BA in English

General

Read more about this program on the institution's website

Program Description

About

At a college named after one of the most important of nineteenth-century American poets, a man known for his commitment to literary art as an agent of social and political justice, it should be no surprise to know that we believe that the study of language and literature is at the core of the liberal arts, those aspects of education that make us humane and free.

At Whittier

The Whittier College Department of English maintains a deep commitment to interdisciplinary and historical approaches to literary study.

Courses in language, in various forms of writing, and in literary, textual, and cultural analysis, develop the ability to make sense out of both ourselves and the world around us, to analyze experience and data, to express the results of our analysis clearly and effectively, and to take greater pleasure in the experience of life itself. The study, creation, and appreciation of language and literature are thus a significant part of the lives of all liberally-educated people and the life of the community.

Our Department offers a major and minor in English, as well as a major in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Courses and preceptorship opportunities—for those students who intend to go into school teaching or who intend to pursue an advanced degree in English—contribute broadly both to personal enrichment in the liberal arts tradition and to professional development in a variety of fields.

While a good number of English majors choose to teach—either at the elementary, junior high, or high school level, or, after suitable graduate work, at a college or university—our emphases on textual analysis and writing skills make English a traditionally strong undergraduate major for many professions, including journalism, law, technical writing, library science, a variety of areas in the business world, and, of course, in creative writing.

The study of literature helps us to read the world around us actively and critically. What’s more, it enables us to understand ourselves and other people—as individuals, as participants in our own and other historical cultural traditions, and as human beings.

Majors & Minors in English Language and Literature

The Department of English Language & Literature offers the major in English, the major in English with a creative writing emphasis, and the minor in English. Students should plan their course of study, in consultation with their faculty advisors, as soon as they have decided upon the major.

Requirements for the Major in English

To complete the major in English, a student must complete a minimum of 36 credits, at least 24 of which are at the 300 level or above, and the following:

  • ENGL 220 major British Writers to 1785
  • ENGL 221 major British and American Writers from 1660
  • At least one course from the two categories of Courses in Writing and Language
  • At least one course from the four categories of Advanced Courses in Literature
  • At least one course from each of the three following major genres:
  • Fiction: 331, 332, 333, 336, 337, 352, 353, 358, 362, 363, 370
  • Poetry: 323,324, 327, 329, 334, 335, 364, 371
  • Drama: 319, 326, 328, 350, 355
  • ENGL 326 or 328 Shakespeare

The two senior capstone courses:

  • ENGL 400 Critical Procedures in Language and Literature
  • ENGL 410 Senior Seminar

Requirements for the Major in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing

To complete the major in English with an emphasis in creative writing, students must complete a minimum of 36 credits, at least 24 of which are at the 300 level or above, and the following:

  • ENGL 220 major British writers to 1785
  • ENGL 221 major British and American writers from 1660
  • Three creative writing workshops, including at least one at the advanced level, and
  • Covering at least two genres: fiction, poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, and/or literary translation. An appropriate internship or independent study can be substituted for one of these courses. Journalism does not count as one of the two genres.
  • At least one course from each of the three following major genres:
  • Fiction: 331, 332, 333, 336, 337, 352, 353, 358, 362, 363, 370
  • Poetry: 323, 324, 327, 329, 334, 335, 364, 371
  • Drama: 319, 326, 328, 350, 355
  • ENGL 326 or 328 Shakespeare

The two senior capstone courses:

  • ENGL 400 Critical Procedures in Language and Literature.
  • ENGL 410 Senior Seminar

Requirements for the Minor in English

A minor in English requires 18 credits, including 120 and at least 9 upper-division credits. The ENGL 220 - 221 sequence is recommended, but not required, for the minor. Minors should be planned in consultation with a departmental advisor and must include one course from each of the following: (1) A genre (319, 324, 326, 327, 328, 329, 331, 332, 333, 334, 335, 336, 337, 350, 352, 355, 358, 362 363, 364, 370, 371); (2) A historical period; and (3) a major figure (323, 324, 326, 328, 329, 353).

Discovery in English

English majors enjoy innovative ways to discover and rediscover literature, from reworking Shakespeare to exploring new ways to tell stories.

Shakespeare in a New Light

Juliet: "Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day: It was the nightingale and not the lark."

Romeo: "It was the lark, the herald of the morn, no nightingale: love burnt out"

Those aren't the lines of Shakespeare's well-known tragic romance as The Bard originally penned them. Victoria Gonzalez omitted pieces of their passionate proclamations to create a new scene and perspective from a centuries-old story.

She and her fellow students each took a stab at the project in Professor Jonathan Burton's class about Shakespeare. They altered a page from Romeo and Juliet in order to critique the play, change the way people think about it, or draw out ideas that might otherwise go unnoticed in the face of prevailing ideas about the play.

Not only did the project lead to creative work, but it was also a reminder that even the most widely accepted ideas can be challenged and reclaimed.

