Welcome to the English Department

About the Major

The Department of 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 Projects

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.

Minors Featuring English Courses

You can extend your study in English via minors that include courses in English and other fields (click on the link to see the IC catalog's description of each minor): classical studies; comparative literature; Jewish studies; medieval and Renaissance studies; women's studies.

Careers in English

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.

Professor Katharine Kittredge Featured in IC View
Prof Kittredge in the Archive

Katharine Kittredge, Professor of English, is featured in the current issue of IC View for her research on the writing of the Anglo-Irish poet and memoirist Melesina Trench.

Kittredge is preparing a biography of Trench, which will include material drawn from her recent discovery of Trench's "mourning journal," which documents Trench's grief following the death of her two-year-old son, Frederick, in 1806.

The article is entitled "Chasing the Ghost of Melesina Trench."

Professor Derek Adams takes students to see acclaimed author Jesmyn Ward
Professor Adams takes students to literary event in Buffalo

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."

English Faculty Member publishes article on Ben Jonson
Dyani Taff

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.
https://doi.org/10.1086/699623

The English Department Welcomes New Faculty
English Department New Faculty

Before joining the English and Women’s & Gender Studies faculty at IC, Katie Gemmill was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Vassar College, where she taught courses in Romanticism, eighteenth-century literature and queer studies. She earned her PhD from Columbia University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature in 2017; before that she did an MA in English at McGill University in Montreal, QC, and a BA in English and Italian at Queen’s University in her hometown of Kingston, ON. Her research focuses on conversation in the novel, specifically how eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century writers found creative ways to make speech come alive on the printed page. This year she’ll be teaching Introduction to Poetry, Introduction to Women’s & Gender Studies, and a seminar in Romantic Poetry and Queer Ecology. Her other interests include adaptation and the long eighteenth century on screen, and theories and representations of the menstrual cycle. She’s thrilled to be here at IC!

The English Department Welcomes New Faculty
Alexis Kellner Becker

Alexis Kellner Becker comes to Ithaca College from the University of Chicago, where she was a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. Before that, she received her PhD from Harvard University; before that, she studied English and Classics at the University of Chicago, and, before that, she grew up in central Maine. Her research focuses on the material, environmental, and economic underpinnings of medieval literary production. In particular, she writes about how farming and literature are inseparable and about how notionally "illiterate" peasants read, wrote, and edited texts. Her other interests include gender, language politics, the history of reading and the book, the history of the study of medieval literature, histories of dissent, and pop music. This autumn, she will be teaching Medieval Literature and History and Structure of the English Language, and she is thrilled to be here at Ithaca College.

Olivia Forker wins Ibsen Society of America Essay Contest!
Olivia Forker

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.

English Department celebrates Jim Swafford
Jim Swafford Retires

The English Department, faculty and students, gathered to celebrate the career of Professor Jim Swafford on the occasion of his retirement. Professor Swafford spent more than three decades as a member of the English Department, where he served terms as a chair, and wrote and taught courses on the Romantics. He was an incredibly popular professor lauded by students for his attention to poetic form and his incisive work developing students' writing. The celebration, held at Buffalo Street Books, featured speeches from Professor Hugh Egan and Claire Gleitman, and student Rachel Balzano. Jim will be sorely missed.

Allison Reynolds wins The Michael Clark Essay Prize '18
Allison Reynolds wins Michael Clark Prize

Allison Reynolds (English/Writing) has won the annual Michael Clark Essay Prize, given to the best undergraduate essay on a Renaissance subject. The prize is named for beloved student Michael Clark, who passed away tragically in his Junior Year at the College. Allison is pictured with Michael's parents, Martha and Peter Clark, whose generous support of Ithaca College funds this essay prize, as well as an annual academic scholarship in Michael's name. The English Department congratulates Allison on her wonderful essay.

Chair of English, Dan Breen, has been awarded the Gerald R. Rubio Prize by the International Sidney Society
dan breen publishes two articles

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.

Professor Jennifer Spitzer Publishes with Studies in the Novel
professor jennifer spitzer

Professor Spitzer's article, "'I Find My Mind Meeting Yours': Rebecca West's Telepathic Modernism," is forthcoming in the prestigious journal, Studies in the Novel.

English Department Graduate Accepted to PhD Program at Emory University
Hannah Hjerpe-Schroeder '11

Hannah Hjerpe-Schroeder (English '11), has been accepted to the PhD program in English at Emory University in Atlanta. Emory's program is one of the most elite in the country, enrolling 7-9 students per year in the program. Hannah will be fully funded for the entirety of the PhD, including a stipend for living expenses. She plans to focus her doctorate on postcolonial and queer literatures. The English Department sends its warmest congratulations to Hannah on this achievement. She joins English graduates from the last 8 years who have been admitted to PhD programs at Duke, Brown, Penn State, Harvard (Divinity School), and Indiana University.

Professor Katharine Kittredge helps to save women's suffrage celebration
Professor Kittredge

Professor Kittredge, a board member of the Lisle Free Library, learned that an commemoration of women's suffrage at the library was in danger of being cancelled after the untimely death of one of the librarians.

“As a member of the women's studies faculty at IC, I felt it was especially important that this anniversary was properly acknowledged,” Kittredge said. “We thought about this as an educational opportunity and not just a celebration, creating something that could stay in the library and help inform people about this particular historical place.”

She reached out to students interested in women’s history and graphic design, who then stepped in to bring the centennial celebration back to life. The team of students, led by Naomi Hanson ’19, included Alexandria Paul ’19, Clare Nowalk ’20, Julianne Grillo ’20 and Jackie Marusiak ’21. Read more here!

2014 English Major Zachary Krowiak admitted to Brown University for a PhD in Literature
Zack Krowiak

Zachary Krowiak began his studies at Ithaca College majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). However, after enrolling in a course on the short story in his second semester, he very quickly changed his major to English Literature. Zack is a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English national honor society as well as the interdisciplinary national honor society Phi Kappa Phi. In addition, he has published his writing in on-campus magazines such as Buzzsaw, The Mirror, and Zoetic. Since graduating, he has been tutoring essay composition, Spanish, and the SAT. This fall, Zack will be beginning a doctoral program in English Literature at Brown University, a six-year, fully-funded PhD program.

Check out what recent English alums are doing in graduate school and the workplace