Why do we love to read? Do we love the cozy feeling of the big armchair and the texture of the pages? The transportability of the Kindle? Do we appreciate the craft of language, the art of words? Do we find ourselves drawn in by a great narrative, by characters that face trials we have passed through ourselves? Or are we perhaps drawn in by models of character that we hope someday to emulate? Do we read for connection to the ever-receding realm of history? Do we love the escape? We study literature for all of these reasons. Great literature raises questions about the human experience and invites us to wander in the textual richness of other disciplines like religion, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, history, and even medicine. The study of literary art humanizes us in a world straining toward the scientific and the quantitative, pulling us back to reason, balance, social conscience, and integrity.
Students choosing an English concentration in literature study an array of authors, works, periods, and topics in poetry, drama, fiction, and non-fiction. A gateway course, Literary Interpretation introduces students to the pleasures and rewards of close textual reading. We encourage students who want more background in the vocabulary of literary analysis to pursue our genre courses in drama, fiction, and poetry. The core courses in British and American literature focus on reading for critical and historical context. The literature capstone course is a senior seminar offered every term on variable topics that offer intensive study of single or multiple authors or a particular literary mode or genre. Upcoming senior seminars include the study of the epic, the Literature of Slavery, Southern Literature, and one on Hawthorne and Melville. In the past, the Department has offered senior seminars on William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Mark Twain.
Along the way, students will study Shakespeare, learn the basics of editing, and become acquainted with the history of the English language through their choice of linguistics courses. They can also select from a wide array of interdisciplinary courses that create bridges to Africana Studies, Women’s Studies, American Studies, and the medical humanities, among others.
For those interested in doing focused work on the intersections between race and literature, the Department offers a variety of options: Recent Writing by African Americans, Multicultural and Ethnic Literature, Post-colonial Literature, 20th-Century African Literature, Harlem Renaissance, Caribbean Literature, Black Masculinity, African-American Poets, 20th-Century African-American Writers, South African Literature and Society, and Native American Literature, among others.
Those who would like to study the intersections between gender and literature also have a number of options: Introduction to Women and Literature, Studies in Women and Literature with variable topics such as Women Writers of the Early Modern Period and the Literature of Domesticity, variable titles in Caribbean Women Writers and Black Masculinity, a senior seminar in Austen/ Wharton, and 19th-Century American Women Writers. Literature faculty are at work on courses in working-class studies and on graduate-level surveys in American and British literature.
With a major in literature, students can pursue a variety of careers. Our graduates have gone on to become professionals in business, education, law, medicine, publishing, public relations, and entertainment. Literature majors are prized for their ability to synthesize abstractions in a clear and precise way that their employers appreciate; for their tolerance and broad understanding of the human condition; for the power and clarity of their writing; and their attention to detail. Check out our advising page and see more specifically how English majors have made their mark in the world.