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Policy Statement

The Department of English ('Anglistik/Amerikanistik') at Chemnitz University of Technology comprises four professorships evenly covering the whole range of a traditional discipline that has expanded considerably in all directions over the past decade or so. These traditional core areas are English Language/Linguistics, English Literature, American Literature and Culture, Area Studies (Britain and the US); they are supplemented by the Practical Language Programme and the Theory and Practice of Teaching English. Thus, the potential for innovation arises not only separately within each core area but also beyond in integrated studies. Three key terms characterize the innovative character of English Studies at Chemnitz: ['globalization', 'networking', 'Applied English'].

Globalization

Corresponding to recent developments in theory (post-modernism, post-histoire, post-colonialism) and everyday life (the information society, the global village) 'English' as an academic discipline has not only diversified but has also exploded its traditional canons. English Language/Linguistics is more than ever concerned with first- and second-language varieties of English world-wide and with English as a lingua franca. English Literature has responded to this trend of internationalization by taking in the so-called New Literatures in English, English Literatures outside the native tradition of England as national literatures in their own right (e.g. Irish Literature, Scottish Literature and literatures from the (former) Commonwealth countries and the Third World). American Studies by contrast has traditionally been more expansive; since the early 60s American Studies has been defined as comprising American civilization, history, literature, and popular culture. 'Area Studies' as such already constitutes an advance over the traditional discipline, as it puts Landeskunde on a firm theoretical and empirical footing and provides one of the main sources of inspiration for the re-orientation of 'English Studies'.

Networking

The broadening of 'English Studies' into a 'Cultural Studies' discipline brings with it new opportunities for holistic and integrated approaches. The shift in paradigms here hinges on the widening of the traditional meanings of 'text' and 'reading'. Cultural Studies in the 1990s subsumes all activities concerned with analyzing and understanding--i.e. reading--cultural phenomena (high and popular): in a world dominated by the electronic media and their potential for universal coverage and unprecedented information retrieval, 'text' must necessarily mean more than mere words on a printed page. The study of 'English' thus comes to include a greater variety of cultural documents in the English-speaking world as they manifest themselves in different media, e.g. film, theatre, radio, television, CD-ROM, computer, internet, and the pictorial arts. Cultural Studies as a theoretical umbrella guarantees multi-disciplinary approaches in teaching as well as in research. At Chemnitz a promising start has been made with integrated workshops (e.g. 'Scotland in Film') and the British Studies Project 'National Identities', now in its fourth year, which pays special attention to Britain's Celtic Fringe, studying the language, literature, culture, institutions etc. of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

Applied English Studies

At Chemnitz teaching and learning English obviously take place in a non-native environment. By necessity, this touches on modes of cultural exchange and raises fundamental questions about understanding the Other. Consequently, new fields of study suggest themselves here: e.g. the conditions of inter-cultural transfer, reception and translation, imagology (auto- and heterostereotypes). In much the same way as these new fields of study require new methodologies of research they call for innovative, practice-oriented, forms of teaching and learning, such as field work and internships alongside the more traditional ones of classroom teaching and the study year abroad. From a general perspective, the widening of the traditional discipline of 'English Studies' also entails a re-orientation with regard to academic content, values, and targets--in the sense that 'English Studies' at Chemnitz has to adapt to new developments on the job market and new professional profiles. On the basis of the existing 'Chemnitz Model' (an inter-faculty MA course), it is possible to combine the study of English with such disciplines as computer science, business administration, print media, etc. As a consequence, 'English' at Chemnitz situates itself in an 'Applied Foreign Language' programme in the broadest sense. This entails multi-lateral (tri-lateral) exchange programmes with European partner universities and constitutes a first move towards an interdisciplinary course programme on European Studies. These new perspectives are embedded in a new British Council project on 'Language Learning and Computers' and an interdisciplinary research group on 'New Media' with special emphasis on internet users.

In subscribing to the trends outlined above the English Department at Chemnitz is opening up new and exciting prospects for the study of English.

 


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