*The following article originally appeared on the UNC Global Website*
The home for research and study of the French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish languages and associated cultures in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has formally changed its name from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures to the Department of Romance Studies.
The department aims to preserve, increase and transmit knowledge and understanding of the Romance languages, literatures and cultures within the transnational and regional contexts in which they have developed.
“The name change reflects the new face of language, literary and cultural studies and complements recent changes in the department’s administrative structure, graduate programs and academic culture,” said Federico Luisetti, chair of the department.
This shift follows a national trend of other departments of Romance studies—at institutions such as Cornell and Duke universities—that have attempted to break down traditional methodological and national barriers to emphasize interdisciplinary research and scholarship, rather than separating language instruction and cultural research.
“What ‘Romance Studies’ captures is a key strength of our faculty, composed of scholars who apply a variety of approaches ─ historical, linguistic, philological, sociopolitical, cultural, visual and theoretical ─ to the teaching and study of languages and literary and nonliterary texts and cultures of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas,” said Luisetti.
This fall, the department will host a one-day symposium that will bring together scholars from Romance Studies across the nation to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the discipline.
Romance languages were among the first subjects taught at UNC, and this is not the first name change to the department. It was originally called the department of modern languages (French and German) when it was constituted in 1885. It split in 1909 into the department of Romance Languages and the department of Germanic Languages. The latter is now the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures.
Since then, several other languages have been added to the Romance Studies mix, including Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and other historical languages of Europe and the Americas, such as Basque, Catalan, Galician and Guaraní.