Department Overview

In Carleton's English Department we're passionate about the study of literature and committed to creating works of scholarship and literary art. Although we work hard and value deep thinking, we like to think we're unpretentious, preferring irony to pomposity, wit to portentousness, clarity to cant--a stance illustrated by our department mascot, the chimney-sweep or "imp." We also like to have fun, enjoying a lively banquet of intellectual and social activities from lectures by distinguished visitors to student-faculty trivia contests to Marathon Readings to softball games at our annual picnic. 

A Balanced Curriculum

Our curriculum balances the classic literatures of the past with the varied idioms of the present. Our classes offer the opportunity to work closely with faculty engaged in an exciting range of scholarly and creative activity, covering a wide range of topics, historical eras, literary traditions, and critical approaches:

  • English literature from the medieval period through the present
  • American literature, including African-American, Asian-American and Latino/a literature
  • Post-colonial literature and theory, including African, Caribbean and South Asian literature, in English and in translation
  • Irish literature
  • Creative writing classes in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and journalism
  • Critical theory, ancient and modern
  • Interdisciplinary work in film and theater
  • Rhetoric and oral presentation
  • Range of options for Senior Integrative Exercise ("Comps")
  • Independent study projects (for students to work closely with faculty on topics of mutual interest)
  • Opportunities to study/work with distinguished visiting scholars and writers
  • Off-campus study programs in London and Ireland

An Interdisciplinary Discipline

English is among the most interdisciplinary departments in the college. In addition to our own courses, English faculty direct and contribute to a number of humanities majors and concentrations, including African/African American Studies, American Studies, Environmental Studies, European Studies, Latin American Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, South Asian Studies, Women's and Gender Studies. Our faculty also co-teach classes with such departments as Theater and Dance, History, Art History.

Our interdisciplinary activity is a reasonable extension of our disciplinary objectives. First, as writers and teachers of writing, we help provide a core to the curriculum of a good liberal arts college, for the written word is germinal to all our pursuits. Second, literature might be the discipline closest to the center of the liberal arts, since the skills of close reading, interpretation, and persuasive communication are essential to all fields, whether artistic, humanistic, or scientific.

English classes tend to be small and informal. We urge each student to discover his or her style in reading subtle and complex texts, in writing clear and persuasive prose, and in thinking and speaking metaphorically as well as logically about life’s important issues. Each day we come to class hoping that this class, this hour will advance our understanding a step further. We love literature and we love teaching.

Student-Faculty Scholarship

Faculty frequently take on Student Research Assistants, with support from Carleton's Humanities Center.  Students gain valuable skills and experience as they help advance faculty research projects. Learn more about ongoing and recent research projects.

Student Scholarship and Creativity

Senior Integrative Exercises and Independent Studies offer opportunities for student scholarship and creative projects.

Students have recently:

  • built a prototype digital edition of Alice in Wonderland, which has been well-received by Carroll scholars
  • written a collection of pastoral poems
  • prepared and executed a plan for teaching Asian-American short stories in high school English classes
  • investigated the theological basis of Satan's inability to repent in Paradise Lost
  • written and produced a post-colonial play based around Shakespeare's Caliban

Check out student projects by looking our annual Senior Symposium program.