The Department of English teaches analytical and critical reading, lucid and effective writing, and studies the values and problems of human experience and culture.
The Department of English offers a wide range of courses in English, American, and Anglophone literature as well as in creative writing, expository writing, and film analysis. Literature courses focus variously on close reading of texts, study of particular authors and genres, questions of critical theory and method, and the relationship of literary works to their historical contexts and to other disciplines. Writing courses typically employ the workshop method in which students develop their skills by responding to criticism of their work by their classmates as well as their instructors. Many students supplement their formal course work in English by attending public lectures and poetry readings sponsored by the department or by writing for campus literary magazines. The department seeks not only to foster critical analysis and lucid writing but also to teach students to think about the nature of language and to be alert to both the rigors and the pleasures of reading texts of diverse inspiration.
As part of the university-wide First-Year Writing Seminars program administered by the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, the department offers many one-semester courses dealing with various forms of writing (e.g., narrative, autobiographical, and expository), with the study of specific areas in English and American literature, and with the relation of literature to culture.
Students who major in English develop their own programs of study in consultation with their major advisors. Some choose to focus on a particular historical period or literary genre or to combine sustained work in creative writing with the study of literature. Others pursue interests in such areas as women’s literature, African-American literature, literature and the visual arts, or critical theory. Second-semester sophomores who have done superior work in English and related subjects are encouraged to seek admission to the departmental program leading to the degree of bachelor of arts with honors in English. For students majoring in fields other than English, the department provides a variety of courses at all levels.