Discovering Connections in Irish and Mexican Literature

For decades, great minds have pored over every page of James Joyce's and Carolos Fuentes' work. In the face of this mountain of scholarly analysis, one might think that there couldn’t possibly be new ground left to cover.

Brianna Martinez says otherwise. She discovered a strong link between Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Fuentes’ The Death of Artemio Cruz. Though the Irish and Mexican novels are separated by almost half a century and 5,200 miles, Martinez has uncovered strikingly similar themes in their stories.

Brianna has always loved modernist literature and lights up when talking about Joyce or Fuentes. Finding a new connection between their novels has been a joy for her. The research was also supported by the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which funds student’s academic research to set them up for a career as a professor, and has already opened doors for Brianna, who spent a summer honing her writing at Columbia University and attended a conference in South Africa.

Digital Liberal Arts

DigLibArts empowers students to make full use of the digital technologies that are transforming research and reshaping the way people learn. For instance, the center recently teamed up with Professor Kate Durbin to incorporate Twine, a program that allows students to create choose-your-own-adventure stories, into her course on horror literature. Students experimented with the storytelling tool to gain a deeper understanding of the literary genre.

Students also assist their peers through the center as “tech liaisons,” mentoring fellow students in all things digital. It’s where Nicole Guzzo, a Whittier Scholars Program major, discovered her passion for the digital world.

Hands-On Learning in English

English Language and Literature majors have rich opportunities to explore their studies hands-on, both abroad and in the classroom.

Students interested in traveling abroad through the Office of International Programs can have $2,000 of the trip paid for through the Global Poet Scholarship.

Studying Poetry in Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, a city painted red, yellow, and orange looks like a gorgeous flame miraculously given permanent form.

It’s in the heart of this beautiful city—the long-storied home of artists and writers—that English major Juan Zuniga-Mejia found a rekindled self-confidence in his craft. He and several other Whittier College students recently traveled to the Mexican city with Professor of English Tony Barnstone for JanTerm, the short term between fall and spring, just in time for San Miguel Poetry Week, where experienced poets taught them how to hone their skills.

“My writing as a poet has reached a level I honestly don't think it would have gotten to on its own,” Juan said. “I came home with a lot of knowledge and brand new pieces and ideas.”

Fellow English major Ariel Horton feels the same way. Although she’s a lifelong writer, she had never worked with so many seasoned writers before. After spending a week developing her craft and being motivated by their stories, she came away feeling humbled and inspired.

“It was definitely the most inspirational thing I’ve done in my life,” she said.

They arrived just in time to join in the celebrations of Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day), including watching a joyous parade weave through the center of the city. San Miguel de Allende’s streets are filled with artistic history (Pablo Neruda once lived there, for example) and beautiful architecture, including its soaring cathedrals. Venturing beyond the city, the class also enjoyed touring the ancient pyramids and riding horseback into the mountains—a thrilling memory Zuniga-Mejia brought back with him.

Retracing Chaucer in England

During JanTerm, Whittier students can explore Geoffrey Chaucer’s massively influential Canterbury Tales by journeying through the bustling streets of London and the villages of the English countryside, including historic Canterbury.

Professor Sean Morris leads Whittier students on the trip to discover how text and history overlap. Students get to know the real places and people that inspired Chaucer’s story, such as through a scavenger hunt in the historic English cathedral city of Canterbury.

Exploring Stories in Greece and Rome

On her study abroad JanTerm trip to Greece and Rome, Professor Wendy Furman-Adams helps students engage with a history as turbulent as modern day.

Among the temples, statues, marketplaces, theatres, and homes of classical Greece and Rome, students explore how some of the world’s most remarkable writers—Homer, Plato, and Virgil, to name a few—sought wisdom and solace in works that still possess edge and relevance. The class walks straight into storied history, from the impressive stony stadium of the Colosseum to the same salt-sprayed shores found in Greek myth, and returns home with a rich understanding of how ancient cultures are relevant to our modern day.

Moving to the Front of the Class

Advanced English majors who are interested in teaching, whether at the high school level or in higher education, can get involved in a preceptorship, a kind of internship (or at least an apprenticeship) in teaching literature. Normally, these opportunities are offered in lower division English courses.

Preceptors attend class regularly, read for each class session, and model appropriate student discussion. They also hold office hours to help students understand the material and provide assistance with their papers for the course. Sometimes they offer or help with, review sessions before major exams.

Most preceptors meet regularly with the professor to talk about the course, sometimes help plan the syllabus, and will plan and conduct at least one class session with the professor present. While professors are responsible for assigning the final grade, preceptors read and comment on student work.

Last updated Oct 2020

About the School

Our long academic tradition aims to foster in students an appreciation for the complexities of the modern world and workplace while never losing sight of the importance of social responsibility.

Our long academic tradition aims to foster in students an appreciation for the complexities of the modern world and workplace while never losing sight of the importance of social responsibility. Read less