Dear Students, dear members of Staff,
As we leave an intensive year 2014 behind us, and I will be taking over as Head of Department from Prof. Annette Kern-Stähler, whom I'd like to thank for her excellent work, let me welcome you all to what promises to become another exciting Academic Year. Exciting, not least of all because our department is looking forward to welcoming a substantial "reinforcement" in staff and intellectual firepower. With our three new Dozentinnen – Dr. Nadja Gernalzick (North American Literature and Culture and Literary Theory), Dr. Nicole Nyffenegger (Medieval English Studies) and Dr. Susan Fox (Modern English Linguistics) – the department is able to offer a considerably larger number of seminars and courses on a substantially increased palette of topics. Moreover, we are happy to welcome, for the spring semester, Prof. Makarand Paranjape from JNU, New Delhi, who will offer a block seminar on Indian Film and Literature, starting after the Easter Break in April. In fact, it is safe to say that the English department never had more courses to offer! And, as far as newcomers are concerned, I would also like to welcome Dr. Mi-Cha Flubacher, who will join our ranks as a "Lehrbeautragte," as well as three new tutors: Rahel Braunschweig, David Jost and Ed Schindler Wright. I'd like to point out, on this occasion, the opportunity to earn 1 ECTS by attending a tutorial.
There are also other changes that have to be mentioned: Thus Joe Comer is taking over from Kellie Gonçalves as Practical Module coordinator, and he will also be in charge of our Erasmus Program. And, last but not least, another important replacement: Nina Müller – welcome on board! – will take over as our new departmental librarian from Nicole Bögli, to whom I'd like to express our thanks for the excellent job she has done.
As far as persons leaving the department, I would like to mention Dr. des Annie Cottier, who has been with us for a considerable time, and whose contributions to the department and the CCS – as far as both administrative work and her academic input are concerned – have been substantial. Thanks go out to her for these, accompanied by the best wishes for her future.
One important new addition to the Study Plan is the introduction of reading lists pertaining to the three fields Medieval/Early Modern English, North American/Postcolonial Studies and English Linguistics, respectively. These reading lists – and the oral exam attached to them – are binding for students that started in the Autumn Semester 2014 and later. I'd kindly ask you to familiarize yourself with these new regulations here. The items on the lists are what we consider musts for the respective fields of study, and they are complemented by additional lists featuring recommendations.
The centennial return of the beginning of the Great War cast its shadows on the academic year 2014, reflected by numerous events and courses dedicated to the topic in our department. And in 2015, the end of World War II 70 years ago will certainly also serve as a reminder that, way too often, weapons speak instead of people. Moreover, the recent, brutal terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo has attested to the fact that also in the 21st century, this tendency, alas, goes on. They should, however, also remind us of the power of the arts – be they "popular" or "high," Mohamed caricatures, movies like The Interview, or novels like Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses – but also of the responsibility that comes with them. The line between freedom of expression and mutual respect for each other's value systems and cultural traditions may have become thinner than ever before; and literature and the arts are able, at any time, to go either way. Most of all, however, they have the unique ability to increase our understanding of, and sensitivity to, each other, to make permeable the borderlines of alterity that might otherwise instigate violence.
Quite a few of the seminars offered this semester have as their topics encounters with alterity and borderlines, such as those offered in connection with our two Focus Modules on Drama and Premodern Animals, Annette Kern Stähler's MA seminar on "The Nation," my own one on "Hyphenated America," and the already mentioned seminar "Passage to India" by our guest professor Makarand Paranjape. Others offer 'sweeter' topics about transgressing borderlines, such as Nadja Gernalzick's seminar on "Sugar."
There are, however, other delectable items and news on this semester's menu: Thus, the Distinguished Lecture Series, with the title "Ethics and/as Contingency," will be continued in 2015, and we are looking forward to welcome renowned scholars such as Etienne Balibar (March), then in the Autumn Semester Alain Badiou (October) and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (December). Let me take this opportunity to remind you that the talks are open to the public, and that the workshops organized in connection with the talks are also open for advanced MA students.
David Britain's SNF grant "English in Paradise? Emergent varieties in Micronesia" started on 1 January 2015 (until 31 December 2017). He, Dominique Bürki and Tobias Leonhardt will offer a CUSO-sponsored doctoral workshop at Schloss Muenchenwiler entitled "Conducting sociolinguistic research on Englishes near and far" from 27 to 29 March 2015, with guest speakers Prof. Kazuko Matsumoto from Japan and Dr. Andrea Sudbury from London.
Together with Nicole Nyffenegger, Annette Kern-Stähler will offer another PhD/MA workshop with the title "Constructing lives: the use of biographical evidence in pre-modern and modern biographies." It is scheduled for 20 May 2015, and will feature Professors Paul Strohm (University of Columbia) and Claire Harman (Oxford/New York). On this occasion, Prof. Strohm will give a lecture (10-12) on his acclaimed new Chaucer biography, "Writing Chaucer's Lives."
As you can see, the department is brimming with intellectual life, and there sure is more to come in the Spring Semester 2015. So stay tuned, and be on the lookout for advertisements for other upcoming events, which will also be posted on our website.
For now, all that remains is to wish you all an exciting, stimulating and, above all, successful semester!
Prof. Thomas Claviez
Head of Department