Country Reports

As a global organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of English as an academic discipline, IAUPE is keen to supply its members with information on what goes on in English all over the world. One way of providing this kind of information is by way of the annual country reports submitted by members. These reports only represent the individual writers’ own judgments and opinions.

While the contents of country reports will naturally vary a good deal-for one thing, there will be considerable differences between reports from a small non-English-speaking country and, say, the United Kingdom-the writer of a country report is asked to pay attention to the following:

Current scholarly trends; currently debated academic topics and issues; current governmental research policies; significant new appointments and publications over the past year; new publishing ventures (e.g. new journals and series, especially if they offer opportunities for IAUPE members); new electronic resources of relevance to scholars and teachers in English; practices and developments in the teaching of English as an academic subject; any developments in the field of education in general which might be of interest to IAUPE members.

Of course, not all these kinds of information will be relevant to every writer of a country report, and writers have great freedom when it comes to constructing their submissions. However, country-report writers should aim to give their IAUPE colleagues a sense of what is happening to English in their respective countries.

While IAUPE is not in a position to pay for reports, the publication of a report on the Association website obviously constitutes an item in the writer’s annual bibliography of published works, besides offering the satisfaction of contributing to an ongoing global conversation about things that matter to all of us.

Would you like to submit an ‘annual report’ for your country? If so, send an e-mail to Thomas Austenfeld.  iaupe.secretarygeneral@gmail.com

Reports submitted in 2010

I. English Studies in the Czech Republic since 2000

Seen from the distance of the time that has passed since the first report on English Studies in the Czech Republic, following the 2001 Bamberg Conference, English studies at Czech Universities appear to have developed along similar lines as other European Universities, especially after the Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004. University studies are now organized as a three-stage programme, comprising B.A., M.A. and PhD. studies. Most students now take English as a single subject; students who opt for two-subject study most frequently choose another language or linguistics and phonetics or philosophy. Older forms of study (e.g. two-subject five-year programmes) are closing after the completion of the respective curricula. A great deal of progress has been made in international contacts with regard to the mobility of both English Department staffs and students. In the case of the latter, students of English and American Studies mostly participate in the LLP/Erasmus scheme (one or two semester stays), visiting not only British and Irish universities, but also universities in other European countries. The same proportion of students come to study at our institutions, mainly from Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Poland, Austria and Germany. Students also participate in inter-university exchange programmes, and doctoral students can also benefit from the so-called “cotutelle” schemes (European jointly supervised PhDs).

Departments of English language and literature, or of English language, are established at four large and several smaller universities, mostly both at the Faculties of Arts and Faculties of Education. English Departments accredited to carry out doctoral programmes are in the Arts Faculties of Charles University in Prague, Masaryk University in Brno, Palacký University in Olomouc and Ostrava University in Ostrava. Accreditation to appoint associate and full professorships has been obtained by the English Departments in Prague, Brno and Olomouc. The other Departments do not qualify owing to a persistent shortage of full professors. After the untimely death of Professor Aleš Svoboda of Ostrava University this year, English Departments have only ten full professors of English language or literature on their staffs, some of whom, moreover, have reached retirement age. Hopefully, the number of associate professors (twenty-one including those working at the Faculties of Education) promises improvement. Continuation and advancement of English studies is also fostered by the number of students in doctoral studies (Prague 52, Brno 37, Olomouc 48, Ostrava 13), the number of those who have finished having so far exceeded a hundred (Prague 36, Brno 29, Olomouc about 40). It is to be noted, however, that the numbers of students in the doctoral programmes are limited by the supervising capacities of the respective departments.

English Departments mostly offer the study of both language and literature, though some of the Faculties of Education (Olomouc and Plzeň) have Departments of English Language alone, while the Arts Faculty at Charles University caters for the study of language and literature separately, in the Department of English Language and ELT Methodology, and the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures. It was at this faculty that the first English Department was founded by Vilém Mathesius, the first Czech professor of English language and literature, nearly a century ago. The centenary of the Department’s existence will be celebrated in 2012.

