Welcome to the English Department

This webpage seeks to represent virtually an entity best experienced in person.  On the third-floor of Wyatt Hall, amid the clutter of books that serve as our office decor and the scattered copies of Crosscurrents, our award-winning student literary journal, you will find students and faculty engaged in what most inspires us: discussing American, British, and world literature; honing student writing through face-to-face conversation; sharing creative work authored by both our majors and our professors.

The department’s diverse faculty interests cover all aspects of literary studies, from English literature’s traditional roots to its contemporary experiments.  We offer a strong grounding in British and American canonical writers, from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Milton to Austen, to Emerson to Melville to Dickinson to Faulkner, with the understanding that the canon itself is a cultural construction continually under revision.  We’re equally committed to diverse traditions and newer voices, and our courses encompass such writers as Charles Chesnutt, N. Scott Momaday, Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Junot Diaz.

While the work of favorite individual writers energizes us, most of our courses are organized by theme, which illuminates new insights and interrelationships among groups of texts.  Sometimes this focus is historical (History of the English Language; Irish Literary Revival); at times it is theoretical (Race, Realism, and Cold War Culture; Gothic America); still other times it is interdisciplinary (Narratives of Disease; Literature and Environment).

While many people think of literature as the traditional purview of an English Department, our understanding of our discipline is expansive.  Our colleagues’ work in areas such as writing, rhetoric, and culture explores how texts circulate and signify under real-world conditions.  Related work in the area of literacy studies considers issues of access and mastery, not just of basic literacy skills, but of language as it is practiced in today’s electronic culture.  Other colleagues apply critical approaches to the production and consumption of texts, a term that we consider broadly to include not only books, but also film, graphic novels, and new media—as courses such as Auteur Theory: Hitchcock and Visual Rhetoric will attest.

We make the most of the opportunities that a medium-sized liberal arts college affords.  Our classes are small and discussion-based, led by dedicated teachers who expect and inspire the best from our students. Our students develop critical awareness and intellectual autonomy while pursuing their passion for learning. Similarly, our faculty draw on their own intellectual passions in developing new and exciting courses. In addition to our primary home in the department, our faculty can be found teaching in a variety of settings and programs, including African American Studies, Asian Studies, Environmental Policy and Decision Making, Gender Studies, Honors, Humanities, and Theatre Arts.

Nor do we see a clear division between the study of literature and the creation of it.  While many of our majors identify as creative writers—and may earn a Focus in Creative Writing to complement their English major as a demonstration of their achievement—all of our courses, from literature to rhetoric to new media studies, admit creative approaches.  Thus, in addition to writing an essay of scholarly analysis, a student in a Shakespeare class might find herself writing an Elizabethan sonnet for a midterm project, with the understanding that such an undertaking can teach as much about the challenges Shakespeare embraced in writing his sonnets as can more traditional modes of inquiry.  For those students who do identify as creative writers, and for those who would simply like to try their hand at creative writing, we offer a wide range of courses at both the beginning and advanced levels, in fiction, poetry, playwriting, and screenwriting.

One of the most consistently popular majors at the university, English promotes skills and strategies essential to a liberal arts education: a dedication to texts and language; the ability to communicate effectively and precisely; a grounded historical awareness; the capacity to think critically.  These skills serve our graduates in civic and professional life.  Additionally, our popular writing internship course offers students hands-on experience in a variety of professional settings.

Our alumni enter a range of careers upon graduation: business, journalism, public relations, the nonprofit sector, and government. Others pursue graduate study in English, education, law, religious studies, archeology, and more. Please click on our Alumni page to see the exciting range of possibilities an English major at Puget Sound allows.

The links to the right of this page will introduce you to some of the entities we’ve just described—among them, our faculty, our course offerings, and our graduates’ achievements.

Please let us know if you have any questions about the English major.  We’d love to hear from you—and we hope that you’ll come visit us on the third floor of Wyatt Hall.

William Kupinse, Chair and Alison Tracy Hale, Associate Chair