Section 2. Rationale for the English Major

What does it mean to study English today? The English department engages that question by offering its students the opportunity to explore literary texts written in Old English, internet texts, American novels, Anglo-Irish literature, queer textuality, Science Fiction, literature of the body, modern poetry, Shakespeare etc.—all kinds of "literatures" written in English. We study the complex interactions between literature, culture and history. At the heart of literary study lies the simple yet striking recognition that language constitutes both a technology of thought and a constituent of human reality. The major in English transforms this recognition into a program of study that develops the critical skills required to negotiate complicated literary and cultural texts. Together, we spend time working on questions like these: (1) how do historical and cultural contexts lend written texts their intelligibility and convey their strange power? (2) How do gender and minority discourses inform our understanding of literature? (3) How does the study of English engage the public sphere in its intersection with other fields, such as cognitive science, social science and information science?

What can one "do" with a degree in English? Graduate and professional schools and employers seek people who can read, write, speak, and analyze—the basic skills acquired by our English majors. Students who study English learn how to think, and to think independently. They are trained to read a variety of literary and cultural works from across centuries and continents and to write proficient and lively arguments. English majors learn about how the past informs the present, become "keepers" of past works and present cultures, and leave college thinking and feeling more deeply about life and how to live it.

Our program is a coherent and comprehensive program of literary studies leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree. The program is academically oriented, providing thorough preparation for graduate studies, and is a strong program for those students desiring a broad liberal arts background. The English major provides the opportunity to develop skills in writing and in critical reading.