In the English department at Dickinson College, we study texts and our relation to them as readers and writers. The text might be an epic poem by John Milton or Derek Walcott; a novel by Jane Austen or Cormac McCarthy; a Shakespeare play or a Chris Ware graphic novel; a Clint Eastwood film or an Elizabeth Bishop lyric. Our common work is to learn to view these texts through multiple lenses: historical, cultural, biographical, linguistic, psychological and political. To aid students in becoming independent thinkers and articulate writers, we offer courses in rhetoric, language and expository or creative writing. In a yearlong senior experience, majors write a 35-50 page thesis on a textual subject of their choosing. Because our graduates know how to think critically and write fluently, they flourish in a variety of professions and vocations: they become writers and bankers, teachers and politicians, lawyers and environmentalists, journalists and college professors, activists and world travelers. As we read, think and write, our goal is to learn to live reflectively and imaginatively, to lead thoughtful, examined lives. Long after the last paper is written and course credit recorded, reading literature and writing continue to give our graduates the imaginative space Thoreau found at Walden—the space where, in his words, he learned how “to live deliberately.”
Courses appropriate for prospective majors
ENGL 101, Texts and Contexts
Test scores and credits that may affect course selection
Advanced placement: course credit and/or placement
Students who score 4 or 5 on the English Literature Placement Examination are encouraged to go directly into ENGL 220 (gateway for majors). They should check with Professor Thomas Reed, department chair, by email if they have questions. Spaces are being held for first-year students in ENGL 220.
Students should see the chairperson before selecting courses for the first semester, since prior courses have to be evaluated for equivalence in the English major.
Students interested in creative writing should let the Creative Writing minor coordinator, Professor Carol Ann Johnston, know of his or her interest. Entry into ENGL 218 creative writing courses is open to majors and non-majors in all years and the demand for these courses is high. We encourage students to be flexible and persistent.
Introductory courses that fulfill distribution requirements
Division I B:
ENGL 101, Texts and Contexts (first-year students, whether wishing to fulfill a distribution requirement or contemplating a major in English, should enroll in a section of ENGL 101, unless the student brings an AP credit, in which case 220 is the appropriate course)
ENGL 320-99, advanced literature courses with permission of the instructor.
ENGL 212, Writing: Special Topics
ENGL 220, Critical Approaches and Literary Methods (gateway for majors)
For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: English.
Independent study and research
The English Department offers independent study and research in literature and in expository and creative writing for content not covered in regular courses. A list of professors and their special interests is available in the English office, 4th floor, East College 400. As a general rule, no more than two independent studies or independent research courses may be counted toward the major; exceptions must be approved by the department chairperson. Students must secure a professor with whom to study and submit proposals (covering topic, methodology, preparation, relevance to educational goals, bibliography or primary and secondary sources, director, and course requirements) normally in the semester before the study is to be undertaken. See the academic department coordinator for English for the necessary forms.
English majors have interned with state and local government agencies and with newspapers, public relations firms, and the media. Students who are interested should gain experience by writing for The Dickinsonian or The Dickinson Review, the college's literary journal.
Opportunities for off-campus study
Majors and prospective majors should investigate opportunities early in their sophomore year. Guidelines for transferring back advanced courses for non-Dickinson programs are listed on the English Department’s website. Please note the minimum reading and writing requirements for these courses. See the chairperson for details.
Advising: A student may request a particular faculty member in the department; the chairperson assigns an advisor to each student when he or she declares a major in English.
Related activities: We encourage students who wish to become English majors, or who like to write, to make the most of the opportunities to write on campus and develop a portfolio. Such opportunities include The Dickinsonian, The Dickinson Review, Belles Lettres Society, internships, material for the Mermaid Players and the like.
Careers: Information about career opportunities is available in the English office and from English faculty.