As we celebrate 250 years of English Literature at Edinburgh we can reflect on two and a half centuries of success, distinction and innovation.
Our English Literature department can lay claim to being the oldest of its kind in the world.
More than 250 years ago, the University had the foresight to begin offering courses in what was then known as 'rhetoric and belles lettres'.
Then, in 1762 the Reverend Hugh Blair was appointed as the first Regius Chair in the subject by George III.
Under the guidance of the pioneering Blair, students were encouraged to move away from the study of solely Latin and Greek texts.
He introduced his pupils to a much broader range of writing, ultimately developing the academic discipline of literary criticism as we know it today.
Sixteen Regius Professors have followed down to the present day, with Professor Greg Walker the current Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature.
The department is still at the forefront of understanding literature and what makes ‘lettres’ ‘belles’. It remains a vigorous centre of scholarship, teaching and learning.
English Literature is also home to the renowned James Tait Black Memorial Prizes - Britain's oldest literary awards - judged annually by staff and students from the department.
Distinguished literary alumni include Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, JM Barrie and more recently best-selling author Ian Rankin.
When I was a student at Edinburgh I felt a great connection to the writers who’d studied here in the past. It was a continuum, a great thrill, being a student at an institution that has had so many amazing people go through it.
English Literature graduate
This article was published on Mar 2, 2012