A short History of our Department
The Department of Romance Studies exists since the founding of the Faculty of Humanities and Philosophies in 1965. In 1966, Prof. Dr. P. M. Schon, died 1985, became its first managing director and head of the Chair of Romance Literature. Shortly after in 1970, Prof. Dr. H.-W. Klein, who died 1992, was appointed deputy managing director and head of the departments second Chair of Romance Linguistics. Today our department consists of three chairs headed by Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Dr. (Paris) Anne Begenat-Neuschäfer (Romance Literature), Dr.phil. Liane Ströbel (Romance Linguistics) and Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Angelica Rieger (Romance Intercultural Studies).
As the second youngest faculty of RWTH University – the Faculty of Medicine was founded one year later – the Faculty of Humanities and Philosophies, and with it the Department of Romance Studies, had been created to relieve well known faculties in Cologne, Bonn and Muenster in the field of teacher training. Continuous growth in human resources, doubling of professorships and the extension of an own library contributed to increasingly better conditions for students of Romance Studies.
Until 2004, the Institute offered not only several undergraduate courses, but, equipped with the four main Roman languages and literatures – French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese –, covered all major fields of teaching and research in Romance Studies. The institute offered courses to and cooperated with other faculties and fields of study.
As happened elsewhere, the phase of creation and extension was soon to be followed by an era of austerity. Since 1982, when consolidation of the entire Faculty of Humanities and Philosophies had narrowly been averted for the first time, the Department of Romance Studies continued to further cooperation within RWTH Aachen University and prevailed: The Department of Romance Studies in Aachen became one of the most frequented in North Rhine Westphalia. Yet, following a "memorandum" in 2004 the fields of teaching and research were cut down to only French and Spanish and as of 2008 this was restricted even further to teacher training in French and Spanish only. The same year, the Department of English and American Studies and the Department of Romance Studies were merged to form a single Department of English, American and Romance Intercultural Studies.
In 2014 the Rectorate of RWTH Aachen University announced the closure of Romance Studies within the department, effective as of 2023. The Department of Romance Studies was completely surprised by this decision. Nobody within the staff had been given prior notice and they were not given the opportunity to present their own ideas to avert termination of their department and subsequently their jobs. The resolution made by the Deans Office of the Faculty on June 25th, 2014 was communicated via an invitation to a board meeting on July 16th, 2014 dated from July 8th, 2014.
The grim future…
Closing the department does not necessarily mean self-surrender. Even if the Department of Romance Studies also commemorated its 50th anniversary in 2015 with the end in sight, we will continue to pass on knowledge and experience to the next generations until the doors are forever closed. Since 2006 contact to francophone states in Africa has been intensified. A cooperation with the Université Félix Houphouët Boigny in Abidjan was forged, from which research projects, colloquia, joined PhD projects and publications emerged. After the civil war ended, interdisciplinary collaboration in civil engineering was reinitiated, with the Department of Romance Studies acting as an intercultural mediator in these projects. Simultaneously, starting in 2010, a scientific exchange with Brasil – a main region of RWTH Aachen Unversity’s monetary focus – has been initiated which originally focused on the Arts and Humanities, but can now be extended to fields of engineering.