English courses at Mount Holyoke offer students an opportunity to study texts and writers from the many cultural traditions that have shaped, and been shaped by, the English language. Our offerings range from Anglo-Saxon England through the twenty-first century and encompass multiple national, racial, and cultural identities. The department’s courses cultivate skills in close reading, critical thinking, and persuasive writing. For students interested in writing, a number of courses offer practical instruction in the techniques of fiction, poetry, and other literary genres, as well as journalism. The major helps prepare students for a wide range of careers, including teaching at all levels, law, business, and graduate study in literature and culture.
The department reflects in its offerings a balanced variety of historical and theoretical approaches to the study of language, literature, and culture. Many courses locate British and American literary texts within their historical contexts; many courses employ approaches drawn from gender studies, queer theory, and postcolonial theory. We regularly offer courses on African American, Asian American, and other ethnically defined American literatures, as well as on writings from Africa, Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Ireland. Some members of the department study visual culture in many different media, including film. The department expects its majors to study texts from a variety of historical periods and challenges students to respond to new questions about the theoretical relationships of literary and cultural forms and historical transformation.