The study of English at Monmouth College celebrates the discipline and joys of close reading, critical thinking and good writing, as experienced by majors and non-majors alike in a variety of settings. Heavily invested in the college’s distinctive “General Education Program,” our faculty teach interdisciplinary courses (Introduction to the Liberal Arts, Reflections, Citizenship, Women’s Studies, Honors Program) because we see reading, thinking and writing as essential and integral to the liberal arts. On the other hand, we have structured departmental study (for the major, minor or concentration) to offer students the possibility of emphasizing one or more of three areas: a) literary study; b) creative and professional writing; or c) teacher certification training.
- Our love of literature underwrites everything we do, including our often animated discussions about different approaches to literature. What we share first is a sense of purpose well described by Denis Donahue: "the purpose of reading literature is to exercise or incite one’s imagination: specifically one’s ability to imagine being different..." (The Practice of Reading 56). Imagination underwrites our commitment to understanding and appreciating works of literature: their principles and praxis, their many voices, their identities and types, their languages of experience and their beauties.
- We offer core survey courses in English and American literature (often elected by non-majors but required of majors) in order to cultivate critical reading habits within a broad historical context.
- We offer at least one course in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry annually, require it of majors and minors, and encourage bardolotry generally.
- Our “Genre Studies” and “Topics” courses gather a wide variety of course titles – such as “Seventeenth-Century Poetry and the Self,” “African-American Autobiography and Fiction,” “The Gilded Age,” and “Angry Young Men” – while emphasizing both literary diversity and different theoretical approaches.
- Author studies (“Chaucer,” “Murdock and Woolf,” “Yeats and Eliot,” “Hawthorne and Melville,” “Henry James,” “William Faulkner,” etc.) give us the chance to read the author and the “oeuvre” –an experience in reading too little enjoyed and valued in our times.
Creative and Professional Writing
Of course, we write all the time: journals, course portfolios, analytical essays, précis, research papers. Every major, for instance, is asked to undertake a gateway course, "Introduction to English Studies," which introduces both the history of the discipline and the various reading and writing skills necessary to being a successful English major. After four years, our students take a "Senior Seminar" which is the culmination of course work in critical thinking, close reading, research and writing.
- We offer introductory and advanced Creative Writing courses in Fiction and Poetry, and encourage students to write for or edit our literary magazine Coil. Our “Creative Nonfiction” course concentrates on literary nonfiction and the personal essay. Students are also encouraged to work on our campus newspaper, The Courier, to intern at local publications, and to generate independent studies in creative writing or take up script, play or media writing in the Communications and Theater Arts Department.
- With a large Education Department on campus serving elementary and secondary teacher training, the English department offers specialist courses in “Grammar” and “Teaching Methods,” as well as the broad concentration in literature which teachers will need to thrive in their classrooms.
Our department is small, well integrated, cooperative. We know our students and talk about their academic lives. We do a good job of keeping track of their progress, through advising and portfolio management of their accomplishments. Survey classes are set at around 25, but most other courses are small, averaging between 10-16 students. As a college, Monmouth is foremost a teaching institution, and the English Department is foremost among departments that define themselves in time-intensive relationships with student learning.
The Mellinger Learning Center is home of the English department: a beautifully renovated fraternity house, computer classroom, and 24-hour computer center. Another computerized room in the building is dedicated to tutoring, and therein English department-trained writing assistants are paid to tutor fellow students in writing strategies. The Center and the “Writing Fellows-Writing Assistant Program” provide prospective teachers with valuable skills and experience in writing instruction.
What do our majors do with our degree?
It would seem, almost anything they want to. We have recent graduates in Masters and Doctoral programs in English, Public Policy, Communications Theory, History, Business Administration, Social Work and Sports Administration. Law school, high school teaching and Public Relations work have been the most frequent reports from alumni, but more recently we hear from those who are software specialists, private and civic event planners, trade writers, and Web designers. If you can read, think critically, write well and speak well, the possibilities are many.