In English, writing and cultural production are both the primary objects of study and our defining scholarly and creative practices. Because of this, almost every course in the major focuses in some way on the analysis and/or practice of writing and cultural production. Because we take writing seriously, we have integrated it into each level of our curriculum as a series of graduated “steps” that teach students progressively more demanding and sophisticated forms of written expression including developing forms of writing across different media platforms.
In the three required Foundations courses, we introduce students to the content and skills needed to study English as a discipline. Writing assignments in these courses tend to be short and to emphasize foundational skills of close reading and clear analytic and explanatory writing. Students complete a wide range of writing assignments, including short response papers, blog posts, and essay exams. More substantial writing and research projects may be assigned toward the end of the courses, including assignments that ask students to synthesize key concepts in various written forms—close reading essays, arguments and analysis based on archival work, mock syllabi, mock-anthologies, website development, etc. Many courses also incorporate critical readings and presentations that model the major creative and critical writing practices that make up our professional field.
Each student takes Lower-Level electives, which develop their ability to deploy close reading and evidence-based argument. These courses largely serve as introductions to the study of a specific field or genre in literary, media, and cultural studies, and they serve both majors and non-majors. Because of this, assignments focus on response and close reading, and some courses include creative assignments that ask students to try their own hand at the genres being studied. In these courses, faculty typically assign several short, directed papers (2-4 pages) and one longer final paper or project (anywhere from 7-10 pages, and including some of the assignments listed in Step One) in a semester. Lower-level creative writing courses emphasize basic elements of craft and genre, and introduce students to an array of discourses regarding creative writing praxis.
Students also take Upper-Level electives, more rigorous courses that consequently involve more complex and demanding forms of writing. Because these courses engage much more deeply with our field than our lower-level courses, they place particular emphasis on research skills and the integration of research findings into the students’ analyses. Writing in these courses usually includes several shorter papers (5-7 pages) and culminates in a research paper or project of at least 10-15 pages [such projects might involve digital production]. At this level, students also begin to choose and shape their own topics for papers, often delving deeply into a research topic, to emphasize writing in the discipline as a conversation among experts. Our upper-level creative writing courses engage complex conversations regarding form, method, aesthetics, genre, content, and poetics. Students are asked to develop, refine, and interrogate their writing practice in conversation with contemporary and/or historical modes of creative production.
The English major culminates in a Senior Seminar course. At this level, we expect students to be able to research and produce highly original analyses of literary, media, and/or cultural texts, as well as creative writing projects, under the guidance of the professor and in consultation with his/her peers. Many senior seminars require abstracts and annotated bibliographies in order to directly model the professional process of developing an original, independent research/writing project. This is the apex of “integrated writing,” as students are asked to bring all of their skills from the Foundation courses, Lower- and Upper-Level electives into the production of a long critical research or creative writing project (20-25 pages or equivalent assignment). The senior seminar course also includes our honors thesis pro-seminar, where students pursue 40-60 page critical and creative projects across the span of the academic year.
Sharp analytical writing and well-crafted creative writing borne from a deep critical study of literature, culture, and media are the keys to our discipline’s professional practices, as well as the calling card of English majors as they enter a variety of professions or pursue additional study after graduation. In all classes, we aim to wed specific literary and cultural content to forms of writing that emphasize skill, depth, and engagement with the critical and/or creative conversations that make up our discipline. As students move through the curriculum, they gain tools to make their eventual work at the upper level and senior seminar courses original and thoughtful contributions to specific fields within literary and cultural studies.
Writing & Culture Seminars (WRIT 015)
Methods of Literary and Cultural Studies (ENGL 090)
Literary History I and II (ENGL 091, 092)
- ENGL 091 Literary History I: The Middle Ages through the 18C (McNamer)
- ENGL 092 Literary History II: The Late 18C to Present (Rifkin)