Questions, not settled answers, are at the center of literary studies at Dickinson. The English major is focused on problems, issues, and approaches to literature as much as it is on canonical and noncanonical texts. The department encourages students to be independent critical readers and writers rather than passive recipients of received knowledge or political correctness. The curriculum encourages students to explore texts and their numerous contexts: cultural, historical, biographical, economic, political, and psychological. At the end of the major, students demonstrate their sophistication in a year-long seminar and workshop, resulting in a long paper on a topic they have chosen and researched.
Click here to access our current English major newsletter (PDF).
The department strives to help its students—majors and nonmajors alike—live more reflectively and imaginatively by introducing them to the power, beauty, and passion of the written word. Since we believe that we do not possess our ideas until we express them, all of our courses stress writing.
To aid our students in becoming independent thinkers and articulate writers, we offer a sequence of courses in rhetoric, language, expository and creative writing. Expository writing courses at the intermediate and advanced level emphasize the development of clear and cogent arguments, the effective use of evidence, and the importance of audience and context. In seminars, workshops, and individual conferences with instructors, students learn the significance of revision in the writing process. Creative writing courses offered in fiction, poetry, memoir, and drama give students the opportunity to work with established, published writers. In workshops, students read and discuss literary texts, practice the craft of writing, and receive criticism and suggestions from peers and the instructor. Our writing and introductory literature courses are open to all students at the college, and our advanced literature and writing courses are open to anyone who has the prerequisite or the instructor's permission.
Classes of 2008 and 2009:
The major is composed of ten courses, of which the following are required:
101: Texts in Context (recent titles have included "The English Novel," "The Lyric," "From Novel to Film," "Literature and the Environment," "Early American Literature," "The Irish Literary Revival" and "Violence and Gender in Literature")
220: Critical Approaches and Literary Methods (a course designed to expose students to various ways of interpreting texts)
300-399: advanced literature courses--four courses: two based on texts written before 1800, two based on texts written after 1800 (recent titles have included "Shakespeare," "James Joyce's Ulysses," "The Avant-Garde," "Wordsworth and Hardy in Hyperspace," "American Renaissance," "Chaucer," "Feminism and Contemporary American Poetry")
403-404: year-long senior seminar and writing workshop (recent titles have included "The Politics of Meaning," "The Myth. of Frankenstein," "Memory and the Imagination," "Detective Fictions and Their Cultures," "The Rise of the English Novel," "Shakespeare in Performance")
Classes of 2010 and beyond:
Eleven courses, of which the following are required: 101, 220, six courses at the 300-level (two must be pre-1800 and two post-1800), 403 and 404. In addition, one elective to be selected from 101, 212, 213, 214, 218, or the 300-level. Only one 339 creative writing may count toward the six 300-level courses. At least two 300-level courses must be taken at Dickinson.
Students wishing to minor in English take a minimum of six courses, including the two introductory courses (101,220) and a minimum of three courses at the advanced literature level, at least one of which must involve works written before 1800.
Numerous students pursue courses in other interdisciplinary majors and minors as well as the English major. In cooperation with participating departments, the American Studies department at Dickinson seeds to provide an innovative and coherent approach to the study of American culture.
The Film Studies minor brings together film courses in many of Dickinson's departments. One of the College's distinctive features is the wide range of films from different countries and cultures taught across the curriculum—films of Germany, England, India, France, Spain, Latino cultures, and the Far East are all regularly screened. The political science, American studies, and sociology departments offer courses that take a critical perspective on issues of contemporary culture and the media.
The Creative Writing minor may be undertaken in conjunction with any major at the College; it is not an emphasis within the English major. Within the minor, students must select an area of concentration in either fiction or poetry.