The English Department offers courses in the literary traditions of the English-speaking world. Students will expand their ability to respond to texts thoughtfully and critically, and to articulate those responses in clear and fluent English. The department aims to develop cultural and media literacy by introducing students to the range of literary traditions, broadly conceived, in the English language, and to familiarize them with major or defining instances of filmic, performative and visual texts.
This discipline prepares interested students for postgraduate work in English and other subjects as well as careers in publishing, law, international business, arts and culture, government and policy, education, healthcare, and more. Our students have been recipients of many prestigious awards, including Fulbright Fellowships and a Rhodes Scholarship, and graduates have gone on to highly selective graduate schools and law schools. Many of our graduates have served in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps and pursue careers in service and social justice.
English majors who plan to do postgraduate work should know that doctoral programs require a reading knowledge of one or two foreign languages.
Our courses provide opportunities to:
- cultivate particular and deep understanding of specific periods, genres, authors, movements, and aesthetic or analytically significant issues.
- grow into discerning and careful readers responsive to formal, stylistic, and thematic elements of texts, and capable of understanding them as responses to the cultural contexts in which they emerge.
- develop an interdisciplinary approach to reading literature that crosses borders and makes interesting connections with material and methods in other disciplines and cultures.
Haverford’s Institutional Learning Goals are available on the President’s website, at http://hav.to/learninggoals.
In our curriculum we seek to maintain a working balance between:
- canons of British, American and global literatures, including African American literature, Asian American literature, Postcolonial literature, South African literature, and Irish literature, and others, and
- courses inflected by particular theoretical foci, such as performance theory, queer theory, postcolonial theory, trauma theory, media and visual studies, and environmental studies.
Students may receive major credit for one semester of coursework in creative writing. Students who submit a portfolio of work, no later than the end of first term of their junior year, may be admitted to the Creative Writing Concentration.
Up-to-date information about the English Department’s activities and courses, including extended course descriptions and syllabi, is available on the departmental website.
Admission to the major requires completion of at least two courses, one at the 100 level and 1-2 at the 200 level, by the end of the sophomore year; note: WRPR H150 may be counted as one 200-level course (since its rubrics are in line with 200-level materials).
In total the major requires eleven credits, including a .5 credit tutorial (ENGL H298J) as part of Junior Seminar. Note: ENGL H399F and ENGL H399B comprises a 1.5 credit course taken over the full senior year.
- Seven courses at the 100, 200 and 300 levels of which:
- at least two must be in literature written before 1800;
- at least two in literature written after 1800;
- at least one (and no more than two) must be at the 100 level; a minimum of two, preferably three, must be at the 200 level (WRPR 150 counts); and a minimum of two must be at the 300 level.
- ENGL H298 and ENGL H299, the two-semester Junior Seminar in English
- ENGL H298J, the .5 credit yearlong Junior Seminar tutorial
- ENGL H399F (fall) and ENGL H399B (spring) for a total 1.5 credit Senior Conference
Note: The department will give major credit for one semester course in a foreign literature in the original language or for Comparative Literature 200. No more than four major credits will be awarded for work done beyond the Tri- College Consortium, whether abroad or in the U.S. Courses taken in the Bryn Mawr English Department, the Swarthmore English Department, and the U. Penn English Department may also be counted towards the major at Haverford.
The culminating research experience for our majors is Senior Seminar, ENGL H399. The course carries 1.5 credits and involves two parts: a critical essay based on independent research and reading guided by a faculty mentor; and a comprehensive oral examination that covers the thesis and the coursework the student has done towards the major. Creative Writing concentrators produce, instead of the critical essay, a portfolio of poems or short stories, a novella, or a screenplay accompanied by a foreword or afterword that reflects on their artistic choices and offers an analytic framework within which the work may be understood.
English majors take Junior Seminar, a year-long course that considers both major works in the field and critical and theoretical materials in the discipline. This methodological focus, along with an oral exam at the end of the first semester and comprehensive assessment at the end of the second, prepares students for the extended research and oral expectations of Senior Conference. More information on Junior Seminar is available on the department’s website. Students also participate in a workshop conducted by the Writing Program during the spring preceding the senior year: this meeting encourages junior majors to draw upon the coursework they have already undertaken both to identify areas, topics, authors, and critical questions and to begin reading widely in preparation for their thesis.
