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English Department


Some Key Dates

  • The University of Zurich was founded in 1833, and the first course in English studies was taught by Prof. Dr. Eduard Bobrik in the UZH's second semester: "Erklärung von Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake, nebst praktischen Uebungen im Englischen."
  • In 1887, the "Romanisch-englische Seminar" was founded, and the first permanent professorship in English was established in 1891. The UZH English Department took this date as the occasion of its 125-Year-Anniversary celebrations in 2016.
  • In 1894, the English Department was separated from the "Romanisch-englische Seminar," thus becoming an independent department.
  • Until 1927, there was only one professorship for English studies (with a main focus on English Literature). Today, there are eight professorships (four in English Literature and four in English Linguistics).
  • In 1991, Prof. Dr. Gunnel Tottie became the UZH English Department's first female professor.
  • Today, the UZH English Department is Switzerland's largest English department, with eight professors (four in Literature and four in Linguistics) and c. 900 students.

Chronological Outline

Except for the years after 2016, the information provided in this outline is taken from the book Es begann mit Scott und Shakespeare: Eine Geschichte der Anglistik an der Universität Zürich by former UZH President, Prof. em. Dr. Andreas Fischer (Zürich: Chronos, 2016).

Copies of the book can be purchased via the UZH English Department library.

1833 First course in English Literature: Prof. Dr. Eduard Bobrik, "Erklärung von Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake, nebst praktischen Uebungen im Englischen"
1839 First course in English Linguistics: PD Dr. Ludwig Etmüller, "Angelsächsische Grammatik, verbunden mit der Erklärung von Leo's Angelsächsischen Sprachproben"
1878 Helene von Druskowitz becomes the first woman at UZH to attain a doctoral degree in the field of English Studies (and only the second woman to do so in any field).
1882 The American educator, suffragist, and linguist Martha Carey Thomas becomes the second woman to complete a PhD in English Studies (and the third in any field).
1887 Establishment of the "Romanisch-englische Seminar" (Department of Romance and English Studies)
1891 First chair in English studies established (main focus on English Literature): Prof. Dr. Theodor Vetter
1894 The "Romanisch-englische Seminar" is turned into two independent departments: the Institute of Romance Studies and the English Department.
During her studies at UZH (1894/95), the Polish Marxist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg stays at the Villa Wehrli at Plattenstrasse 47 – the building that would come to house the UZH English Department from 1971.
1895 Prof. Dr. Theodor Vetter also becomes Professor for English Studies at ETH. He later serves as President of both ETH (1911-1913) and UZH (1918-1920)
1914 The UZH English Department moves out of a side wing of the ETH main building into the recently completed UZH main building.
1922 Prof. Dr. Bernhard Fehr succeeds Prof. Dr. Theodor Vetter
1924 Frank Henry Gschwind becomes the English Department's first Lektor (i.e. instructor responsible for improving students language skills).
1927 Second chair in English studies established (focus on English Linguistics): Prof. Dr. Eugen Dieth
1938 Prof. Dr. Heinrich Straumann succeeds Prof. Dr. Bernhard Fehr
1950s first English drama group established by Ladislaus Löb: Zurich University English Dramatic Society
1955 Lizenziat degree established (optional, as an alternative to a PhD or teaching diploma)
1956 Prof. Dr. Ernst Leisi succeeds Prof. Dr. Eugen Dieth
1966 Third professorship added: Prof. Dr. Henri Petter (English Literature)
1969 The Lizenziat degree becomes a mandatory first degree for PhD candidates as well as candidates for the teaching diploma
1971 The English Department moves from the UZH Main Building to the 'Villa Wehrli' at Plattenstrasse 47.
1975 New drama group established by David Roscoe
1976 A larger Lektor*innen team – consisting of David Roscoe, Andrew Torr, and Richard J. Watts – is established, in an effort to further strengthen students language skills
1977 Fourth and a fifth professorships added: Prof. Dr. Max Nänny (English Literature) and Prof. Dr. Udo Fries (English Linguistics)
1983 Sixth professorship added: Prof. Dr. Brian Gibbons (English Literature)
1985 Zurich James Joyce Foundation established by Dr. h.c. Fritz Senn
1991 Seventh professorship added; first female Professor in English Studies : Prof. Dr. Gunnel Tottie (English Linguistics)
1993 First female professor in English Literature (and second in English Studies): Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Bronfen
2006 Eighth professorship added: Prof. Dr. Daniel Schreier (English Linguistics)
Lizenziat degree replaced with the so-called Bologna system: Bachelor and Master degree
2014 Ninth, temporary professorship: Prof. Dr. Ana Sobral (Global Literatures; tenure ends in 2021)
2016 125-Year Anniversary celebrations
2019 Swiss Centre of Irish Studies @ the Zurich James Joyce Foundation established on May 1, 2019
2019 Major reform of all study programs at UZH ('Bologna 2020') is implemented in the fall semester 2019

Anniversary Archive and Book Publication

In 2016, the English Department celebrated its 125-year anniversary.

  • The anniversary program is archived on the 125-Year Anniversary Website.
  • The monograph Es begann mit Scott und Shakespeare: Eine Geschichte der Anglistik an der Universität Zürich by former UZH President, Prof. em. Dr. Andreas Fischer, is available via the UZH English Department Library.

Weiterführende Informationen

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