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History of the Institute

Peter Szondi (1929-1971), born in Hungary to Jewish parents, came to feel at home in many languages. A passionate advocate of the idea of a ‘free university’ in Berlin, Szondi became the first Chair of the Institute of Comparative Literature upon its foundation in 1965. Since 2005, our institute has officially borne his name.

From its outset, the Peter Szondi Institute has stood for an innovative, transnational approach to comparative literature, which has helped to foster strong ties to the global academic community. Today, it is one of the leading research organizations in the field of comparative literature worldwide: no other institute of its kind can be found at Berlin’s other universities, and its influence upon the humanities at the FU is profound.

Professors associated with the Peter Szondi Institute play a leading role in various Clusters of Excellence, Collective Research Centers, and Graduate Training Groups funded by the German Research Foundation (“Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft ”). At the same time, they are dedicated pedagogues, who help to carry on the institute’s longstanding commitment to research-oriented teaching. Students can choose from a large selection of courses and are free to attend seminars offered by the FU’s many other institutes engaged in humanities-related teaching and research, with whom the Peter Szondi Institute cooperates very closely. They also stand to profit from the institute’s extensive network of international partner organizations, with several exchange programs offering a wide range of opportunities to study abroad.

If you would like to learn more about the history of our institute, please see the following texts by Prof. Eberhard Lämmert and Prof. Gert Mattenklott (in German):

  • “Ein Schemel für die Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft – und was aus ihm wurde” (talk delivered by Eberhard Lämmert on 18 January 1996)
  • “Rede aus Anlaß des Institutsjubiläums 1996” (talk delivered by Gert Mattenklott on 18 January 1996)
  • “Peter Szondi – Bei Gelegenheit einer Ausgabe von Briefen” (by Gert Mattenklott)