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.
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.
The English major provides an excellent foundation for innumerable career choices. Some of our majors become secondary school teachers after completing the English teaching option available with our major. 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.
Minors Featuring English Courses
Ian Sawyer was an English major at Ithaca College interested in Modernism and 20th century American literature. He graduated in 2019 and is now pursuing a PhD in English at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he has been given five years of full funding. UNC’s program places an emphasis on preparing its graduate students to be teachers as well as scholars, and therefore all PhD students teach undergraduate classes starting in their first or second years of the program. The students in this program typically spend their first three years taking classes, their fourth year in exams, and the rest of their time in the program writing a dissertation.
Barbara Cole, Artistic Director of the "Just Buffalo Literary Center", which hosts authors through the Babel Literary Series: https://www.justbuffalo.org/, tweeted her joy at seeing Professor Adams and his IC English students at Jesmyn Ward's reading:
"This dedicated prof brought his amazing students thru the snow 3+ hours from Ithaca College to Just Buffalo's BABEL series to hear the brilliant Jesmyn Ward. Here they are before the return trip. This, dear readers, gives me hope for the future."
Lecturer in English Dyani Johns Taff has published an article with the journal Renaissance Drama, a major publication in Renaissance studies. The English Department applauds Dr. Taff on her achievement and her continued contributions to the scholarly and pedagogical life of the Department.
Dyani Johns Taff "Gendered Circulation and the Marital Ship of State in Jonson’s The Staple of News," Renaissance Drama 46, no. 2 (Fall 2018): 193-212.
English Major Olivia Forker's essay, "The Final Escape: How Women Find Freedom in Life and Death in Hedda Gabler," has been chosen by the board of the Ibsen Society of America to receive the first place ($500) ISA Undergraduate Essay Prize. In addition to publication on the Ibsen Society website, Olivia will offered travel assistance to attend the national Ibsen Society conference. Olivia wrote this essay for Professor Claire Gleitman's "Dangerous Women in Dramatic Literature" seminar. Professor Gleitman encouraged her to submit the essay to the Ibsen contest. The English Department congratulates Olivia on this wonderful prize.
Dan Breen, Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of English, has been awarded the Gerald R. Rubio Prize by the International Sidney Society for his article, "Redeeming the Sonnet Sequence: Desire and Repentance in Caelica."
The award is given annually for the year's best essay in the Sidney Society's academic publication Sidney Journal, as voted on by the Sidney Council, the Society's governing body. Sidney Journal serves to highlight current scholarship on the work of the Renaissance poet Sir Philip Sidney, as well as that of his friends, correspondents, and family members.
The essay appears in summer 2017's special double issue of Sidney Journal devoted to the work of Fulke Greville.