Traditionally, English Literature means the study of literary texts in the 'great tradition' from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf and beyond, i. e. up/down to contemporary authors.
Over the past three decades or so a tendency towards the internationalization of English as an academic discipline has become evident, and, as a consequence, a variety of new perspectives have been opened up with the result that English Literature now means much more than the literature of the home country.
This expansion proceeding in concentric circles, as it were, first of all concerns the other literatures of the British Isles (i. e. Scottish Literature, Irish Literature, Welsh Literature). Further afield English Literature has come to comprise the anglophone literatures of the 'Third World' and (former) Commonwealth countries in particular. These are generally subsumed under the label of postcolonial literatures or New Literatures in English. Salman Rushdie's much-quoted phrase "The Empire Writes Back" was meant to draw attention to the increasing importance of such 'new' literatures.
The broadening of English Literature as a subject goes hand in hand with the introduction of innovative methodologies. Traditionally, reading and interpreting, central activities in the study of literature, are carried out along systematic and historical lines. The systematic approach (literary theory and transhistorical perspectives on literary genres and modes) has in the recent past received significant impulses from new critical approaches such as feminism, deconstruction, new historicism. Literary history has widened its field to consider texts, authors, genres, and traditions in contexts which relate literature directly to the cultural specifics and mentalities of any given period. It also follows from this that literature is increasingly (more intensely, more methodically) seen in the context of related fields of cultural discourse such as theatre, film, translation, popular culture.
3. SPECIAL PROFILE
Considering these innovative trends and taking into account the current research interests of staff members one arrives at the following list of special subject areas within the study of English Literature as a whole:
- Irish Literature/Irish Studies, and postcolonial literatures,
- contemporary drama and theatre in the English-speaking world,
- gender studies,
- literature and the new media (multimedia approaches to literature),
- literature on screen,
- literary and 'heritage' adaptations (Shakespeare, Austen, Elliot etc.) on TV and film,
- literature and the 'new documentarism',
- neo-Victorian literature,
- narratives across media-boundaries,
The areas highlighted here receive a high profile in our department.