Welcome from the Director of Undergraduate Studies

Welcome to the Department of English. We teach a special kind of knowledge here. If the philosopher works in ideas, the historian in facts, the mathematician in numbers, it is the critic’s business to understand the world through words. That makes the department a great place to be a writer, because powerful writing begins in wide reading. Concentrators read across the long history of English in its global reach. They test the boundaries of reading itself across media and culture. Questions of language open onto the great questions: power, beauty, oppression, emancipation, identity, love.

Diversity is among our strengths. Here you can find courses on Toni Morrison, William Shakespeare, Jacques Derrida, and Emily Dickinson; on Black satire and best sellers and American cinema. Our faculty are some of the best teachers in the university, great lecturers and seminar leaders and dedicated supervisors of independent work. Special tracks within the major, in Creative Writing and Theater, along with a variety of collaborating certificate programs, allow for a wide range of interdisciplinary study. Concentrators learn to write boldly, argue forcefully, and think freely, and they graduate prepared for careers as various as medicine, law, and journalism. They also carry with them a personal canon of vital writing in English, books they will read and reread over a lifetime.

We are a community committed to anti-racism and to meeting the present challenges of the pandemic and the future world that will be reborn from it. This site will offer you an overview of our program, and you can hear directly from current and former students on our Why English? page. But the best introduction is to take a class with us, or drop by office hours, or pick up one of the books on our syllabi. We hope to see you in the halls of McCosh, virtually and, when it is safe, and may it be soon, in person.

Claudia Johnson
Director of Undergraduate Studies