This survey lecture shows language in its socio-cultural contexts: its relationship to power and technology, to historical personalities and social groups. It ranges from the Romans to William the Conqueror, from Caxton to Dr. Johnson or Noah Webster, from Matthew Arnold to Bill Gates and from the medieval scriptorium to the internet. It provides the background necessary to understand the world-wide forms and functions of English today and tries to draw general conclusions about the socio-cultural factors affecting language (change) in the past and today.

At the end of the semester, students can

  • interpret language as texts as well as language as a system
  • identify the relationship of text and author in their historical contexts and the development of text-types and related language forms
  • and evaluate the authentic historical language systems of English in comparison to present-day English and German beyond a purely descriptive level.
Requirements for credits

Participation in class and tutorial and a 60-minute written test at the end of the term


Successful completion of the lecture Introduction to English Language & Culture 

Recommended reading

This lecture will be accompanied by a new book by Stephan Gramley with a website:

This course provides an accessible introduction to the theories and methods in literary studies and its four pillars: author, text, reader, and context. We will engage in critical investigations of five influential theoretical approaches in our field: Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Gender and Queer Theory, New Criticism and Formalism, and Postcolonial Studies. For each of these five areas, there will be a discussion of a seminal theoretical text in the first week, followed by a hands-on session in the second week, in which we will use the theoretical/methodological framework to analyse a given literary text (a poem or a short story).

In addition, the seminar will provide students with useful tools and methods to analyse literary text (literary semantics, semiotics, rhetoric, corpus analysis, narratology and many others).

N.B.: High reading load!