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Willamette’s English Department teaches the art of reading, of 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, scripts, and songs. Literary studies addresses the breadth of human experience: the metaphorical underpinnings of identity, the affective experience of reading, the various dimensions of aesthetic creation, and the ways 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 active learning. The English faculty also participates in interdisciplinary programs, including American Ethnic Studies, American Studies, Film Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Many 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 and working closely with the Writing Center.

English students develop skills—close reading, analytical thinking, clarity and sophistication in communication

Preparing our students for a variety of careers:

  • teaching
  • publishing
  • journalism
  • new media
  • public advocacy
  • law

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: