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The Department of Romance Studies

The Department of Romance Studies

Romance studies is concerned with research and teaching in the field of Romance languages, literature and culture. The most prevalent Romance languages, which share the same Latin root, are French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Occitan, Catalan, Galician, Sardinian and Rhaeto-Romanic/Romansh. Nevertheless, a more heightened focus is now being placed on Romance language varieties and their literatures, which are found outside Europe, such as Latin America, Canada, and North and West Africa.

At the Department of Romance Studies, the field of linguistics delve into the origins of the individual Romance languages and their development to the present-day, while also considering the description of the Romance languages. Romance studies in literature focus on investigating individual literary works, genres and eras as well as taking into account their contextual origins, their societal references and their publics’ receptions. This approach is based on scientific methods and different lines of reasoning. In addition, becoming proficient in oral and written skills in the respective Romance language(s) is deemed to be an essential component when studying in this discipline.

Romance studies in Heidelberg

The Department of Romance Studies is located in the “Kernaltstadt”, only a few steps away from the Old University building (das Gebäude der Alten Universität). The Romance building is connected to the Jesuit church and to the Jesuit college (today’s Department of English Studies), which overlook the Baroque Garden. Furthermore, a theatre space in the basement is frequently used and enjoyed by students.
Since 1842, the academic subject known as ‘Romance studies’ has been a part of Heidelberg University, but the institution itself was not founded until 1924. The department’s well-revered reputation, which surpasses Heidelberg’s city limits, is due to past pedagogues, such as Karl Voßler who was a lecturer and a private teacher from 1900-1909. It was Voßler who introduced a new perspective in the way one interprets language and literature through his work on Positivism and Idealism in Linguistics (1904). This work expanded on the mere recording of information. Ernst Robert Curtius, chair of the department from 1924-1929, made a notable contribution to the study of contemporary French literature and to this topic through his essays on Literature in New Europe (1925), which promoted contemporary authors and encouraged cultural convergences between France and Germany. And lastly, from 1958-1970, Erich Köhler worked in Heidelberg and became a pioneer in the sociology of literature.

Course offerings and collaborations

The Department of Romance Studies is committed to a comprehensive approach towards Romance studies. Not only do the Romance studies offer courses in the "major" Romance languages (French, Italian and Spanish), but also in Galician, Catalan, Portuguese and Romanian.

Apart from the extensive language training, the offered courses impart fundamental skills and knowledge through language, literature and cultural studies of the chosen philologies.

Furthermore, the Department of Romance Studies is linked to diverse international collaborations. These collaborations include partners from universities and institutes that are found in numerous Romance-speaking countries (exchange programs/Erasmus). Our academic and cultural community is enriched through the Italian Centre, the Galician Centre and the Bureau de la coopération universitaire (BCU). Each semester, a number of scholars from Germany and from outside of Germany give lectures, which contribute to enlightening scientific exchanges.

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Latest Revision: 2023-09-04
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