Introductory Note by our Head of Department, Prof. Dr. A. Kern-Stähler
Dear students, dear members of staff,
Re-reading the introduction to last term’s Information Booklet, which focused on the celebration of Britain 2012, I realise that 2013 can only be an anticlimax: Gone is the excitement of the Diamond Jubilee. Gone is the jubilant mood of London 2012 and (for the literature lovers among us) the celebratory spirit of Dickens 2012. Gone, too, albeit for one term, is our Head of Department of two years in whose footsteps I now tread. We all wish him a productive sabbatical and thank him wholeheartedly for skillfully and cheerfully sailing our ship through both calm and stormy waters.
On second thoughts, however, 2012 for the UK was not all roses: 2012 was also a year of scandal – of scandals unveiled too late (most notoriously the hiding of the sex-abuse claims against former pop icon Jimmy Savile) or too early (the BBC broadcasting of unfounded sexual allegations, which led to the sacking of the BBC boss only a few weeks into his job), and a year of increasing revelations of journalists ruthlessly hunting for scandal. As I am writing these lines (still in 2012), David Cameron is being handed the final report of the Leveson Enquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, which was prompted by the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Numerous editors and journalists had unlawfully intercepted the phones of celebrities to quench our thirst for tantalizing and titillating stories, particularly those involving the royals and other ‘celebrities’.
Those among you who are interested in our fascination with scandal are strongly encouraged to enrol in the courses within the module “Victorian Literature and Culture”. Like us, the Victorians were insatiable in their appetite for scandal and sensation: sex and death were quickly spotted, and the promise of a scandal set people in a frenzy. Divorce cases and other sexual scandals, available through newspapers and pamphlets, made for popular reading. The illustration adorning the cover of this booklet, taken from an 1870 edition of Fun, shows a group of (primarily) women revelling in the news about scandal of the kind offered by the revelations in 1869 about the secret love affair of Lord Byron with his half-sister, or of the string of affairs admitted to by Lady Mordaunt in 1870. In the 1860s and 1870s, the need for scandalous stories was also satisfied by the sensation novel, which uncovered hidden secrets next door, such as illegitimacy and bigamous or secret marriages. In 1863, Punch parodied the effects of the sensation novel as “Harrowing the mind, […] giving shocks to the Nervous System, [and] Destroying Conventional Moralities” (cited in Hughes 1980: 3). Those of you who are not inclined to receive shocks to their nervous system have a plethora of other exciting options to choose from: among them a seminar on “Rewriting Shakespeare: North American Hamlets”, various courses on language policy and language conflict, a seminar on discourse and tourism, and a seminar on exploring medieval artefacts including a study trip to Canterbury.
On the research front, our department will host a number of exciting conferences. It would be wonderful to see many of you at one or several of the following events:
This conference will be preceded by
The department is also hosting the
As usual, the new semester brings a series of goodbyes and welcomes. We say thank you and farewell to the following Lehrbeauftragte: Dr. Christina Ljungberg, Dr. David Matley, Professor Therese Steffen and Dr. Nicole Studer-Joho, but welcome Bettina Müller and Simon Reber as assistants (previously student assistants), and Livia Gerber and Eveline Gfeller as tutors.
Below you find the list of hard-working people who (along with Monika and Hilary in the secretariat) deal with your day-to-day study concerns:
BA students (surnames A-M):
Dr. Julia Straub
|Practical Module and and International/ Exchange Coordinator:||Dr. Kellie Gonçalves|
|Independent Studies Coordinator:||Dr. Nicole Nyffenegger|
|Diploma Supplements:||Irmtraud Huber|
Now it only remains for me to wish you all a productive, exciting and stimulating semester. Enjoy!
Prof. Annette Kern-Stähler
Head of Department
Hughes, Winifred. The Maniac in the Cellar: Sensation Novels of the 1860s. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 1980.