English Department

About the Department

The English Department offers courses that focus on critical methods, on interpretation of texts, and on the nature of literary genres. Students encounter both recent developments in critical theory and traditional practices of close reading. Some texts are studied as aesthetic objects, others in relation to their social, intellectual, economic, and historical contexts.

The English Department aims less for extensive coverage than for an intensive examination of particular authors, works, genres, periods, and problems. Approximately sixteen to twenty-four courses are offered by the English Department each year. Introductory courses in fiction, poetry, and drama are offered every year, as are certain standard courses at the upper-division level. Courses not offered in the current academic year will normally be offered during the next two academic years.The department recommends that all majors take at least one course in each of the principal literary genres: poetry, drama, and fiction.  200-level courses are intended primarily but not exclusively for sophomores.

With course work primarily in English and American literature, the curriculum maintains a balance between the standard courses offered yearly--such as Studies in Poetry, the Novel, and Medieval or Renaissance Literature--and courses offered according to topical interests of faculty and students--such as seminars in feminist criticism, painting and poetry, autobiography, and allegory. These courses on special literary topics occur under the following rubrics: Under the rubric "Studies in Fiction," the English Department offers every year a course focused on some topic, subgenre, or period in fiction, or on selected novelists. Under the rubric "Studies in Shakespeare," the department offers at least one course each year, usually with a focus on the comedies, the tragedies, or Shakespeare in performance. Under the rubric "Poetry and History," the department offers at least every third year a course that studies poetry (sometimes with other genres as well) in its historical and cultural context. Students may register for more than one course under the same rubric, provided that the subject matter differs.

The student majoring in English may supplement the department's offerings with courses in translation given by other departments within the Division of Literature and Languages. However, students are expected to take a range of courses from within the Department.

The Divisional foreign language requirement is a distinctive strength of the Reed English literature major. Each major must take two semester courses in a foreign literature read in the original language. This means that Reed English majors graduate with the equivalent of a foreign language/ literature minor. The increased literary and cultural breadth thus gained is helpful to any student of literature, particularly to those considering graduate programs.

The Junior Seminar, a course required of all English majors, provides a theoretical introduction to literary history. This class encourages a critical evaluation of issues of intertextuality, and investigates the relation of literature to history and critics to authors.

English majors should obtain an adviser in the English Department early and work closely with that adviser. Students should also avail themselves of opportunities to meet with other English Department faculty. Besides being open to meeting with students individually, socials are held several times a year to encourage interaction between faculty and students. In the fall the Department participates in a meeting sponsored by the Division of Literature and Languages and arranged for students to meet with faculty and a member of the committee on advancement and tenure to learn about the process of faculty evaluations. This meeting is combined with topics such as information on majors, study abroad, international programs, career and post-graduate information, as well as socialization between students and faculty.  There are also two department-only meetings, one scheduled in the fall and the other in the spring semester, providing an opportunity for english majors and faculty to socialize informally and discuss concerns about the major.  Then in the spring semester the department again joins with the other departments in the Division of Literature and Languages for a barbecue sponsored by the Division of Literature and Languages. A full menu is served such as corn-on-the-cob, baked beans, fruit salad, pasta salad, potato salad with a faculty member grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers, sometimes followed by cookie decorating and an opportunity for students to trim up goodies for themselves, friends, or faculty.

The department has an electronic mailing list for students which includes Freshmen and Sophomore students who have either declared an interest in majoring in our department or who have taken one of our classes, as well as the usual list of department Junior and Senior students. The idea being that the Department can send these folks information about upcoming events and information. English majors are automatically subscribed to the mailing list. We ask that you not unsubscribe since you will miss important memos from the Department. Instead, if you have problems about being on this list let us know and we will try to work something out--contact Jolie Griffin at griffinjo@reed.edu.

The Department Office is located in Vollum 320. The Faculty Assistant (Jolie Griffin, ext. 7753, griffinjo@reed.edu) can provide general information. A department bulletin board is maintained near the third floor elevator door of Vollum to provide information on lectures, fellowships, graduate programs, etc.