English

  • Degree Type Bachelor of Arts
  • Department English
  • Academic Division The College
  • Offerings Major

Students sitting on a bench outdoors, working on laptops Students sitting on a bench outdoors, working on laptops

Working closely with dedicated faculty members, students in this department hone their ability to think and read critically, reason persuasively and write eloquently through the exploration of a constantly evolving range of course offerings.

English

English majors at W&L learn methodologies and vocabularies for literary study; contemplate forms and purposes of literary art in a variety of periods and cultures; and investigate intersections between English and many other disciplines.

The department fosters a culture of curiosity and intellectual endeavor, as well as respect for a variety of cultures and intellectual approaches, through advising, internships and service-learning, study abroad, and extracurricular programming. Students who pursue optional creative writing courses balance critical study with creative endeavor, learning the history and forms of literary art as apprentice practitioners.

This 11-course major makes it easy for students to study abroad, double major or complete a minor. The major is also compatible with pre-med or health professions preparation. English majors have access to frequent readings and lectures by visiting writers and scholars.

Opportunities 

Study Abroad: English majors who plan ahead can take Spring Term, one of the long terms, or even the whole junior year abroad. Summer study can also be arranged. Study abroad usually takes the form of year-long or semester-long study at a foreign university in an English-speaking country. English majors have had good experiences at Advanced Studies in England in Bath; University College, Oxford; The Virginia Program at Oxford (summer); University College, London; York University; Melbourne; and other universities abroad.

Prizes and Awards: The department offers several scholarships, as well as awards for both creative and critical writing.

Shenandoah Magazine: Internship opportunities are available at W&L’s celebrated literary magazine, Shenandoah. Students gain hands-on experience in editing, project management, design and publicity.

Senior Honors Theses: Each English major has the option of writing a senior honors thesis that fulfills the Senior Capstone Writing Requirement for English majors.

Outcomes

Of the members of the Class of 2017, 100 percent were employed six months after graduation. Our majors, who frequently pair English with another major, go on to graduate school, prestigious fellowships, and careers in law, teaching, publishing, marketing and communications, finance, government and much more. Having a strong alumni network means our alumni frequently step in to provide personal guidance and connect current students with potential employers. 

Holly Pickett

Department Head

Charity Corman

Administrative Assistant

News


W&L Outcomes: Lillie Taylor ’24

Taylor is moving to Niigata Prefecture, Japan, to work as an assistant language teacher for the JET Program.

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Ryan Doty '26 standing on an overlook just outside of Widemouth Bay, in Cornwall, England

Roots Pilgrimage

Ryan Doty’s summer passion project explored his family lineage through poetry and photography.

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Diego Millan

Diego Millan Receives the Jack Rosenbalm Prize for American Humor

The assistant professor of English and Africana studies was cited for his article on Chester Himes’ book ‘If He Hollers Let Him Go.’

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Nathaniel Goldberg and Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler and Nathaniel Goldberg Collaborate to Publish Third Book Together

The W&L professors’ latest publication uses pop culture concepts to untangle real-world histories.

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‘The Big Picture of Life’

As one of the first Spring Term abroad classes offered at W&L, The Play’s the Thing: Shakespeare in Performance continues to impact the cohort of alumni who took that initial trip to England.

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W&L Professor Awarded the David and Rosalee McCullough Research Fellowship

Edward Adams will use the funds to research decline narratives in West Virginia.

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W&L’s Gillian Holloway ’24 Earns Fulbright to Spain

Holloway was selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to teach English in Spain.

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W&L Hosts 19th Annual Tom Wolfe Weekend

The weekend’s seminar will feature Tess Gunty discussing her debut novel, “The Rabbit Hutch.”

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W&L Presents Senior Recital with Annie Thomas ’24

Thomas’s piano recital will be held on March 29 at 8 p.m.

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Sybil Prince Nelson

Sybil Prince Nelson is the Next Speaker in the Anne and Edgar Basse Jr. Author Talk Series

Nelson will deliver a lecture on “Where Math Meets Imagination” on March 19.

