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English Literature

Learn more about major/minor requirements and courses in the College Catalog


The Millsaps English Literature department has designed a curriculum which reflects both our respect for intellectual traditions and an appreciation of the way those traditions have been transformed by the inclusion of other voices: Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Faulkner and Richard Wright.

Photograph of Eudora Welty and Dr. Suzanne Marrs by David G. Spielman. Copyright David G. Spielman.

Although we come from diverse backgrounds and with different experiences, we can find common ground as readers, writers, and thinkers. English Literature majors will learn how to read and interpret complex texts, how to relate one text to another and to a tradition, and how to read texts as part of their cultural and multicultural contexts. These skills are both essential to living productive and imaginative lives and are also excellent preparations for careers in advertising, business, journalism, law, government, or teaching, to name a few of the most common choices of English Literature majors.

We offer courses organized in different ways: around historical periods, single authors, cultural studies, or interpretative problems - to name a few. We also offer courses in both expository and creative writing, and we encourage students to share their work with others either informally or in the Stylus, the college literary magazine, which recently won an award at the Southern Literary Festival as the best literary magazine.

Framed by the "Introduction to Interpretation" and the "Senior Colloquium," the English Literature program allows students to pursue particular interests and lines of inquiry within broad distribution requirements. We encourage students to enrich their advanced study by taking courses in philosophy, history, and other disciplines.

Objectives
A student majoring in English Literature will acquire four types of literary critical proficiency:

  • Breadth
    Majors will be exposed to a broad historical overview of the literature of Great Britain and the United States, and will study several of the periods of literary history in greater detail. They will be asked to trace transformations in literary history, recognize major literary movements, understand the relation between text and cultural context, and synthesize and compare the literature of several periods.
  • Depth
    Majors will be encouraged to study an author in depth, absorbing the writer's entire oeuvre, as well as her or his work's reception history and influence. This area of proficiency is designed to provide the student an opportunity to gain expertise and comprehensive knowledge in a limited area. Students also attain depth by studying particular literary periods or genres in detail.
  • Techniques of Reading
    Majors will learn the practical techniques of reading texts closely, including formal analysis of genre, style, tone, and poetics. They will also become comfortable with applying various interpretive theories to literary texts (e.g. feminist, deconstructive, Marxist, new historicist, psychoanalytic).
  • Cultural Contexts
    Majors will expand their sense of literary possibility by studying literature defined in terms of region, gender, ethnicity, race or religion.
    These objectives complement those of the Millsaps core curriculum, which emphasizes the development of critical and analytical skills as well as a broad understanding of the diverse world in which we live. Another basic objective of the College is to educate effective writers, an objective that the English department reinforces with its teaching of critical and creative writing in a variety of courses.

"What do you do with a B.A. in English Literature? What is my life going to be?"
- Avenue Q

Who says you can only flip burgers if you major in English Literature?! Millsaps grads with a major in English have many different options for exciting careers in diverse fields - at least that's what we discovered when we surveyed English Literature majors who graduated from Millsaps between 1988 and 1998 about their careers.

These former English Literature majors report that their Millsaps education and training helped them land and keep good jobs in such fields as:

  • Mental health therapy and crisis counseling
  • Human resources consulting
  • Law
  • Advertising and media buying
  • Public relations
  • Freelance writing
  • Journalism
  • Teaching in elementary, junior high, and high school
  • Directing scholarship programs
  • Publishing
  • Managing sales accounts for major national companies
  • Management within computer programming
  • Information technology
  • College-level teaching
  • Medicine and medical research
  • Venture capital and equity fund management
  • Commercial leasing and property management
  • International business
  • Politics (one of our graduates is the mayor of a small Mississippi town!)

Extracurricular Activities
The Millsaps English Club sponsors programs and parties for English majors. See Drs. Miller and Franey, faculty advisors, for more information. The English House, the brick house adjacent to Sullivan-Harrell, is the location for most of the offices of the English faculty, and provides a place for formal and informal gatherings of students and faculty, such as Sigma Tau Delta initiations, poetry readings, our annual senior breakfast at graduation, receptions for visiting writers and scholars, and parties. The department and the English Club welcome your ideas for using the public areas of the English House fully.