Ulrich Broich (1932-2017)

Ulrich Broich, one of the most prominent and influential members of the post-War generation of German professors of English, died on 24 January 2017. His career spans an era dominated by a massive increase in student numbers, a quick succession of proudly advertised and quickly forgotten university reforms, and a never-ending crisis in the humanities which deeply affected English as a university subject. As an internationally distinguished scholar covering a wide field of divers subjects, as a respected teacher with the interests of the younger generations very much at heart, and as a determined administrator who tirelessly safeguarded and promoted the study of English within and outside the university, Ulrich Broich has left an indelible mark on English Studies.

Born on 30 May 1932, Ulrich Broich studied English and German at the universities of Cologne, Freiburg and Bonn. Within the short period of three years, he received his Ph.D. (1957, Bonn) and passed the first and second state examinations (1957, 1959). In 1967, after his Habilitation on the eighteenth-century mock-heroic poem (1966, Erlangen), he was appointed to a chair of English at the Ruhr-University, Bochum. The young scholar who arrived at the newly founded university already had an impressive list of publications to his credit, ranging from a study of medieval patronage to irony in Thackeray’s prose, from the drama of the Restoration period to the contemporary novel. With the benefit of hindsight, it is perhaps easy to detect a specific, and characteristic, pattern in Ulrich Broich’s research and teaching. The study of what one may call paradigms of narrative allowed Ulrich Broich to reinforce the concept of the quintessential English canon representing the outlines of a literary history and, at the same time, to open up new vistas and examine new developments within, as well as in opposition to, literary traditions. The immensely popular Gattungen des modernen englischen Romans (1975) with its discussions of the detective story (shackled and unshackled), the (anti-)Robinsonade, the negative utopia and the neopicaresque novel, neatly sums up Ulrich Broich’s successful Bochum decade.

As Wolfgang Clemen’s successor (1976-2000) at one of the biggest and arguably most prestigious departments of English in Germany, Ulrich Broich continued, and intensified, his research activities. With two former Bochum colleagues, Ulrich Suerbaum and Raimund Borgmeier, he revisited Science Fiction (1981); he would always find new angles and detect new texts for the study of crime literature; he returned, time and again, to the long English eighteenth century, and to the novel in all shapes and guises.

In addition to his workload as a scholar and teacher, Ulrich Broich shouldered the responsibilities of dean of the Faculty of Languages and Literatures (1983-1985) and, above all, of President (1984-1986) and Vice-President (1986-1989) of the Association of University Professors of English (Anglistenverband). Confronted with a university subject suffering from disintegrating tendencies in rapidly changing, and often inimical, circumstances, Ulrich Broich quickly became one of the most outspoken and leading contributors to the debate about English Studies, the canon, new courses, and indeed the welfare of institutionalized Anglistics and its members.

Ulrich Broich, I believe, succeeded, because he was not prepared to abandon standards, yet kept a keen eye on attractive offers for the multitude of students, and because he cherished the values of tradition and, at the same time, had the courage and confidence to support new ideas. The collection of essays that make up Intertextualität. Formen, Funktionen, anglistische Fallstudien (1985), which he edited together with Manfred Pfister, certainly is a case in point. A concept in danger of becoming rather small change was meticulously delimited by the editors and their contributors, its systematic ramifications were carefully discussed and its value presented in a number of relevant case studies. The concept, one may well argue, was anglicized, not only displaying English Studies at its best, but also intimating directions in which research and teaching could develop. In their different ways, later collections, Die Zwanziger Jahre in Großbritannien (ed. with Christoph Bode, 1998) and Britain at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century (ed. with Susan Bassnett, 2001), served a similar purpose.

Although foremost a scholar and a teacher, Ulrich Broich never underestimated the importance of institutions, whether university, faculty or department. From the characteristically cautious ‚do we need a Centre for British Studies?‘ (1990) to the matter-of-fact modesty of ‚we now have a Centre for British Studies!‘ (1995), he significantly and enthusiastically contributed to the establishment of the Centre as an interdisciplinary area studies institute that would help define and strengthen English Studies in the wider context of cultural studies.

Ulrich Broich will be remembered as a close friend and a kind, and indeed fatherly, colleague, whose interest in one’s work in progress could at times be demanding, but was always encouraging. My thoughts are with his wife Christine and his children, Cornelia, Alexander and Susanne. I will miss him.

Elmar Lehmann


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