The Literary Studies emphasis and minor provides the skills necessary for appreciating, engaging with, and analyzing texts. Literature exposes us to new and diverse perspectives about other times, places, cultures, and contexts. It also powerfully shows new viewpoints from our own cultures and contexts. An appreciation for such diversity and our own cultural moment is essential to both civic responsibility and professional opportunity.

Texts do not communicate these perspectives straightforwardly, but through the intricacies of fiction, poetry, drama, essays, film, and more. Literary Studies provides students with the tools to research, decode, and discuss texts in their historical and aesthetic contexts. Prospective employers consistently report that these skills—the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and carefully engage the relation between words and ideas—are precisely those they most desire in their workforce.

At its core, the Literary Studies emphasis is about how the power of reading not only makes our world what it is, but also helps us imagine what it can become.

Motivating Questions

  • How does literature open our minds to the past, present, and even the future? How does literature show us new and diverse cultural perspectives?
  • How does literary interpretation apply to the nuances and complexities of human communication? How can it help us think critically about, rather than simplify, these nuances in our academic, daily, and professional lives?
  • What kind of research is necessary to support one’s perspective on a text or cultural artifact whose meaning is multiple, ambiguous, or unclear?
  • How can literature and literary criticism not only reflect but also challenge and transform our communities and society, both locally and globally?

Courses Overview

The required courses in Literary Studies introduce you to the main theoretical and historical currents of the discipline, laying important groundwork so that you can design a course of study suited to your own interests and goals. Our surveys in British and American literature demonstrate the broad historical and aesthetic context of the English literary tradition. Introductory and advanced courses in literary theory further familiarize you with key movements in the recent history of interpretation such as structuralism, poststructuralism, feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and postcolonialism.

Beyond these requirements, Literary Studies students select from a wide variety of courses addressing a multitude of genres, cultures, and historical or theoretical perspectives. You may concentrate on either American or British literature, or both. You can explore texts and ideas from medieval times to the present, and learn about canonical figures like Shakespeare and Milton as well as important texts in women’s writing and Native American literature. Our wide breadth of available electives also gives you the opportunity to bring your expertise in narrative or poetic analysis to bear on non-literary media such as film, religious texts, advertisements, and even video games.

What Can I Do with Literary Studies?

In addition to being excellent preparation for any occupation that demands/rewards critical thinking, creative analysis and problem-solving, and effective communication, Literary Studies often leads to such specific paths and careers as…

  • Education/Educational Administration
  • Graduate School: MA or PhD in English, Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Film Studies, etc.
    • Master’s in Library Information Science; MA in English Education
  • Journalism
  • Law School
  • Literary Critic
  • Political Consultant/Activist
  • Publishing: editing, marketing, etc.
  • Teaching English as a Second Language/Teaching Abroad

Faculty Contacts

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