Department of Literature and Theater studies
The Department of Literature and Theatre Studies was founded in 2007 in the course of a structural reform and on the basis of the former Department of Literature and Folklore although the formation of the specialities and subsections had started earlier. The department is formed of three chairs: the Chair of Estonian Literature, the Chair of Comparative Literature and the Chair of Theatre Studies.
The Chair of Estonian Literature is one of the oldest chairs at the University of Tartu, having been opened in 1919 when the University of Tartu was reopened as a national university (being at the moment of opening the Chair of Estonian and General Literature lead by its first head Professor Gustav Suits in 1919–1944). Estonian literature thus belongs to the basic structure of the University of Tartu as a ‘national university’. The mission of the Chair of Estonian Literature is studying and teaching the essence, history, and functioning of the ’national text’ ; studying and teaching the historical and cultural background of the formation of Estonian literature; viewing different literary genres and types of literature in the comparative and historical context; shaping the students’ ability of interpreting literary texts and developing their aesthetic sensibility; estimation of the traditions of the Estonian Literary Museum as the centre of Estonian national literary culture. The head of the chair is Professor Arne Merilai.
The Chair of Comparative Literature holds teaching comparative Western literary history from antiquity till today as its basic task. The aim of the studies is to demonstrate historical changes in literature as an intercultural process. The courses of the Western comparative literary history enable the students to get an overview of the main trends and the intellectual phenomena of the Western cultural history. A special stress in the courses of world literature is laid on interrelating Estonian literature and culture with the phenomena of world literature and on discussing the reception of the world (and above all the Western) literature. Comparative literature studies also literary interrelations and interrelations of literature with other arts (visual arts, music) and fields of scholarly study (aesthetics, philosophy, history, anthropology, etc.) viewing them in the perspective of literary and cultural theories.
At the University of Tartu of the Soviet period Western literature was taught at the Chair of Western Literature and Classic Studies headed by Villem Alttoa; several leading figures of literary studies of the time Richard Kleis, Arthur-Robert Hone, Ott Ojamaa and Albert Trummal worked at the chair. In the period of 1970-1979 courses of the history of Western literature were taught by the Chair of Estonian Literature and Folklore. In 1980 the Chair of Foreign (World) Literature was founded headed by Professor Harald-Heino. At this chair worked Professor Juri Lotman and Professor Larissa Volpert. After the restitution of the Republic of Estonia Jüri Talvet became the head of the speciality of world literature.
Theatre Studies is a relatively young field of study; its courses started to be taught at the University of Tartu since 1992. The aim of the Bachelor and Master’s programmes of theatre studies is to offer a deep knowledge of the history of Estonian and world theatre and drama; to acquire the skills of performance analysis and to study and learn to apply various methods of theatre theory (theatre semiotics, reception theory, etc.). The projects of the Chair of Theatre Studies are centred on the methods of performance analysis and studies of reception but the chair also participates in studying the history of theatre. The chair cooperates with institutions for training actors – the School of Dramatic Art of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and the Chair of Theatre Arts at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy. International cooperation takes mostly place through the work groups of the International Federation of Theatre Research FIRT. The chair is headed by Anneli Saro.
Estonian literature and theatre courses are taught at the Bachelor’s; Master’s and Doctoral levels; world literature is taught at the Master’s and Doctoral level.
In collaboration with the Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics two additional specialities are taught: teacher of Estonian language and literature and teacher of Estonian literature at the non-Estonian schools.
Programme leaders of the department:
Liina Lukas – literature and cultural studies (Bachelor’s programme) and literary and theatre studies (Master’s programme);
Kristin Kuutma – literature and cultural studies (Doctors’ programme).