‘English Studies in the Future University’

It is well known that English is now the dominant medium of politics, commerce, media and communications, and is often regarded as the global lingua franca; that English language cultural products (books, films, music) have the widest global circulations; and that a quarter of the world’s population uses English regularly (an unprecedented spread). The ideological underpinnings of these developments are contentious, but the dominance of English is undeniable.

Unsurprisingly, English Studies (ES) is now pursued in some form in almost every university worldwide. Even in non-Anglophone contexts a growing number of programmes in various disciplines are delivered in English. If ES is understood broadly as including language and linguistics as well as Anglophone literature and cultural studies (all increasingly intermeshed), it presents a common denominator across universities worldwide. The place of ES in the future university is likely to become more globally integrated and consolidated, and the shape of the discipline and its relation to other disciplines will probably be renegotiated comprehensively.

These potentialities have been examined in a limited way so far. A significant strand of linguistics research currently engages with the study of Global/World Englishes, and accordingly with ELT, ESP, translation/interpretation. The literary and cultural studies aspect of ES has registered these possibilities only unevenly, and is heavily dominated by Anglophone contexts. The battle to embrace postcolonial literary, cultural and scholarly productions is yet relatively recent. So, while ES now contemplates the two inner circles (in native-speaker and postcolonial contexts, following Braj Kachru’s model) of world Englishes with equanimity, the outer circle (English in non-Anglophone contexts) is largely neglected. In various non-Anglophone contexts, however, ES has long been a part of university education, and now is a significant growth area and generates considerable scholarship. The discipline itself is currently divided by several disparate models in different contexts: English Literature, English Language and Linguistics, English Philology, Anglophone area studies.

Since 2005 my research has focused on ES in non-Anglophone contexts such as Bulgaria and Romania, China, and Morocco, to obtain a more holistic view of the discipline than is currently available and to imagine an integrated future shape for it. I have collaboratively organised data collection projects and workshops in various countries. That is necessarily an ongoing project. The fellowship in CRASSH will enable me to take pause and try to conceptualise, in consultation with colleagues, how ES may come to be modelled/practiced with its global remit in view, including within Anglophone centres. I particularly wish to engage closely with the interlingual interfaces and influences which will become more central within ES. These include: ways in which local linguistic and social features are negotiated in ES pedagogy; the modes of circulation of ES scholarship between Anglophone and non-Anglophone contexts; and the degree to which texts in English and other languages interact and cross over. By close attention to current developments in these directions I expect to be able to make inferences about the future of ES. I have touched on these issues in recent publications, and expect to write a monograph on the subject in 2010-2011.


Professor Suman Gupta (English, The Open University) is a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH, Lent 2011.


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