Of the remaining universities in the Czech Republic English Departments are established at the Faculty of Education of South Bohemian University in České Budějovice, at the Faculty of Science and Arts of Silesian University in Opava, at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Pardubice and at the Faculty of Education of West Bohemian University in Plzeň. The Plzeň Faculty of Arts offers English studies focused on the language of commerce, management, economics and law.

All English Departments have long issued or have recently started issuing periodical publications. Prague Studies in English have appeared since 1924 as one of the series of Acta Universitatis Carolinae – Philologica. The latest volume, Prague Studies in English XXV (Karolinum, Charles University Press, 2010) is all but ready to appear. It commemorates the eightieth anniversary of the late literary scholar Jaroslav Hornát, in particular his work concerning the Czech reception of Charles Dickens.

The English Department at the Prague Faculty of Education presents volumes connected with its regular conferences. The 3rd volume, the latest one so far, appeared in 2007 under the title Plurality and Diversity in English Studies.

Brno Studies in English have been published since 1959, presenting one volume per year. Volume 9/2009 thus marks fifty years since its appearance, in connection with which it has doubled its periodicity and comes out biannually. No.1 of this volume gratefully commemorates the founder of the journal, Josef Vachek, the leading scholar of the Brno English Department in the first decades after World War II. The Department of English and American Studies at Palacký University in Olomouc publishes Anglica and since last year also the Moravian Journal.

Recently started periodical series are issued by the English Department of the Brno Faculty of Education (Discourse and Interaction, Vol. 1, 2008, 2 issues; third issue 2009) and the Department of English Studies at the Faculty of Education of the South Bohemian University in České Budějovice (South Bohemian Anglo-American Studies, 2008, No. 1 Dream, Imagination and Reality in Literature, No. 2 The Dynamics of the Language System, a joint volume with the Department of Romance Philology). In the same year the English Department at the Faculty of Arts of Pardubice University started the publication of the American and British Studies Annual (ABSA), conceived as a yearbook devoted to American and British cultural and literary studies.

As has already been noted, many of these periodicals have been started as, or are partly connected with, regular or occasional conferences convened by the respective departments. As regards the organization of regular conferences, the Department that ranks highest is the English Department at Masaryk University in Brno. The Brno Conferences of English, American and Canadian Studies have been convened since 1986, and to the six noted in the previous report three have been added: the seventh conference in 2002, the eighth in 2005 and the ninth in February 2010. The last conference was a major event jointly organized by the Brno Department of English and American Studies and the Czech Association for the Study of English (CZASE), greatly surpassing the previous conferences in respect of both the number of participants and the number of foreign speakers.

Major conferences organized at Charles University are convened on different occasions, without being numbered. In recent years the major events included the European Association for American Studies conference (2004), the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures conference (2005), and the Prague School and Theories of Structure conference (2007). A regular event starting in 1994 has been The Oxford-Prague Medieval Workshop. Following the preceding four (in 1994, 1995, 1997, 2006) the most recent, fifth workshop was held in April 2010.

Widening international contacts are also evidenced at the conferences organized by smaller departments, e.g. at the fourth conference at the English Department of the Faculty of Education in Brno (September 2010) the keynote speakers will be Professors Henry Widdowson and László I. Komlósi, and at the 12th Ideas That Work Conference of the English Department of the Plzeň Faculty of Education (November 2010) the plenary speaker will be Michael Swan.

For the sake of providing an overall account of the history of English Studies in the Czech Republic, the present report is concluded with a reference (also contained in the previous report) to “The History and the Present State of English Studies in the Czech Republic” by Josef Hladký in Balz Engler and Renate Haas (eds), European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline. The English Association, Great Britain, 2000.

