Department of English


The USM English major is devoted to the study of language, literature, and culture. Focusing upon the British and American literary traditions, the major exposes students to a range of literature in different historical eras. It also offers students the opportunity to explore other traditions such as Irish or Canadian literature, women’s writing, and African- American writing. In addition to literatures written in English, course offerings include world literatures in translation from the classical to contemporary eras.

The major encourages both the analysis of literary form and the study of literature in its historical and cultural contexts. Students learn how to read in the light of contemporary critical theories and in relation to the tools, texts, and theories of other academic disciplines. Many classes provide opportunities for the study of non-literary cultural texts and practices such as film, television, fashion, and ritual. Approved courses from other departments and programs—for example, Women’s Studies and Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures—may also be counted toward the English major.

The most distinctive skill the major develops is critical expository writing. Virtually every course requires substantial writing from students, ranging from a weekly short paper to longer research papers. Moreover, students have the opportunity to develop their talents in writing through workshops in fiction, poetry, autobiography, and journalism. English majors have traditionally enjoyed participating in the creative communities of Stonecoast Writers’ Conference and Celebrate Writers! The Department also offers a minor in writing. An internship in professional writing provides a means for some students to work locally as writers, editors, and reporters, and an internship in the teaching of writing for students who are planning a teaching career is offered.

Because of the Department’s desire to explore relationships among language, literature and culture, English majors are encouraged to study a second language. Opportunities for study abroad are offered through the Department’s exchange program with several schools, including Radboud University in the Netherlands, University College Winchester (formerly
King Alfred’s College) and the University of Central Lancashire in England, and University College, Galway, in the Republic of Ireland.

English majors are continually engaged in articulating their ideas and in developing persuasive arguments; therefore, graduates are well-prepared for careers in many areas. Medical, law, and business schools, in particular, regard English majors as desirable applicants. USM graduates also enter professional and graduate schools, including programs in English, writing, and cultural studies.

Learning Outcomes

Every major will:

  1. produce a substantial body of analytical writing that uses evidence and employs formal standard written English to make a focused argument.
  2. read a range of complex cultural texts and exhibit a knowledge of different genres and literary history.
  3. use advanced research tools and knowledge of basic literary terms to compile, evaluate, and document appropriate primary and secondary sources for a substantial capstone project.
  4. critically examine and synthesize multiple, complex, often contradictory arguments and perspectives.
  5. demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of texts and traditions of language and literature written in English as well as their social, cultural, theoretical and historical contexts.