The program and course offerings in English have two main objectives: to give the student a broad knowledge and lively appreciation of "the best that has been thought and said" in literature, and to develop practical skills for the student's career future.
Works of literature in the program are studied both as art and as expressions of significant thought, so as to cultivate an understanding of beauty and at the same time a capacity for dealing confidently with sophisticated ideas. Students learn how to interpret a particular statement or event by relating it to other elements in the work; how to interpret a work, or a set of ideas, by relating it to other works and ideas from different ages and societies; and, at each step, how to interpret current events or personal experiences by relating them imaginatively to the events and experiences depicted in the readings. The emphasis is on cultural knowledge that increases the student's self-knowledge.
Simultaneously, through the class experience and the individual projects assigned, emphasis is also placed on the development of skills that the student will later be able to apply to professional tasks in a variety of fields. Students learn and practice techniques for gathering information, for interpreting it, for analyzing it, and for isolating what is most important in it. They learn, in short, some of the basic procedures for making themselves experts in their chosen field.
For students majoring in English, a minimum grade of C is required in all English courses used to fulfill program requirements. Other grade expectations apply for students seeking teacher certification: See the teacher education section of the catalog for requirements.
Communication Skills Courses
The ability to communicate clearly, logically, and persuasively is increasingly in demand in almost every line of work today, and is among the most important professional tools the student can acquire. One of the chief functions of the English program, and one of the chief ways in which individual English courses serve students in other programs, is to develop that ability. Each of the literature courses in the program is designed to include study of the techniques of effective expression, both in the work of professional writers and in the student's own work; for students who want concentrated training in those techniques, whether for professional or personal reasons, there are also a number of non-literature courses in English and related areas that focus on the communications skills themselves.