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Author Kaveh Akbar to Deliver Public Reading

Akbar will read from his debut novel “Martyr!” at the March 14 event.

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W&L English Professor Publishes New Book

Holly Pickett’s book explores the stories of several serial converts in early modern England.

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Sample Courses

At W&L, we believe education and experience go hand-in-hand. You’ll be encouraged to dive in, explore and discover connections that will broaden your perspective.

ENGL 252

Shakespeare

A study of the major genres of Shakespeare’s plays, employing analysis shaped by formal, historical and performance-based questions. Emphasis is given to tracing how Shakespeare's work engages early modern cultural concerns, such as the nature of political rule, gender, religion and sexuality. A variety of skills are developed in order to assist students with interpretation, which may include verse analysis, study of early modern dramatic forms, performance workshops, two medium-length papers, reviews of live play productions, and a final, student-directed performance of a selected play.

ENGL 230

Poetry & Music

An introduction to the study of poetry in English with an emphasis on music. After starting with a consideration of how poems in print can be said to have rhythm and sound effects, students then investigate a series of questions about poetry and music, including: What's the relationship between lyric poetry and song lyrics? What makes a poem musical? What kinds of music have most influenced poetry during the last hundred years, and in what ways?

ENGL 240

Arthurian Legend

This course surveys the origins and histories of Arthurian literature, beginning with Celtic myths, Welsh tales and Latin chronicles. We then examine medieval French and English traditions that include Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the lais of Marie de France, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Alliterative Morte Arthure, and Malory’s Le Morte Darthur. Finally, we investigate Arthurian medievalisms in Victorian England and in American (post)modernity through Tennyson, Twain, Barthelme and Ishiguro.

ENGL 293

Films of Alfred Hitchcock

This course presents an intensive survey of the films of Alfred Hitchcock: it covers all of his major and many of his less well-known films. It supplements that central work by introducing students to several approaches to film analysis that are particularly appropriate for studying Hitchcock. These include biographical interpretation (Spoto's dark thesis), auteur and genre-based interpretation (Truffaut), psychological analyses (Zizek & Freud), and dominant form theory (hands-on study of novel to film adaptations).

ENGL 393

Jane Austen's Fan Culture & Afterlives

In the 20th and 21st centuries, Jane Austen has attained a celebrity that far exceeds the recognition she enjoyed during her lifetime. How did Austen transform from biting social satirist to patron saint of chick lit? Beginning with three of Austen’s novels, and then turning to the fan cultures surrounding “Pride and Prejudice,” this course examines the nature of fandom, especially its propensity to change and adapt the very thing it celebrates.

ENGL 387

Visions & Beliefs of the West of Ireland

This course immerses the student in the literature, religious traditions, history and culture of Ireland. The primary focus of the course is on Irish literary expressions and religious beliefs and traditions, from the pre-historic period to the modem day, with a particular emphasis on the modem (early 20th-century) Irish world. Readings are coordinated with site visits, which range from prehistoric and Celtic sites to early and medieval Christian sites to modem Irish life.

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.

Holly Pickett
Holly Pickett

Holly Pickett

Department Head and Associate Professor of English

Pickett teaches courses on Shakespeare, early modern drama and contemporary drama. Her research interests include religion and drama, history of the senses, and early modern religious identities and controversies.

Edward Adams
Edward Adams

Edward Adams

John Lucian Smith, Jr. Professor of English

Adams teaches courses such as Victorian poetry, Hitchcock and 19th century British novel. His research interests include history and fiction, novel and epic, and high culture and pop culture.

Michael Berlin
Michael Berlin

Michael Berlin

Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writing Program

Laura Fairchild Brodie
Laura Fairchild Brodie

Laura Fairchild Brodie

Visiting Associate Professor of English

Brodie teaches courses in creative writing and 18th through 21st-century literature. Her books include novels and nonfiction, and her scholarship has focused on the representation of widows in British literature.

