English Department Mission Statement

The English curriculum in literature and writing trains students in the arts of reading, creative thinking, deft expression, and argumentation.  Studying literature and its kindred arts enables students to recognize the power and beauty of language and to find meaning in the complexities of human experience.  Reading imaginative works from different eras and locating them in their intellectual, historical and social contexts, students come to understand how literature transmits and transforms the cultures that produce it.  Academic work in the discipline fosters lifelong skills that enable students to investigate and respond to critical questions, while helping them live reflective, imaginative lives.  As they take intellectual and imaginative risks in their own writing, students develop their sense of agency and experience the pleasure of engaging with texts and ideas. 

All English majors, whether they follow the literature or the writing track, take courses in literature, a vital part of the humanities and the liberal arts.  Those planning to teach English in primary or secondary school combine literary studies with educational studies courses.  Students interested in journalism combine literature courses with courses in newswriting and reporting.  Students of English prepare themselves for graduate school and for positions in a variety of fields, a short list of which includes advertising, business, consulting, counseling, editing, law, library science, marketing, politics, public relations, publishing, social work, systems analysis, telecommunications, university teaching, web design, and writing of all kinds--any kind of work that requires adeptness in verbal expression, a capacity for thinking critically and creatively, and an ability to envision, design, and execute complex projects.


English Department Goals

The English curriculum as a whole develops students’ abilities to do the following:

  1. think critically, by

    • constructing arguments about literary texts, supporting claims with textual evidence, and making well-justified inferences about the meanings of texts
    • formulating provocative questions and responses to those questions
    • developing and defending original positions and points of view
    • acquiring and learning to apply a critical vocabulary
  2. read perspicaciously, by

    • reading closely and analytically, attentive to nuances
    • seeing literary and critical works within their intellectual, historical, and social contexts
    • engaging works from different literary periods and national traditions to develop a sense of literary history
    • recognizing different genres and styles and their interpretive implications
    • abstracting concepts from concrete particulars so as to show how texts represent the world
    • reading both generously and skeptically
  3. write well, by

    • using writing as a tool for thinking and discovery
    • writing to suit different audiences on different occasions and for different purposes
    • organizing their writing clearly, i.e. fitting the structure of their arguments to the logic of their ideas
    • integrating sources into their own writing and documenting them appropriately
  4. research effectively, by

    • using the most important scholarly resources in the discipline
    • recognizing the critical contexts in which secondary sources operate and the biases those contexts engender
    • organizing a group of sources on a single topic into a coherent discussion, and locating one's own position within that discussion
  5. be creative, by

    • taking imaginative risks
    • taking pleasure in the power and beauty of language
    • writing in multiple genres and modes
    • envisioning, designing and executing complex projects

The creative writing sequence develops students’ abilities to do the following (in addition to those listed above):

  1. engage multiple processes, habits, and strategies for creating new work, by

    • exercising the imagination through serious play and experimentation
    • workshopping (drafting, offering and receiving comments, and revising)
    • preparing and revising work for submission, as part of a course portfolio or in a publication or performance
  2. recognize and experiment with formal and generic conventions, by

    • reading broadly and strategically
    • learning traditions and acquiring models
    • breaking and reconfiguring the rules
  3. produce consequential work that shows the writer is

    • conversant with significant contexts of and issues in contemporary writing
    • committed to his/her own work
    • capable of work that is inventive and surprising

The journalism sequence develops students’ abilities to do the following (in addition to those listed for the English curriculum as a whole):

  1. master news style, by

    • organizing material to deliver information in an effective and engaging way
    • writing stories that display proper syntax and mechanics
    • editing stories for conciseness, precision, accuracy, and liveliness
  2. develop reporting skills, by

    • learning how to “flesh out” stories
    • following information trails and identifying reliable sources
    • becoming familiar with information databases and archival resources
    • developing interviewing techniques           
  3. discover how to cover stories using a multi-media approach, by

    • learning the principles of photojournalism
    • understanding how stories can be told and augmented by emerging media
  4. practice responsible journalism, by

    • understanding the law as it relates to journalists

    • recognizing ethical issues and making sound decisions