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The history and aim of SEAS

    The School of English and American Studies is the successor of the Department of English at Eötvös Loránd University, one of the oldest of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. We continue an indeed very long and distinguished tradition of English studies in this region. Founded by the Englishman Arthur J. Patterson in 1886, at what was then the University of Hungary (established in 1635), the Department started to flourish under another Cambridge University graduate, Arthur B. Yolland, in the interwar years. It came under the chairmanship of Professor Miklós Szenczi between 1947 and 1949 and again between 1957 and 1967. Between 1949 and 1956, during the worst years of the Cold War, the Department came under the leadership of the literary scholar Tibor Lutter, who presided over the gradual dissolution of serious scholarship, unbiased teaching, and ultimately even of students. After the 1956 revolution, Professor Szenczi was reinstated as Head of Department. A first rate scholar educated in Scotland and first teaching at the University of London for ten years, he helped rebuild the Department along strictly scholarly lines in the best British tradition. Thus the Department in its first century was almost continuously defined by the British English tradition upheld by its founders and continued, almost exclusively, by the students of the Szenczi-school until quite recently.

    The essential feature of this tradition was the study of English literature, a basic pattern of education maintained by successors of Professor Szenczi, such as Professors László Kéry, László Báti, Péter Egri, and Aladár Sarbu, until the end of the first century of the Department. The Department was strong in terms of the study of Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, the Romantics and modern English fiction. Among literary scholars, Kálmán Ruttkay has had lasting influence on his students.

    Linguistics was not a central feature for a very long time, pursued in the post-war period in terms of descriptive grammar and pronunciation, though taught by influential instructors such as László T. András and Mrs. Éva Stephanides. We are proud that Professor László Országh also taught at the department briefly, right after World War II and again towards the end of his career, in the early 1970s.

    English as a foreign language and teacher training as new disciplines came slowly of age in the 1970s and 1980s. Characteristic of the gradual changes already taking place in the 1980s, the one-hundredth anniversary of the Department was celebrated in 1986 by the biennial conference of the European Association for American Studies in Budapest.

    The conference and the celebrations marked the growth of the Department in response to political and social changes, which became dramatic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Department split into groups of English Studies, Linguistics, and Applied Linguistics. At the same time, a Centre for English Teacher Training was launched by Professor Péter Medgyes and a separate program in American Studies was set up in 1990.

    The Department was transformed into a School in 1994, incorporating four different, full-fledged Departments (English Studies, English Linguistics, English Applied Linguistics, and American Studies) and the Centre for English Teacher Training. Today it is the largest single School within Eötvös Loránd University: with roughly 1,500 students and about 125 faculty members it is bigger than the Law School (which, for historical reasons, is an independent faculty). Located, since 1990, on the spacious premises at Ajtósi Dürer sor, the School is today the largest centre for English and American studies in Hungary and, probably, in East-Central Europe.

    The strength of the School is its diversity, with special emphasis on the comparative study of English literature, British studies, phonology, syntax, historical linguistics, English as a foreign language, English teacher training, and American studies. Besides, the School boasts of covering areas such as Australian, Canadian, Irish, and English Medieval studies, very special programs in the country. The School has built up five distinct Ph.D. programs which are very popular: Renaissance literature, modern English and American literature and culture, American studies, language pedagogy, as well as English linguistics.

    Visiting faculty regularly include experts from Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia, some of them international celebrities such as Stanley Cavell of Harvard, Charles Altieri of Berkeley, Michael Kenstowicz and David Pesetsky of M.I.T., Edna and Michael Longley of Belfast, Rob Kroes of Amsterdam, Marianne Celce-Murcia of UCLA, George Szirtes of Norwich, the feminist Betty Friedan, or the poet William J. Smith. We have a whole number of distinguished resident scholars from all the English-speaking countries, particularly the regular contingent of Fulbright and British Council visiting faculty. The School boasts of the Otto Salgo Visiting Professorship in American Studies, founded by Nicolas Salgo, a former U.S. ambassador to Budapest, in 1984. The British Council has been particularly supportive of our British Studies program, the Centre for English Teacher Training, and the Ph.D. Program in Language Pedagogy, generously providing human and material resources and expertise in all these areas.

    Currently the School has a library of altogether 90,000 volumes, a computer facility for some 50 students at any one time, and a well-equipped audio-visual centre. Governmental as well as non-governmental agencies have been supporting our library with various donations, including the Governments of Australia and Canada, the (former) USIA, the Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, and the Salgo-Noren Foundation.

    We have built up several programmes for our students to travel to English-speaking countries. The British Council, the Coca-Cola Company, the Fulbright Program, the Kellner Foundation, the Soros Foundation, as well as the Hungarian government have given valuable assistance to many of our undergraduate students to go to Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia. The Socrates Program has also been instrumental in allowing our students to study in Finland, Germany and the Netherlands; a number of other universities in countries such as Austria, France, and Greece are contemplating joining us in partnerships in the near future. Our own students increasingly include people from all over Europe and the United States.

