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English Department



Introductory Note by our Head of Department, Prof. Dr. A. Kern-Stähler

Joe Sacco. "The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme."

Dear students, dear members of staff,

The cover of this term’s booklet shows a detail from Joe Sacco’s latest work, The Great War (2013). When unfolded, Sacco’s work is a 24-foot long panorama narrating the British forces’ experience of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, a day which saw nearly 60,000 casualties among British soldiers alone. Sacco is but one among a great number of creative artists who have shown a strong interest in the First World War in the years leading up to this year’s centenary of its outbreak. It seems fitting that the English department should offer a Focus Module this term which explores the manifold ways in which literature and art in general have responded to the First World War since the war poets like Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen first turned their experiences in the trenches into poems.

The ‘World War I and Modernism’ module is one of four focus modules to choose from. The wide range of courses offered this term attests to the varied research interests in our department, covering a broad range of periods, genres and research questions, from ‘Beowulf’ to ‘Autobiography in a Globalized World’, from the ‘Language of Oral Literature’ to language contact and questions of language and gender. And again, a study trip has materialised: this term, our destination is Paris, where the Medieval Studies Section has organised a joint workshop with staff and students from the University of Kent at Canterbury.

Various members of our department have achieved something particularly noteworthy in the recent months: Virginia Richter was elected Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities; Julia Straub successfully completed her Habilitation and was awarded the venia legendi for English and American literature; Dr. des. Irmtraud Huber was awarded the prestigious Helene Richter Preis by the Deutscher Anglistenverband for her PhD on “Reconstructive Dreams. A Pragmatic Fantastic after Postmodernism”, soon to be published by Palgrave, and was elected co-president of the MVUB; Ursula Kluwick was awarded one of the prestigious Marie Heim-Vögtlin scholarships (SNF), which will enable her to focus on her Habilitation. Congratulations to all of you!

A number of new publications are ready to be displayed in our glass bookcase. Please stop by and take a look once the display case is up on the (freshly-painted) wall. Speaking of renovation, thankfully this is nearing completion.  Our bright and shiny new Tea Corner is now fully operational for students and staff, complete with running water, and the library reference and presence shelves are back in their old home.  Annie Cottier, Franz Andres Morrissey and Margaret Mace-Tessler are housed temporarily in room S103, Lerchenweg 36, but will finally move to Unitobler in the summer break.  Then, for the first time in many years, all staff members of the English Department will be based at Unitobler.  Thank you all for your patience during the period of disruption. 

As usual, the new semester brings a series of goodbyes and welcomes.  We say thank you and farewell to PD Dr. Sarah Chevalier (linguistics), to Bettina Müller (linguistics / Directors’ Assistant) and Simon Reber (Literatures in English), and to visiting lecturers Dr. Rory Critten, Dr. Mark Nixon (who will stay on at the IASH, however), Prof. Philipp Schweighauser, Prof. Therese Steffen and Dr. Shane Walshe, all of whom will be sorely missed.  We welcome three new assistants, Dominique Bürki, Melanie Fanger and Tobias Leonhardt, as well as our new Directors’ Assistant Nia Stephens-Metcalfe. Many thanks to our departing tutors Livia Gerber and Daniel Suter, and welcome to Matthias Berger, Barbara Boss and Mara de Zanet as new tutors.  Dr. Kellie Gonçalves is on maternity leave this semester. 
Now it only remains for me to wish you all an exciting and productive semester. Enjoy!

Prof Annette Kern-Stähler
Head of Department

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