Fall Semester Senior Year:
Students in the Senior Conference propose research topics to faculty consultants and are assigned to a faculty advisor by the middle of the fall semester. Students mark out an area of interest focused on an author, text, genre, theme, or formal feature, familiarize themselves with the major critical voices and debates pertaining to this field, and identify a set of issues that they investigate and analyze in their essays. Students meet each week in groups before moving to individualized meetings with their thesis advisor.
|September||submission of essay topic and preferences for faculty consultant|
|October||description of project, approved by assigned faculty consultant|
|October||meeting with Reference Librarian|
|November||two-page thesis statement due with short bibliography of relevant primary and critical sources|
|December||detailed annotated bibliography|
Spring Semester Senior Year:
Students have individual tutorials as they work towards submission of a draft and final thesis. At the end of the spring semester, eight students give presentations of their work over the course of two evenings. One-hour oral examinations are administered during the following week by the thesis advisor, a second reader, and a third examiner over a three- to four-day period.
|January||full outline and 4-5 draft pages of essay due|
|February||completed rough draft due|
|April||final draft of essay due|
|April||abstracts and reflective statements due|
|April||oral exam lists due|
|April||senior presentations to full department|
|May||oral comprehensive examinations with department panel|
Additional information about Senior Conference and the Senior Thesis can be found on the department’s website.
Senior Project Learning Goals
The Senior Conference will encourage students to:
- mark out productive and independent lines of intellectual inquiry.
- understand theoretical and critical works in the discipline.
- engage with primary and secondary literature.
- develop a critical writing voice for article-length work.
- prepare a bibliography of works for oral examination.
- hone oral skills of synthesis and dialogue in presentation and exams.
- reflect in writing and speech about the thesis process.
- experience scholarship as collaboration: work closely with a faculty advisor and peers on developing the project.
- define scholarship as process: work through the stages of a research project.
Senior Project Assessment
The department seeks well-written, persuasive essays that advance independent and original arguments about texts. Theses will be based on insightful close readings and deep engagement with relevant critical and background material. The creative thesis option is assayed for the imagination with which particular projects are conceived, control over the medium, inventive play with generic conventions, insight, clarity and beauty of expression, and the capacity for self-reflection as demonstrated in the critical foreword/afterword.
Students are assessed at various stages of the process, described below, both by individual advisors and department faculty as a whole. Final letter grades are decided upon by the full department in careful discussion and consideration of student performance at each stage. Students receive extensive written comments from first reader (faculty mentor) and second reader at the end of the process.
The faculty mentor provides feedback on the following elements prior to the student examination:
- Preliminary proposal
- 4-5 pages of preliminary draft
- Full draft
- Annotated bibliography
The faculty mentor and department assess the following dimensions of the project as a full group:
- Quality of Senior Essay
- Quality of Oral Examination
- Student Reflective Statement
Requirements for Honors
The department awards honors in English on the basis of performance in coursework within the Tri-College departments, the senior essay and the oral examination conducted at the end of the senior year. The department reserves honors and high honors for distinguished achievement in all three of these areas.
Creative Writing Concentration
Creative Writing courses at Haverford are open to all students. Only a handful of English majors per year, however, are accepted into the Creative Writing Concentration.
The Creative Writing Concentration entails:
- two courses in creative writing (only one of which is counted toward the major).
- writing a senior thesis composed of an original creative text (usually poetry, fiction or drama) and a rigorous critical introduction.
Admission to the Concentration:
- Students interested in completing a Creative Writing Concentration must: 1) have taken or be in the process of taking two college creative writing courses by the spring of their junior year. 2) apply for acceptance to the Concentration by submitting a portfolio of creative work to the Director of Creative Writing in March of junior year.
- Each portfolio is read closely by the departmental concentration committee.
- Admission depends on the number of applicants and the committee’s assessment of whether the work demonstrates a readiness to generate a substantial literary project.
Concentrations and Interdisciplinary Minors
The English major shares a number of courses with concentrations and minors including Gender and Sexuality Studies, Visual Studies, African and Africana Studies, Peace, Justice and Human Rights, as well as interdisciplinary majors including comparative literature. Students are encouraged to consider exploring these and other cognate areas in relation to the major.
Students who major in English often study abroad during their junior year. The department urges students choosing between the fall and spring semester abroad to opt for the spring. A small number of majors also study abroad for the full junior year.
The department awards up to four prizes annually:
The Terry M. Krieger ‘69 Memorial Prize:
Established by members of his family for the graduating senior demonstrating the greatest achievement in writing during the junior and senior years, to be chosen by the English department.
Newton Prize in English Literature:
A prize established by A. Edward Newton may be awarded annually on the basis of departmental honors in English, provided that the work of the leading candidate, in the judgment of the English department, merits this award.
William Ellis Scull Prize:
A prize established in 1929 by William Ellis Scull, Class of 1883, is awarded annually to the junior or senior who has shown the greatest achievement in voice and in the articulation of the English language.
Ian Walker Prize:
A prize established in 2002, by friends, family and classmates as a memorial to honor Ian Walker, class of 1950. This prize is awarded to either a junior or senior English major.