Thematic Areas and Research Areas

Thematic Areas and Research Areas

The activities of the Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies are grouped into four thematic areas.

European cultures and identities:

The theme of culture and identity in Europe plays an important role in all European philologies as well as in musicology, theatre, film and media studies, and in linguistics. The large number of disciplines that focus on the cultures, languages and literatures of the smaller European countries is an outstanding feature of the Faculty, and rarely found in other European universities. The language profile of Slavonic studies and Romance studies is indeed highly diversified. Musicology investigates complex questions relating to music, the history of music as well as the perception and effects of music, from the perspectives of history, philology, cultural anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, science and psychology. All of the above disciplines promote the process of reflection on European identities and cultures. Moreover, they respond to the process of global cultural diversification by integrating into their teaching and research the worldwide influence of European culture and the way it is represented outside Europe. Methodologically, the orientation beyond existing subject-defined borders is reflected in an intensified cooperation oriented towards cultural studies.

Global cultures and identities:

With regard to the range and orientation of disciplines that examine cultures and identities in global contexts, the Faculty is among the central locations in Europe. East Asia is investigated with a focus on presentday China, Japan and Korea. South Asia is studied both from a historical view-point and with regard to contemporary aspects of cultural and social anthropology; and in the context of Buddhist studies, the corresponding world-views and history of the reception of those views are examined. In Vienna, the discipline of African studies has a long tradition in terms of linguistics, and has met the challenge of understanding Africa from a ‘global’ perspective, including developments in the African diaspora. In view of increasing globalisation and the resulting new questions and new societal challenges, the above disciplines will play a key role in the future as well. Owing to their engagement with various aspects of non-European societies, they have the potential to respond to changing requirements, and to arrive at a new approach to what is perceived as ‘foreign’, and thus to contribute to social issues in a constructive way. One has to bear in mind in this context that the disciplines whose focus used to be almost exclusively on Europe have, to an increasing extent, started to discuss non-European questions. This applies particularly to English and American studies, as well as Canadian studies, Romance studies, for instance with regard to the reception of the colonial heritage in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Dutch studies, musicology, comparative literature, German studies, as well as theatre, film and media studies.

Communication: systemic and functional dimensions:

Linguistic themes are treated both in the context of individual philologies and across different languages. Here, general linguistics and the linguistic areas of other disciplines, particularly English and American studies, Finno-Ugric studies, German studies and Romance studies are linked within the Faculty. The methodology used in all disciplines is based on socio-historical, systemicfunctional and applied studies of language. Multilingualism is one of the main research areas at the Faculty, and also linked with the Faculty of Philosophy and Education, as well as the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Centre for Teacher Education. Beyond the Faculty, the systemic-functional area of linguistic research is linked with psychology, cognitive science and neurosciences.

Communication: aesthetic and media-related dimensions:

Aesthetic communication is an integral part of all disciplines at the Faculty. Within the traditional philologies, this applies especially to literature studies. In this field the Faculty provides an opportunity of investigating the aesthetic communication of different channels (music, theatre, literature, film, new media) as well as of diverse forms of cultural and linguistic expression, also looking at them from the perspectives of philology, literature studies, cultural studies and comparative literature. Especially in the (sub-)disciplines with a historical orientation, the analysis and (digital) preparation of manuscripts – in the sense of material philology – plays an important role. On the one hand, additional areas of emphasis are defined by the specific situation of Vienna and Austria (with regard to both the availability of ample material and its special position of geographical contact), and on the other, the Faculty regards itself as a pioneer in the discourse on literature, media and cultural theories, also beyond the Austrian context.

In order to further research those areas that have already been successful, the Faculty has defined contemporary Asia, aesthetic communication of the modern period, as well as language acquisition, language development and language contact, as key research and development areas that respond to strong societal demands on the one hand, and reflect current developments in research on the other. In addition, one must take into account the fact that the Faculty has increasingly focused on international contexts, while still preserving the special characteristics that Vienna possesses as a location.

Within the key research areas, specific development focuses are promoted by the Faculty. They enhance the Faculty’s profile insofar as the Faculty’s expansion plans are aimed in this direction, and will be implemented by acquiring third-party funds, reallocating the budget of the Faculty and by using funds that are available through target agreements.

Contemporary Asia

Research on contemporary Asia is one of the Faculty’s key research areas, into which South and East Asia will be integrated as key areas in the next few years, followed by Turkish studies as an area of particular interest. The established focus on Ottoman studies, which takes into account Vienna’s specific historical situation and the sources that have thus been available, will be expanded to include research on the transitional period from the Ottoman Empire to modern Turkey and its development. Turkish studies will therefore be enhanced thanks to the possibility of establishing links with Arabic studies and ancient Near Eastern languages. The expansion of this key research area will complement the Faculty’s research profile with regard to research on modern Asia.

Aesthetic communication of the modern Period

In the context of the key research area of aesthetic communication of the modern period, which has already been covered for several years, the area of theatre, film and media studies will continue to be promoted. This research area has developed very positively in recent years, and in spite of a large teaching workload, has been able to enhance its research profile. Consequently, it is now entering a second stage of development, in which the research profile in this area is rounded off with studies of the cultural history of cinema, which enables close links with the areas of theatre, media and literature studies. Hungarian literature will be another focus in the area of aesthetic communication of the modern period. Finno-Ugric studies play a prominent role at the University of Vienna, and in the area of Hungarian studies, the corresponding literature studies will be further enhanced, with regard to the cooperation with general literature studies as well. This is in line with the recent development of this area in the context of research and teaching, and contributes to the promotion of literature-related research outside Hungary.

Language acquisition, language development and language contact

At present, English and American studies represent the largest discipline in teacher education in Austria. With regard to providing an attractive offer which can compete with university colleges of teacher education in the future, the main advantage of universities is that they enhance researchled teaching. It is therefore particularly necessary for English and American studies, in addition to the existing expertise, to intensify the research area of English language acquisition and teacher education. With regard to teaching practice, the aim here is to enhance the linguistic and didactic areas, in addition to the existing expertise in the cultural and literature-related aspects of English language didactics.

In the next developmental stage, the key research area of language acquisition, language development and language contact will also be intensified through the establishment and consolidation of anew area of psycholinguistics in the context of linguistics. This represents a meaningful addition to the existing linguistic competences at the Faculty, which will also be advantageous for the research in the areas of cognitive science and neuroscience at the University of Vienna.

All three key research areas would profit from the establishment of an inter-faculty key research area of Yiddish studies, which was already envisaged in the previous Development Plan.