Letter from the Coordinator
What is English? It is: a subject given weighty significance on school curricula in Norway and elsewhere, a language to be studied, a skill to be learned, a global lingua franca, and a medium of cultural expression that has been used to produce a significant body of literature and an ever-multiplying number of cultural texts.
The breadth of the term has been evident over my own education and career. My undergraduate degree was in ‘English’ at a British university, where this meant (for the most part) the study of the literature of Britain and Ireland. Later, I completed a Postgraduate Certificate of Education in Secondary English, again in the UK, where ‘English’ was a school subject and this course helped me develop methods for teaching writing, reading, speaking and listening. I moved to Norway some time after this and first taught English literature in a Department of Foreign Languages, where English was one language among many, and now teach in an institution where the accents in ‘English’ fall on the acquisition and teaching of a second language. Literature continues to play a significant role here; both under the auspices of the national curricula – where literature not only provides models of skilful language use but also remains a subject to be explored in its own right – and in classes on the three-year Bachelor of English, although in keeping with many other institutions in Norway our programme has a greater emphasis on language and linguistics to that of my own undergraduate degree. Studying English in this context can mean studying English not as one of two or many languages, but also as a way of thinking creatively about the study of language itself and our linguistics as well as our cultural studies courses reflect this.
My own ‘English’ story demonstrates how broad the subject can be and staff in the department occupy different positions along the resulting spectrum. Some have years of experience in Norwegian schools teaching the school subject, while others have honed their craft training teachers of English in other international contexts. Among us, we have, too, linguists who are fascinated by the nature and the structure of language in general and others who, moved by such study, have sought to apply their findings to language teaching. Literature specialists are also well-represented. For them, to teach English is to reckon at once with various literary traditions and wider-ranging questions about the nature of people, the roles of societies, and the fate of the world in an age of climate catastrophe. Here, the subject of English asks us to reflect on more than that term can possibly contain and that very excess serves as an invitation to students; English classes are places to develop knowledge, to practise a skill and importantly, too, to grow as people and as thinkers in ways that have implications for both life and work after university.
Our courses here at Nord expose students to the diversity of Englishes with which I have reckoned over a lifetime. The breadth of subject teaching available invites students to develop their own understandings of what remains an at-once ambiguous and ambitious subject. And while I have pointed to the variety of approach amongst our staff, what unites us all is a commitment to students, a passion for teaching, and an eagerness to foster learning. We are always happy to talk to students so if you are interested in any of our courses please drop me or, indeed, anyone you see named on this site, an email with your questions.