    The faculty of the School includes seven full professors and 21 associate professors, whose publications cover a very impressive range from the comparative history of genres, Shakespeare-studies, post-modern literature, metaphors, phonology, language history, syntax, U.S. foreign policy, Hungarian emigration to the United States, British and American historical contacts with Hungary and East-Central Europe and, last but not least, teaching English as a foreign language. Several major bilingual dictionaries have been edited by members of our faculty. Some of our faculty members have been internationally recognised through major scholarships, invitations to teach at U.S. universities and other foreign institutions, membership of international learned societies and editorial boards, distinguished awards, honoris causa doctorates.

    Why and whither English and American studies? What do we stand for?

    We think that English is a subject which has both practical and theoretical purposes. English and American studies allow our students a deep insight into the values, thought, and achievement of the English-speaking peoples, one (or, for that matter, increasingly so, several) of the great civilisations in human history. English and American studies give access to the understanding of how democracy has been evolving through the centuries.

    English as a language and a culture has great integrating powers: it cements an edifice of understanding in a world of conflict and clash, dissonance and discord. English is a basic field of study in an integrating world which needs a common language of co-operation, interaction, and communication. It helps upholding the lofty principles of humanistic studies and philologically rooted scholarship in an age of technological change and mechanical ideals. English is the source and field of theory today in the realm of humanities, offering a conceptual framework for discourse and debate. English and American studies pave the way for small national cultures striving to get connected with the great world. We need teachers, translators, interpreters of English in a country where the native tongue is still prevailing in isolation.

    Accordingly, the School of English and American Studies provides undergraduate and postgraduate training for a broad range of professionals connected in some way with English. We offer courses and conduct research in the literature, history, cultural and area studies of the English-speaking peoples, as well as in English linguistics, applied linguistics, and language pedagogy. We prepare our students for a wide variety of fields and careers providing M.A. degrees in English Language and Literature, as well as in American Studies, and a B.Ed. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Ph.D. degrees are offered in English and American Literature and Culture, English Linguistics, Language Pedagogy, and American Studies.

    The School of English and American Studies of Eötvös Loránd University has been coping with the conflicting tendencies of steadily growing numbers and efforts to preserve the rich tradition of excellence. We hope that, in the long run, we shall be able to maintain pursuing quality education at an international level. To achieve that, we need young faculty members in every discipline, we need incomparably better finances, we need a lot more international scholarships and internships for our students, we need a much bigger library and resource centre, we need a well-functioning e-mail system to connect our students with the world 24-hours-a-day, we need lecture rooms of a standard fit for the 21st century, we need dynamic expansion that suits an incomparably popular and useful area of studies. It is imperative that the School, as part of the largest university in Hungary, should be developed at a level warranted by its venerable heritage, century-old standards, and internationally acclaimed professional role in both Hungary and in Europe. We urge this to happen. We work for this to happen.

    Tibor FRANK, Ph.D., D.Litt.

    Professor of History

    Former heads of the Department of English (1886–1994)

    • Arthur J. Patterson (1886–1899) (b. 1835–d. 1899)
    • Arthur B. Yolland (1908–1946) (b. 1874–d. 1956)
    • Miklós Szenczi (1947–1949) (b. 1904–d. 1977)
    • Tibor Lutter (1949–1956) (b. 1910–d. 1960)
    • Miklós Szenczi (1957–1967) (b. 1904–d. 1977)
    • László Kéry (1967–1973) (b. 1920–d. 1992)
    • László Báti (1973–1978) (b. 1909–d. 1978)
    • Péter Egri (1978–1983)
    • Aladár Sarbu (1983–1990)
    • Ádám Nádasdy (1991–1992)
    • Veronika Kniezsa (1992–1994)

    Former faculty members

    • Éva Diósy-Stephanides (b. 1910–d. 1999)
    • Magdolna Friss-Molnár (b. 1927–d. 1985)
    • Géza Hervei (b. 1900–d. 1970)
    • László Országh (b. 1907–d. 1984)
    • Sándor Rot (b. 1921–d. 1996)
    • Éva Róna (b. 1907–d. 1986)
    • Mária Salusinszky-Ujházy (b. 1925–d. 1982)
    • Katalin É. Kiss
    • Gizella Kocztur-Kis
    • Gyula Kodolányi
    • József Kovács
    • Ildikó Lányi-Selmeczi
    • Ilona Maleczky-Szakács
    • Kálmán Ruttkay
    • Zsuzsanna Sándor-Konrád
    • Éva Stephanides-Hőnyi
    • Charlotte Varrók-Kretzoi

    Compiled in June 2000
    by Tibor Frank

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