Core courses for the major provide extensive reading in the history of English and American literature, at least two literary genres (in the junior reading courses), and in the work of a major author (in the senior seminar). The departmental faculty seeks to develop in the student a progressively more differentiated sense of literary history, a more discriminating sense of literary value, and a more sophisticated understanding of the cultural and social roles of literature. At the same time, they are aware that literature, while a strenuous test for the intellect, is also a deeply satisfying, lasting source of enjoyment.
Increased sensitivity to literature is inevitably accompanied by increased sensitivity to language. To bring students maximum benefit from this reciprocal growth, the department systematically cultivates their powers of written expression. Writing and learning, language and thought, are linked not only in courses explicitly devoted to composition and rhetoric but also in the core literature courses required of all English majors, where the essay becomes a principal means for exploring and developing ideas.
Besides a mind well nurtured and well informed, the English major can expect to leave college with distinct advantages in approaching a career. Those most directly related to the undergraduate study of English include teaching at the secondary level or (after graduate study) the college and university levels and work in fields such as editing, publishing or writing. But because a broad cultural background and a command of clearly conceptualized, well-written prose are increasingly valued as preparation for advanced professional studies — as, for example, those in law or business — and indeed for the professions themselves, the study of English is a promising point of entry to a variety of careers.