The History of Teaching and Researching English Studies at the University of Szeged

English Studies belong to the relatively recently established branches of modern philology at the University of Szeged. As opposed to Germanic Philology, French or Italian Studies, which were started in the early or mid-1930s, the founding of an English major and an Institute of English Philology was decided only in 1946. After the war years it was not easy to ground either the funding, or the gathering of suitable staff. The first appointed head of the new Institute was the famous professor of Italian Studies, Jenõ Koltay-Kastner (between the years 1946-49). He was followed by another ‘outsider’, Elõd Halász, professor of German (1949-50). From among these years when no diplomas were issued in English, hardly any data remains concerning the activities of the Institute.

As a result of pitiable political changes in 1950, the teaching of most Western foreign languages was discontinued till 1960, but the English major was only revived in 1965, then as part of the programs offered by the Institute of Germanic Philology. From 1969 we have had an independent Department of English Language and Literature which thirty years later, in 1996 was upgraded as the Institute of English & American Studies, now consisting of three departments: the Department of English Studies (DES), the Department of American Studies (DAS, and the Department of English Language Teacher Education and Applied Linguistics (DELTEAL). As of 1993, English Studies in Szeged have also comprised postraduate, PhD studies, running three accredited doctoral programs: English & American Literature and Cultures, Theoretical Linguistics, and English Applied Linguistics.

As it has been said, English Studies were restarted in Szeged in 1965, once again under the direction of Professor Elôd Halász. By the early 1970s such ambitious and well qualified scholars taught here as the since then world famous sociologist of culture, Elemér Hankiss, or the young Mihály Szegedy-Maszák, now Hungary’s leading authority in comparative literature. During his assignement in Szeged Hankiss wrote many of his fundamental Hamlet-studies and also prepared his monograph, The Literary Work of Art as a Complex Model. In 1969/70 professor László Deme was appointed to lead and develop the Department while the first significant and fully independent leader of it became Professor Sarolta Kretzoi-Valkay, who, coming from the Unviersity of Debrecen, in three years consolidated both the department and the syllabus of the degree program (1973-76). It is due to her perseverence that young, ambitious and well qualified staff members were planted here in the 1970s, a generation up to today characterizing our institution in the teaching and research profiles. Cultivated fields of instruction and investigation include English and American literary history, intellectual history, Renaissance reseach, literary and cultural theory, theoretical and applied linguistics, as well as the methodology of English teacher training. From the 1970s onwards an increasing number of our faculty acquired PhD or other academic degrees, since 1980 the Department has been publishing its occasional series of papers and monographs, entitled Papers in English & American Studies.

IEAS is one of the lagest Institutes of the Faculty of Arts with over 33 faculty members and with several guest professors. The Institute is responsible for three major programs: English Studies, American Studies, and a 3-year college-level English Teacher Training program. Beside these we also offer postgraduate studies and special upgrading programs from college to university level. As a specialization, a certificate in translation and interpretation can also be obtained. The number of full time students in the various programs is over 700 while we teach about 120 students in weekend courses.

Thanks to systematic development and important aid from organizations such as the British Council and the US Information Service, the infrastructure of the Institute is good. The Institute Library holds over thirty thousand volumes usefully complementing the large collections of the University- and the County Libraries. The Institute has a fully developed computer newtork system, all members of staff and all students have access to computers, wordprocessing and internet services. Photocopying facilities and audio-visual equipments are also available.

Throughout the years the Institute (and its predecessor departments) have been active in international grant applications and in international cooperation. Since the early 1990s we have participated in three TEMPUS and two SOCRATES projects, presently several more SOCRATES and CEEPUS links are under development and a major project within the framework of the British and Hungarian Scholarly Exchanges (JARP) is underway. Our staff is highly qualified. We have 2 full professors, 8 associate professors, four of our colleagues have been granted the Széchenyi distinguished professorial scholarship and two have won the Bólyai Grant for young PhD graduates. Our colleagues are usually quite successful in obtaining foreign grants and scholarships and our students score good results in exchange programs and in the Students’ Scholarly Competitions. The members of the Institute are playing an active role in the academic-scientific life of the country, cooperate in national and international scholarly societies and apart from our own periodical their works appear in national and international publications, too. Apart from the Papers in English & American Studies one should mention two series of books published by our univeristy press (JATEPress). These, which incorporate the scholarly accomplishments of our colleagues, recently have earned high appreciation: Ikonológia és müértelmezés (Iconology and interpretation, 1986-) and Aspects of Hungarian (1988-).

György E. Szőnyi

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