Lubabah Chowdhury
Lubabah Chowdhury

Lubabah Chowdhury

Assistant Professor of English

Freddy Fuentes
Freddy Fuentes

Freddy Fuentes

Visiting Assistant Professor of English

Fuentes teaches entry level writing courses as well as topics in creative writing. He has researched Spanish-American literature and privilege in America.

Chris Gavaler
Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler

Associate Professor of English

Gavaler teaches courses on creative writing, contemporary fiction and comics, which are also his main areas of research.

Genelle Gertz
Genelle Gertz

Genelle Gertz

Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English

Gertz teaches courses on Milton, the Tudors and the Bible. She is currently working on methods of social network analysis as they apply to our understanding of the rise and fall of women mystics in English literary history.

K. Avvirin Gray
K. Avvirin Gray

K. Avvirin Gray

Assistant Professor of English

Leah Naomi Green
Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green

Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing and Environmental Studies

Green’s courses include Eco-Writing, “Wilderness, Wildness, & Cultivation," and topics for first-year writing seminars. She has researched creative writing (poetry), environmental literature, Buddhist practice, and food justice.

Website

Jane Harrington

Jane Harrington

Visiting Assistant Professor of English

Harrington teaches British Literature, creative writing and children’s literature. She has researched the Great Hunger of Ireland (folk narratives and history), 19th Century poet/activist Lady Wilde, fairy tales by 17th Century French salon women and issues in contemporary children’s literature.

Lena Hill
Lena Hill

Lena Hill

Provost and Professor of English

In addition to her many duties as Provost, Hill researches and teaches courses primarily in 19th- and 20th-century African-American literature. She has written a number of books and articles on the subject.

Curriculum Vitae

Wan-Chuan Kao
Wan-Chuan Kao

Wan-Chuan Kao

Associate Professor of English

Professor Kao’s teaching and research interests include medieval literature, especially Chaucer; whiteness studies; critical theory; race and ethnicity; gender and sexuality; queer studies; hotel theory; affect; and cute studies.

Emily King
Emily King

Emily King

Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing and English

Diego Millan
Diego Millan

Diego Millan

Assistant Professor of English

Millan teaches upper-level courses in black diasporic literature. He has researched 19th- and 20th-century American and African-American literature and culture, black studies, performance studies, and theories of laughter and comedy.

Bill Oliver
Bill Oliver

Bill Oliver

Director of the Writing and Communications Center, Visiting Associate Professor of English

Oliver has served as the CommCenter director since 2015 and now directs the Writing Center as well. He teaches first-year writing seminars and courses in American literature and fiction writing. His research interest is fiction.

Kary Smout
Kary Smout

Kary Smout

Associate Professor of English

Smout teaches courses on the literature of the American South, American West and business in American literature. His research interests include language and culture, writing instruction and the politics of higher education.

Curriculum Vitae

Beth A. Staples
Beth A. Staples

Beth A. Staples

Assistant Professor of English and Editor, Shenandoah

Staples teaches courses in creative writing, editing and publishing. She is also the editor of W&L’s literary magazine, Shenandoah.

Taylor Walle
Taylor Walle

Taylor Walle

Associate Professor of English

Walle is a W&L alumna who teaches courses on Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and other topics in British literature. Her research interests include orality and literacy in the 18th century, women’s writing, and women’s and gender studies.

Lesley Wheeler
Lesley Wheeler

Lesley Wheeler

Henry S. Fox Professor of English

Wheeler teaches courses in poetry, creative writing and speculative fiction. Her research interests include 20th- and 21st-century poetry in English, especially as it involves sound, gender, politics and world-building.

Edward Adams
Michael Berlin
Laura Fairchild Brodie
Lubabah Chowdhury
Freddy Fuentes
Chris Gavaler
Genelle Gertz
K. Avvirin Gray
Leah Naomi Green
Lena Hill
Wan-Chuan Kao
Emily King
Diego Millan
Bill Oliver
Kary Smout
Beth A. Staples
Taylor Walle
Lesley Wheeler
Holly Pickett