II. Japan

The English Literary Society of Japan held its annual meeting at Tokyo University on 30-31 May 2009. Thirteen symposia were organised and fifty-odd individual papers were read on English and American literature and on the history of English. As the largest comprehensive conference mainly on literature, organisers consider the balance of themes every year. Facing a crisis of literary studies after the university reform introduced from 2004 by the government’s economic policy and the gradual decrease of high-school graduates (as a result of the falling birthrates), some subjects of symposia articulate deep concern about future education of English literature. The next meeting will be at Kobe University on 29-30 May 2010, when Beowulf to Edgar Allan Poe will be discussed in twelve symposia. (http://www.elsj.org)

The English Linguistic Society of Japan, the largest linguistic society in our country, held its annual meeting at Osaka University on 14-15 November 2009. A workshop on the present and future studies on “case” and student workshops were offered before the main conference. Symposia on syntax, collocation, comparative studies between English and Japanese, metaphor, etc. were organized and thirty-odd papers were read. The next meeting will be at Nihon University (Tokyo) on 13-14 November 2010; a reunion of linguistics and philology in a practical way, e.g. how to analyse a particular structure linguistically and philologically, will be discussed there in a symposium. (http://wwwsoc.nii.ac.jp/elsj)

The Japan Society for Medieval English Studies (JSMES) held its annual meeting at Keio University (Tokyo) on 28-29 November 2009. One of the symposia to be noted was entitled “‘Gothic’ and Modern: In Memoriam Derek Brewer”, organised by Toshiyuki Takamiya, Professor Emeritus, Keio University, and Japanese disciples of Prof. Brewer were invited among the audience. Fifteen papers on Old and Middle English language and literature were read. The next meeting will be at Osaka University of Education on 4-5 December 2010. (http://wwwsoc.nii.ac.jp/jsmes)

From among many other meetings and conferences, a relatively young society is to be introduced on this occasion. The Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics (SHELL), organised by Yoshiyuki Nakao (Hiroshima), who is also the current president of JSMES, held its third international conference at Hiroshima University on 28-30 August 2009, where Antonette diPaolo Healey (Toronto), Hans Sauer (Munich), Young-Bae Park (Kookmin, Seoul) were invited and read plenary papers, together with two Japanese scholars, Akira Wada (Professor Emeritus, Yamaguchi) and Michiko Ogura (Chiba). Besides twenty-odd papers by Japanese scholars and graduate students, Robert Stevick (Washington), Leena Kahlas-Tarkka (Helsinki) and John Scahill (Keio) read their individual papers. As Hiroshima has a long tradition of Chaucer studies under the influence of a pioneer scholar Michio Masui, his followers held a symposium on the language and style of Chaucer. The Society meets biennially and the fourth conference will be at Chiba University on 1-3 September 2011. (shell@hiroshima-u.ac.jp)

To name a few recent publications, chiefly international: Meiko Matsumoto, From Simple Verbs to Periphrastic Expressions: The Historical Development of Composite Predicates, Phrasal Verbs, and Related Constructions in English (Linguistic Insights 81, Peter Lang, 2008), Kiriko Sato, The Development from Case-Forms to Prepositional Constructions in Old English Prose (Linguistic Insights 88, Peter Lang, 2009) and Naoë Kikuta Yoshikawa, Margery Kempe’s Meditations: The Context of Medieval Devotional Literatures, Liturgy and Iconography (The University of Wales Press, 2007). Mention should also be made of Toshiyuki Takamiya and Takami Matsuda (edd.), Introduction to Medieval English Literature (Yushodo, 2008 [Japanese]), a useful volume full of information on various aspects of medieval studies. Even though it is written in Japanese, bibliography and technical terms are all in English, so that readers may not be misled by an unknown tongue.

III. United Kingdom

As I write the UK has just experienced a General Election which eventually resulted in a coalition between the Liberal Democrats (a left of centre party) with the Conservatives (representing a range of right and centrist positions). This attempt to yoke two rather different ideologies and policies in tandem has left Higher Education unclearer about its immediate future than it might have expected to be by mid-May 2010. One thing, however, remains clear. The prediction that, whichever party got into power, universities would bear their full share of cuts in public expenditure, is likely to remain unchanged. The public sector has been slower to feel the effects of the global financial crises than private business but many universities, of both pre- and post- 1992 foundation, are already planning for substantial staff cuts, and increased class sizes, while faced with growing numbers of applicants, some fearful of becoming a long-term unemployment statistic, and all hoping to beat the seemingly inevitable eventual lifting of the cap on university fees.

