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English Language & Literature

Closeup of old book spines

The Department of English Language and Literature aims to teach all students to write and speak well and to read skillfully, thoughtfully and with pleasure. We offer many courses that stress literary history and canonical figures, but we also give our students opportunities to experiment with a variety of new fields, theoretical perspectives and linguistic developments, and to pursue creative writing of their own.

We expect that our majors will graduate with an understanding of the historical and cultural forces that have shaped literatures in English, beginning in the British Isles, but that have now spread across the world. We want all of our students to learn to wrestle with the complex interpretive challenges that literature poses and to become, in the words of Henry James, people “upon whom nothing is lost.”

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Literary Lunches

The department hosts a couple of noontime literary discussions each semester. All are welcome and lunch is available for the first 20 attendees.

  • Thursday, September 12, noon–1 p.m., Poetry Center, Wright Hall. "Jewishness, Historiography, and the Victorian Novel": A lecture by Smith alum Megan Dent
  • Monday, October 28, noon-1 p.m., Lazarus Center for Career Development, Drew Hall, 2nd floor. "Yes, English Majors Get Jobs. Here's how the Lazarus Center Can Help." A conversation with Stacie Hagenbaugh, Director of the Lazarus, and alumnae who have navigated the job search process. An introduction to the resources on offer for literature majors, and suggestions for finding your way towards a fulfilling path in any field.  We will demystify the whole process of hunting for a job, offering strategies for students whose potential employers aren't necessarily making campus visits.  
  • Wednesday, March 4, 12:10-1:00, Poetry Center, Wright Hall. "On Writing, Publishing, and Literary Life." Professors Carole DeSanti and Ruth Ozeki will discuss writing and the publishing business, and their decades-long literary creative partnership that began at Smith. Bring your questions about publishing and writing careers, creative sustenance after college, and finding both your voice and a place in the literary world.

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English Language & Literature
Pierce Hall
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3302

Administrative Assistant: Jennifer Roberts

For questions regarding the English major, please contact the department chair, Richard Millington.