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In Memoriam Prof. Dr. Paul K. Goetsch

In Memoriam Prof. Dr. Paul K. Goetsch

Prof. Dr. Paul K. Goetsch

The English Department of the University of Freiburg is mourning the loss of our long-time colleague, the renowned Prof. Dr. Paul K. Goetsch, who passed away on April 7, 2018 after battling a prolonged illness.

Paul Goetsch, born in 1934 in Marburg, was one of the leading post-war scholars of anglophone literatures. His doctoral dissertation was also the first ever written in Germany on the topic of Canadian literature (1960, about Hugh MacLennan). At only 32 years of age, he earned his postdoctoral degree (Habilitation) under Horst Oppel. In 1971, after four years of teaching at the University of Cologne, he moved to the University of Freiburg’s expanding English Department, where he worked tirelessly until his retirement in 2002. Together with his friend and colleague Willi Erzgräber, who passed away in 2001, Paul Goetsch helped establish Freiburg’s English Department as one of the best in Germany.

Paul Goetsch authored several seminal studies in many research areas. He wrote on the nineteenth-century British novel: Die Romankonzeption in England, 1880–1910 (1967), Dickens (1986), Hardys Wessex-Romane (1994); on drama: Bauformen des modernen englischen und amerikanischen Dramas (1977, 1992); on the short story: Studien und Materialien zur Short Story (1971); and on narratology: Lesen und Schreiben im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert (1994). After his retirement he continued to write, publishing several monographs and essays, including Machtphantasien in englischsprachigen Faust-Dichtungen: Funktionsgeschichtliche Studien (2008), Motifs and Themes in Modern British and American Poetry (2013), and Monsters in English Literature (2002). In total, Paul Goetsch published 28 books and approximately 200 journal articles, in addition to many edited volumes. He was a central figure of two of the university’s largest Collaborative Research Centers for the humanities, serving as speaker and vice-speaker of the SFB 321 “Orality and Textuality” and the SFB 541 “Identities and Alterities”. His research for the SFB 321 on political rhetoric in the United States produced several outstanding articles and collected volumes, which have maintained their relevance to this day. He was one of the very few scholars of English studies who was equally at home in British and North American literature as well as in what later came to be called postcolonial studies.

Paul Goetsch was also an exceptionally popular teacher, his lectures achieving cult status. Even at a time when ECTS credits and grades were not awarded, students simply went to listen and be inspired by Goetsch’s enormous wealth of knowledge. He supervised and mentored generations of students, and his exams were always demanding but fair. Hundreds of his former students went on to become secondary school (Gymnasium) teachers (the bulk of English students in Germany being in teacher training). At least nine of his postdocs and more than sixty of his Ph.D. students went on to university posts around the globe, spreading his ideas, thus insuring that Paul Goetsch became one of the few German scholars of British, American and Canadian literatures of his generation to enjoy an outstanding reputation in the English-speaking world.

Freiburg’s English Department has lost an internationally renowned scholar, an inspiring teacher, and a highly respected colleague. He will be sorely missed.

A memorial service for Paul Goetsch was held on Thursday, April 26 at 3 p.m. at the St. Georg Protestant church in Denzlingen.

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