Nor is the last government’s prioritisation of scientific and technological subject areas likely to be reversed. The decision to fund teaching in these areas at a premium rate is one of a number of moves designed by the government to change the nation’s knowledge-base which it believes to have simple and obviously demonstrable links to its prosperity. Within the Arts and Humanities some subjects find it harder than others to demonstrate, or rather, quantify, their contribution to the economic and social welfare of the country. An English graduate’s abilities to question, criticise, evaluate, compare, clarify and communicate are fundamental to the functioning of a flourishing democracy, and, when successfully disseminated, all the less easy to trace to those individual encounters with texts, tutors and fellow students, that took place in the course of his or her studies.

Meanwhile changes in the criteria for research-funding are further loading the dice in favour of an instrumentalist agenda. [It is only fair, of course, to record the anxieties of many research scientists as they face a future where they fear that applied science will be privileged over theoretical, and projects with obvious industrial benefits over ‘blue skies thinking’.] Those seeking funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council are now asked, in line with their colleagues in the social sciences and sciences, to declare the ‘impact’ their research is likely to have on the wider community. Although one can only applaud the inventiveness of some colleagues, in their claims to be keeping entire publishing houses afloat with their latest monographs, it swiftly becomes clear that projects with a performance element or a web presence find the task of proving, or at least ‘measuring’ their worth easier.

The general trend of recent years to exert pressure on departments, research centres and clusters, and individuals to submit regular application for externally-funded research grants has had a variety of consequences. For specialists in minority areas, or small departments, it has offered the chance for collaborative support from other institutions, and it has forced researchers to give detailed consideration to the feasibility of their research projects. English specialists now find their expertise welcomed in interdisciplinary research groupings beyond the Humanities, and now engage, inter alia, with colleagues from geography, health care, law and medicine.

However the increased competition for a diminishing pot of gold also has a tendency to waste time and depress both researchers and those who are brought in to evaluate these bids. Projects better suited to a monograph are stretched into grandiose affairs trailing postgraduates in their wake, and monumental editions tend to gain disproportionate amounts of funding either because they seem a safe bet, or on the ‘why spoil a ship for a ha’p’orth of tar’ principle. For the lucky few, the rewards then have to be balanced against the problems involved in managing project teams and balance sheets. The ability to attract funding has become a more or less explicitly acknowledged requirement for promotion in many universities, and in some it is openly ranked above teaching ability as a sine qua non for appointment at the professorial level.

These external factors pressing on our subject discipline are being replicated in many other countries, and perhaps the most cheering symptom that all is not lost in Britain – or at least that things are not as bad here as they are perceived to be elsewhere – is the steady flow of colleagues from Europe and further afield who have joined our departments, bringing fresh perspectives and different expertise with them.

It has always been a notable characteristic of English departments to be protean, some splitting themselves into separate ‘Language’ and ‘Literature’ sections, others expanding to absorb film and drama studies; and the restructuring of faculties frantically being carried on up and down the land is leading to yet further amalgamations and shot-gun marriages. Perhaps the most significant growth over recent years has occurred in the areas of ‘Language’ and Creative Writing. The option many schools offer of taking a qualification in English language rather than, or as well as in literature, has substantially increased demand for Language studies at entry level. It is not quite so easy to chart the reasons behind the rise and rise of Creative Writing as a taught part of the discipline, although it would be tempting to quote it as evidence of the ‘impact’ made by the study of English literatures. Incidentally, the numbers of mature students attracted by such modules and courses, especially at post-graduate level, suggest the level of enthusiasm still to be found in the ‘wider community’ for literature, despite sporadic predictions of the death of the book. As with other areas that have sometimes taken shelter under the umbrella of an English department, Creative Writing is also often to be seen vociferously demanding independence. Again, the addition of staff actively engaged in the production of material that looks set to sustain our discipline can only be welcomed. Often the Creative Writing staff have been used to a less institutionally-governed but often financially precarious existence, and their amazement at the mixture of cynicism, supine acquiescence to bureaucratic demands, or endemic grumbling found amid longer-serving staff, can stimulate healthy debate at departmental meetings.

So, despite the increasingly heavy workloads, and the doom and gloom often to be found in departmental and faculty meetings, there is still no lack of applicants when a post is advertised, and most of us secretly count ourselves lucky to have lighted upon a profession where we are allowed to earn a living by a job we sometimes enjoy.