English

The English Major at St. Olaflibrary1

Literature is one of the most compelling ways in which humans have recorded and reflected on their lives, imagined different worlds, and communicated one with another. It offers the pleasures of artistic expression combined with the rewards of empathy and insight, knowledge and inspiration.

Drawing on 1500 years of literature from Geoffrey Chaucer and John Milton to Emily Dickinson, Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison, the English major encourages students to dig deeply and to range widely, crossing borders and exploring diversity both in content (authors, literary genres and historical periods) and in form (critical and creative approaches).

In discussing and writing about what they have read, students develop an informed understanding of the force of literary language and improve their own powers of communication, analysis, and persuasion. In the department’s creative writing courses, students can nourish their own verbal creativity while working with literary forms from the inside.

Requiring courses from four Categories (Literary History, Cross-Cultural, Cross-Disciplinary and Genre), the English major is structured around the premise that students be exposed to a variety of conceptual approaches to literary study.  It introduces majors both to the traditional methodologies of literary history and genre studies and to the cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural methods that are redefining literary canons and strongly influencing scholarship as we move into the 21st century.

Some English majors may be headed for graduate programs in literature; some plan to teach; some are creative writers. Others may be preparing for careers that reward strong communications skills, in fields such as publishing, law, business, or community service. Within a framework that requires English majors to experience multiple approaches to literature, the major allows students flexibility in shaping their course of study to their individual interests and aspirations.

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