Welcome from the Director of Undergraduate Studies

Multiple images: Simon Gikandi stands, a blackboard behind him. Students sit at desks, at seminar tables, and on a stone wall

Welcome to the Department of English! English is a global language, and our courses offer students of all majors the opportunity to study the varieties and historical development of anglophone literatures and cultures. Here students acquire detailed knowledge of how literatures in English relate, stylistically and historically, to other languages and cultures; students learn, moreover, how particular literatures and theories address, and are implicated in, historical operations of power and empire as well as regimes of race, class, sex, and gender. Courses in the Department of English afford students skills and resources for communicating effectively and deliberately as well as for understanding how and why English is integral to contemporary global discourse.  In other words, we train our attention to language: reading closely and carefully, with an eye to important historical, rhetorical, and grammatical aspects of English, crucial to understanding the ethical impact of language and the stakes of writing and representation.  
The Department of English offers a wide range of exciting courses that ask students to consider, anew, how and why “literature” is a meaningful and effective category of expression.  Many courses, for instance, focus on abiding forms of literature: the essay, the novel, the play, or the poem, among other powerful modes of expression. Other courses delve deep into varieties of historical literature in English: medieval romance, African American literature, Shakespeare and early modern theater, Indigenous literatures, modernism, 19th-century literature from the Americas, literature for children, 20th-century musicals, or American cinema, among other periods and archives. Other classes yet introduce students to theoretical and critical approaches to literature and language at large; courses on phenomenology, psychoanalysis, ethics, close reading, ideology, and many other key figures and movements help students understand that the study of power, persuasion, and representation so often involves a close analysis of language and literature.   
English has much to offer, whether you are already a committed major, considering our new English minor, or simply eager to think carefully and critically about language and literature.  Our faculty rank among the best teachers in the university, compelling lecturers and seminar leaders and dedicated supervisors of independent work. Many students opt to follow special tracks within the major, in creative writing and theater, and we encourage and support concentrators with diverse interests to pursue creative interdisciplinary projects.  While we hope this website might provide a sense of our program, the best introduction is to take a course with us.  And please do email me ([email protected]) if you have any questions of concerns.

Russ Leo
Director of Undergraduate Studies