English Department courses focus on the study of English, American and global Anglophone Literatures; on literary and critical theory; and the practice of creative writing in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, with additional courses (cross-listed with Theatre) in playwriting.
Readers and writers are people who find themselves energized and enriched by the power of words -- drawn in by the compelling language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton; by the vivid yet subtle images of Margaret Cavendish, John Keats, and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and by the richly demanding prose of Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, and Salman Rushdie. The English Major at Whitman is founded upon our conviction that knowledge of literature and the ability to read and write effectively are resources for life, valuable as sources for aesthetic pleasure, thoughtful reflection, and sheer enjoyment regardless of one's future profession. But because the skills that English Majors develop and hone are so widely applicable, a major in English at Whitman will also help prepare you for any field that requires a disciplined imagination and respect for language. In our department, we study literary works in the context of historical periods and within the history of ideas; as particular literary forms (the novel, poetry, drama); as a body of works by one author (for example, Shakespeare, Austen, or Joyce); and as a special area (myth, religious poetry, or satire.) We also study literary and critical theory and the practice of creative writing in three genres: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
The faculty of the English Department is committed to offering a variety of courses that encourage students to read critically, write effectively, and think creatively. Emphasizing traditional literary study, a range of interdisciplinary topics and approaches to literature, and courses on the craft of creative writing, our courses include lectures, class discussions, and workshops.
All of Whitman’s English courses are writing intensive. Literature courses have a substantial writing component, with ample feedback on form and content from instructors, while the workshop setting of the creative writing courses enables students to develop as writers and as constructively critical and responsive readers of others' work.
For composition courses and a course for writing tutors, please see the catalog copy for General Studies.
The major requirements in English reflect our department's commitment to a study of literary traditions and the expectation that majors read widely in English and American literature. Majors take English 290: Approaches to the Study of Literature; four period courses (including at least two in English literature - one of which must be before 1800 - and one in American literature); one course in Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Milton; and two upper-level electives. In the junior or senior year as an English major, you will take a seminar in English and American Literature, which will enable you to gain experience in oral presentations and to develop a significant research paper. In the final semester, you will complete your requirements with written exams in three areas and an oral exam on a work of literature.
One of our department’s most important resources is the Penrose Memorial Library. Penrose is one of only a few college libraries in the nation open 24 hours a day during the academic year. Penrose houses 2,100 periodical titles, over 200,000 government documents, and more than 400,000 catalogued volumes. The ORBIS system will give you prompt access to more than 26 million volumes in college and university libraries in the region.
Whitman offers collaborative projects with faculty members as well as paid and volunteer positions with college publications. You might write for The Pioneer, Whitman’s student-run newspaper, or contribute poetry or short stories to the Blue Moon. Students also write articles for the alumni magazine and various marketing publications and write copy for disc jockeys on KWCW-FM, the college radio station.
Past English majors have entered a broad range of graduate and professional programs in English, anthropology, history, theatre, comparative literature, journalism, American studies, and education. They have gone on to careers in the teaching and study of literature, creative writing, medicine, law, ministry, diplomacy, library science, the military, management, technical writing, and publishing.