A few historical landmarks

 

The Department of English of Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi was set up in 1925 when Iancu (Ioan) Botez (1872-1947) was appointed professor of English literature and civilization. Although his main interest was medieval literature, his publications were also in keeping with the courses he taught and the pedagogical needs of the time: The National Characteristics of the English People as Revealed by Their Language and Literature, Aspects of English Civilization, The English DemocracyHamlet in the Shakespearean Tragedy, King Lear and the Dramatic Conception of Shakespearean Drama, The Study of Languages are but a few titles. He also published a volume of translated English poems in 1931.

His successor was A.C. Cawley, a graduate of the Universities of London and Harvard, who had taught at the University of London. Before coming to Iasi, in 1939, Cawley had already published numerous studies on medieval English literature. In 1940, the outbreak of the Second World War put an end to Cawley's Romanian career. Emil Diaconu, a graduate from the University of Oxford, author of Utopia in English Literature, The English Village - A Study of Thomas Hardy's Novels, as well as a translator of Milton's Poetry: Pages from Paradise Lost replaced him until 1948, when the so-called `reform' of Romanian education began. This meant that the only language that was studied during the Stalinist period was Russian.

The department of English could only resume its activity in 1963, thanks to the efforts of Viorica Dobrovici, who had been Cawley’s student and had received a B.A. in English from the University of Iași. At the beginning, the Department had only a few members: apart from Dobrovici, there were Hertha Perez (who later became the Head of the Department until 1982), Nicolae Colibaba and Brîndușa Popescu (a graduate from the University of Cluj). In subsequent years the best graduates from the Universities of Bucharest (e.g. Grigore Vereș, Eugenia Pricope and Augustina Belțic) and Cluj (Ioan and Ecaterina Popa, Virgil Stanciu, Hortensia Pârlog, Tudor Besuan, Horia Hulban, Barbara Phleps, Gabriela Horăscu, Michael Frőhlich, Tamara Luca­ Lăcătușu, Lucreția Cârloanță) became members of the new department. If initially the members of the department concentrated on writing textbooks of English issued by national and local publishing houses, gradually they also started publishing in other areas of research such as comparative literature, the reception of Anglo-American literatures in Romania, drama studies, stylistics, lexicography, etc.

Between the 1960s and the 1980s English language and literature were taught in a traditional way: as a philological discipline confined to practical language instruction, linguistics, and literature, primarily British. Culture was only an additional and/or complementary subject. The absence of teaching resources encouraged Hertha Perez to initiate a programme aimed at compiling anthologies, textbooks and courses in literature and linguistics.

After 1989 the Department of English was headed by professors Grigore Vereș (1982-1992), Dumitru Dorobăț (1992-1996), and Odette Blumenfeld (1996-2012). During the post-communist decades the curricula began to be redesigned. A gradual process of differentiation made it possible for students to choose from various programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and also between alternative courses within the same specialization. Besides British literature, since 2004 students have been able to specialize in American Studies; they have been able to opt for courses of Irish and Canadian literature, or, since 1997, they have joined Translation, Terminology and Interpreting programmes. Finally, the MA in Applied Linguistics, set up in 2006, was designed to help graduate students improve their teaching skills.

Nowadays, several members of our department have published their studies in well-reputed Romanian and international journals; they have been involved in research as well as teaching projects and participated in many international conferences. Moreover, dynamic exchanges have taken place between our members of staff and students and their colleagues from British, American and Canadian Universities. The American Fulbright program and the British Council have been our longstanding partners.

We are very far indeed from the modest beginnings in 1925. At the same time this long and prestigious tradition obliges us to keep up our efforts and constantly strive for academic excellence.

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