Willamette’s English Department teaches the twinned arts of reading and writing, of making and paying close and concerned attention to literary texts. English students participate in literary culture as critics, theorists, historians, and writers. In literature courses, they learn to fashion nuanced interpretative arguments; in creative writing courses, they craft poems, stories, essays, scripts, and songs. Literary studies addresses the breadth of human experience and the need for a thoughtful experience of the world including the metaphorical underpinnings of identity, the various dimensions of aesthetic creation, and the ways that language and literature may reflect a given society’s values, justify a status quo, or imagine a more just world.
The study of literature
English majors approach the study of literature from a variety of historical and methodological perspectives. Courses may address the formal textures of a literary work, its role within a culture or historical period, specific genres ranging from lyric poetry to science fiction, the achievement of a major author, age, or movement, the practices of literary and cultural theory, the politics of interpretation and canonization, and the methods of literary scholarship. English classes are discussion-based and encourage collaboration and active learning. English faculty members also participate in interdisciplinary programs including American Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Some of the courses in these programs may be taken as part of the English major. Students can also earn English credit while studying abroad.
The major commences with English 201 and English 202, which introduce students to close reading and literary theory. Majors take courses that focus on literature from different time periods and cultures, but devise a course of study that reflects their own intellectual interests. The Senior Experience—a self-defined Independent Study project, or an English or Humanities Seminar—completes the major.
Beyond the major
The Department offers minors in English and Writing, as well as a number of courses that satisfy Willamette’s general education requirements. The Department promotes Willamette’s writing culture by stressing composition in all of its courses. Our faculty and students work closely with the Writing Center. And the Department sponsors writing workshops, the campus-wide Mark and Melody Teppola Prizes for Creative Writing, and readings and lectures by scholars and writers visiting campus in conjunction with classes and through the Hallie Ford Literary Series.
Preparing our students for a variety of careers:
- new media
- public advocacy
English students develop the skills of close reading, analytical thinking, careful research, and clarity and sophistication in communication. Of equal importance, our students cultivate habits and discover forms of knowledge—an appreciation for the distinctive qualities of imaginative literature, a capacity for self-expression, a sense of historical contingency, an awareness of literature as a force of power—that make life rich and meaningful.
If you are majoring in English or thinking of majoring in English, you might find the following articles interesting or helpful:
- "The Next Hot Job in Silicon Valley Is for Poets," by Elizabeth Dwoskin
- "Triumph of the English Major," by Gerald Howard
- "Why English Majors Are the Hot New Hires," by Bruna Martinuzzi
- "The Myth of the English Major Barista," by Robert Matz
- "Why I Hire English Majors," by Steve Strauss
- "Hunting for Soft Skills, Companies Scoop Up English Majors," by Nikki Waller