A Degree in English

Welcome to the Department of Literatures in English

About the Major

The Department of Literatures in English offers courses in English literature, American literature, African American and ethnic literatures, dramatic literature, poetry, autobiography, science fiction, detective novels, critical theory, and a great deal more. Students who elect to major in English have wide-ranging interests and goals, but what they tend to share is a fascination for the way in which human experience takes shape in and through language. The English major exposes students to what is regarded as the canon of English literature as well as to literatures that speak from cultural, racial, or economic margins. 

An English major also provides students with the necessary skills for reading intelligently and critically and for writing clearly and persuasively. It invites them to ponder questions raised by contemporary literary theory, such as

  • How does a reader create meaning from a text? 
  • How do different methods of interpretation open up varied and even contradictory ways of reading a text? 
  • How does literature shape, and how is it shaped by, history and culture? 

Above all, an English major expands students’ awareness of the complexities that confront human beings from varying walks of life while awakening them to the profound value of attentive critical analysis. Our majors learn not to rely on easy answers but to see instead the value in posing better questions.  

The English Classroom, Advanced Work, Special Work

Students in English can look forward to participating in small, animated classes that emphasize group discussion and active student involvement. More advanced students may participate in seminars and work individually with faculty members on subjects of mutual interest in independent studies and honors projects. In the past, students have investigated such topics as “Race and Slavery in the American Novel,” “Incarnations of Helen of Troy in Literature,” and “Shakespeare's Body.”

Many English majors choose to participate in events sponsored by Omega Psi, our local chapter of the Sigma Tau Delta international English honor society. Our students have also presented work at national conferences and published it in regional and national undergraduate journals. English education majors spend a week teaching at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem before their semester-long placements in local secondary schools. 

Careers in English

The English major provides an excellent foundation for innumerable career choices. Some of our majors become secondary school teachers. Others go on to graduate school or to professional schools for degrees in English, law, public administration, and other fields. Some enter service programs such as the Peace Corps or Teach for America. Many others go directly into the work world after receiving their bachelor’s degrees. Our graduates have become journalists, writers, editors, managers, and consultants. One recent graduate is now an administrative assistant for the Arts and Business Council in New York City; another was hired as the director of public relations for Baume and Mercier; a third is presently in charge of marketing for the Child Welfare League of America. 

Whatever their chosen career path, English majors leave us having been trained to understand the challenges of communication and interpretation in a world that speaks in many voices. The English major prepares students to enter that conversation with inquisitiveness, sensitivity, and imagination. 

Alum Maddie Stengel Becomes Lead Speechwriter for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois

2018 Alum Maddie Stengel has landed the job of lead Speechwriter for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, Juliana Stratton. As lead Speechwriter, she is responsible for shaping and maintaining consistency in the Lt. Governor's public voice. Stengel works closely with Lt. Governor Stratton to write all remarks given at official events. Stengel is the primary editor for the Office's broader communications including media quotes and press briefings. Additionally, she supports written content for the Lt. Governor's statutory councils and her independent initiatives. We wholeheartedly congratulate Maddie on all her prestigious work! 

Andrés N. Ordorica Publishes Debut Novel "How We Named the Stars"

2011 alum, Andrés N. Ordorica's debut novel How We Named the Stars, has been met with glowing praise from The New York Times, Publishers Review, and Kirkus Review. Ordorica has been named one of The Observer's Best New Novelists of 2024How We Named the Stars is a beautiful novel about the balance between love and grief, and being at the cusp of adult life, Ordorica has crafted a truly remarkable novel. Congratulations from the entire Literatures in English Department, Andrés! 

Alum Greg Burns Admitted to USC PhD program

 In the fall of 2024 alum Greg Burns ’13, will be attending University of Southern California's Dana and David Dornslife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences! Through this program, he will begin graduate study in English on route to PhD research. The eventual focus of his PhD studies will revolve primarily around 20th and 21st-century writers and filmmakers with a particular focus on Marxism, poetics, theory, and the environment. USC’s PhD program is highly competitive, we could not be more proud of Greg for earning a coveted spot in this program. Many warm congratulations from the department, Greg!

Contact the Department of English

Chris Holmes
Associate Professor & Chair

Kenesha Chatman
Administrative Assistant

309 Muller Center