The English Program encourages students to develop sophisticated ways of understanding, creating, and responding to texts. English majors and minors, and students in the Integrative Studies Program, choose from a range of courses we offer in literary and cultural studies, writing and literacy. Majors complete nine core courses that emphasize the study and practice of close reading, critical thinking and effective writing.
Courses and Curriculum
The program objectives offer students a clear conceptual framework for undergraduate study:
Production and Reception: The program teaches how historical, social, and cultural contexts shape literary works-including those works produced by cultures whose humanity and identity have been devalued, denied, or dismissed;
Language and Poetics: The program introduces students to the major genres of literature, rhetorical and literary strategies, and the ways in which literary works relate intertextually.
Criticism and Theory: The program introduces students to historical contexts and critical theories that shape literary analysis and inform scholarly debates in the field of literary studies.
Reading and Writing: The program teaches careful reading, the use of literary vocabulary, an orderly critical approach, and the use of writing for a range of purposes.
The English major is organized around an introductory and an advanced course sequence:
The Introductory Sequence: This sequence is designed to introduce students to English studies. English 215, Literary Analysis, is an introduction to the major in English that concentrates on refining critical reading abilities through intensive writing. Students learn to ask questions about literary texts – their authorship, historical contexts, genres, construction, and the reasons for their complexity. The introductory sequence concludes with English 315: Literary Form and History, a study of literary form and history through readings and theoretical investigations of a single genre, such as poetry, fiction, drama, or the essay.
The Advanced Sequence: English 395 & 495 offers students in the junior and senior year an opportunity for in-depth study in an area of English studies.
Professor Mallon has offered a sequence on British women writers who have made their literary reputations by claiming the genre of the novel as their own. Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontes, Virginia Woolf, Jeanette Winterson provided the primary texts in the fall course alongside the theoretical discussions that dismissed or “canonized” them as writers. The second half of the sequence focused on Virginia Woolf—both her fiction and her abundant contributions to literary criticism and theory.
Professor Anna Schur taught an upper-level sequence entitled “Stories of Justice: Law and Literature.” As professor Schur writes, the image of blindfolded Lady Justice, with a scale in hand, dates back to the times of Classical Antiquity. It invites us to think of justice as objective and consistent, austere and rationalistic. We are accustomed to believe that these principles inform the law, or at least the law at its best: the kind of law that strives to achieve justice. But how does literature portray the workings of justice? How does it test our assumptions about what justice ought to be? In the first part of this two-semester sequence, students read literary works reflecting on the meaning and limits of formal justice, particularly legal justice, as it is represented in such texts as Sophocles’ Antigone, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Melville’s Billy Bud, Sailor, Tolstoy’s Resurrection, and Camus’ The Stranger, to name just a few. These readings prepared students for a more extensive discussion of the relationship between legal and poetic justice in the second part of the sequence.
Professor Stroup’s sequence, “Romanticism: Texts and Contexts,” focused on British Romanticism, especially on poetry by British writers between the years 1789 and 1832. Students read a novel that connects to several key themes of the period and consider the “sister” arts of painting and music In the second half of this sequence students considered several issues of great importance for literary studies that emerge from engagement with the Romantic period.
Professor Bailey’s two-part sequence offered students a survey of West Indian drama, poetry, and prose fiction published in the first half of the twentieth century. Students explored the major themes and stylistics choices of writers who produced their works in early post-emancipation societies. Students considered the significance of a British literary tradition and creole vernacular cultures in shaping an emerging literary tradition. Writings by Louise Bennett, H.D. DeLisser, CLR James, Claude McKay, Jean Rhys and others anchored this course.
Professor Long’s “American Poetry & Poetics” engaged students in a year-long study of American poetry with a focus on the excitement and attendant controversies that circulate among readers and writers of poetry as they wrestle with broader questions about language, culture and imagination.
And professor Lebeaux’s upper-level sequence offered students a year-long study in 19th Century American Literature that began with 19th Century American Literature: Texts and Contexts and culminated in a course focused on critical approaches to, and debates about, selected key texts in 19th Century American fiction including Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and Chopin’s The Awakening. In the second course in the sequence, students entered into the ongoing scholarly/critical debates in the field.