Prof. Dr. Joachim Frenk
We study all things British: As far as literary texts are concerned, our topics range from medieval manuscripts like Beowulf to digital texts on the internet, from Shakespeare and Dickens to the latest thrillers and chick lit. On the one hand, therefore, we analyse and interpret works by such authors as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, and Ian McEwan – works which traditionally constitute the contested canon of British literature.
In addition, we pay attention to non- (or not yet) canonical texts and to cultural products which may have a special relevance for British and/or global culture, for instance the Beatles, James Bond, and Harry Potter. As we extend the term ‘text’ to mean more than just written matter, we also study the media histories of British cultures as well as British films and other British media products.
Since literature is always a product of culture, the name of our discipline, “literary and cultural studies”, may seem redundant. However, the stress on culture is a consequence of what has been called the cultural turn in literary studies, which asks us to see literary texts, and indeed all verbal and visual texts, as embedded in the culture(s) that produced them. We believe that competent students of British literature and culture must be able both to closely analyse and interpret particular texts and to contextualize them. What is more, the term ‘literature’ itself has meant different things to different people at different times, which is why our understanding of literature must be historicized, analysed and discussed.