of literature, the relationship between literature and other media, and issues surrounding identity formation and culturally specific values.
Language classes at the Department serve a dual purpose. They give students the opportunity to extend and improve their skills so as to attain a high level of proficiency in the spoken and written language; and they afford theoretical insight into English structures, using a systematic and comparative approach to help students develop conscious awareness of rules and principles. Particular emphasis is laid on writing skills, and in addition to systematically structured writing classes, the Department offers individual writing support in the form of a Writing Centre run by native speakers.