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Queen's University

History of the Department

Aerial view of Queen's in 1919








Aerial of Queen's University by Billy Bishop, 1919, Queen's Archives

The Department of German Language and Literature at Queen's University was founded in 1902 by Professor John Macgillivray, who had been recruited to Queen's in 1888 during the time of the legendary Principal George Grant. Though his doctorate from the University of Leipzig was in French literature, German was Macgillivray's great love, and he ran the Department himself for the next quarter-century, with the aid of one or two assistants. His successor, who came in 1930 and left after World War II, was Heinrich Henel. The headship fell next to Hilda Laird, a former student and then assistant of Macgillivray's. Laird, a medievalist and a formidable figure in the history of Queen's, had already served as Dean of Women, and she was to be the only female departmental head at Queen's until 1970, serving for 15 years until 1962.

The expansion of the Department from a two- to a six-person operation began at this time, as did its reputation as a source of distinguished scholarly publications, owing largely to the contributions of two colleagues, Hans Eichner and Anthony Riley. Eichner had been recruited in 1950 and served as Department Head from 1962 to 1967. Though he moved to the University of Toronto in 1967, he began his career as an editor of Friedrich Schlegel while still at Queen's. Riley (who arrived in 1962, served as Head from 1967 to 1976, and remained until his retirement in 1992) achieved international recognition as Managing Editor of the critical edition of the works of Alfred Döblin. Other long-serving colleagues were Helmut Krausse (retired 1989), who also served as Head from 1977 to 1986, Rosemarie Hunter-Lougheed (retired 1988), Ernst Loeb (died 1988), and Christa Fell (retired 2002).

Among current faculty members, Dr. William Reeve, who came in 1971, is a specialist on nineteenth-century drama; Dr. Ulrich Scheck (arrived 1985 and currently Dean of Graduate Studies) publishes both on Romanticism and on post-1945 literature; Dr. Patrick O'Neill (arrived 1987), in addition to publishing widely in Comparative Literature, is an expert on Gunter Grass; Dr. David Pugh (arrived 1989) is a specialist on Weimar Classicism; Dr. Petra Fachinger (arrived 1998) is a comparatist specializing on ethnic-minority writing in Germany, and Dr. Jill Scott (arrived 2001) is also a comparatist and specializes on Viennese modernism. Departmental programming has in addition always been supported by a varying number of adjunct instructors. Dr. Diane Pitts, Dr. Jorica Perryman, and Dr. Monika Holzschuh Sator serve currently in this capacity.

A prominent feature of the post-1945 Department has been a flourishing graduate programme. In the 1970s the Department produced 29 M.A.s and 11 Ph.D.s In the 1980s the figures fell to 18 M.A.s and 6 Ph.D.s, but bounced back in the 1990s, with Ph.D.s overtaking M.A.s by 20 to 17. Besides the quality of instruction and supervision, the success of the programme has rested on a commitment to provide students with financial support for the full duration of their programmes (2 years for M.A.s, 4 for Ph.D.s). Holders of Queen's Ph.D.s in German now teach at Barnard College, Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, the University of Ottawa, the University of Victoria and the University of Western Ontario. At both graduate and undergraduate levels, the curriculum has evolved away from medieval studies and the history of the language, which were prominent before 1945, and towards a more contemporary focus.

Similarly, the decline of German as a high school subject has meant that the Department has become heavily engaged in language instruction at the introductory and intermediate levels, an activity to which graduate students make an essential contribution as Teaching Assistants. Besides the programmes in German Language and Literature, medials have been introduced in Business German and German Studies. While undergraduate German majors were always encouraged to spend their third year at a university in a German-speaking country, they have since 1992 been able to apply to the Ontario/Baden-Württemberg Exchange, which offers an excellent administrative structure through which to organize a year abroad. At the graduate level, there is an exchange agreement with the Universität Karlsruhe, also dating back to 1992, under which Queen's students can study towards their programmes and also teach English for one or two semesters. Based on this record of success and innovation, the Department looks forward to the next decade confident in its ability to adapt to a changing environment while preserving its commitment to academic excellence.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000