First Year Program - English Skip Navigation

English (ENGL)

Chair: M. Davies

The Department of English offers courses in two programs of study: (1) literature written in the English language, and (2) English with an emphasis in creative writing. Students may pursue majors and minors in either area.

An English major develops students’ ability to use language effectively and enhances their critical and analytical skills by making them aware of the social and historical context in which writing, in any of its forms, is produced. English study provides an excellent basis for professional programs in law, journalism, publishing, and business as well as for graduate study in literature, creative writing, or the theater.

Students pursuing one of the majors in the department—in English or in English with an emphasis in creative writing—take courses in specified categories described in detail below. There is considerable choice from among the courses that fulfill these requirements, and students should discuss their programs with an adviser in planning a major. English courses also serve as electives for students in other programs. Normally 200-level courses are for first-year and sophomore students; 300-level courses, for sophomores, juniors, and seniors; and 400-level courses, for juniors and seniors. There are a few specified prerequisites for individual courses.

Writing is an important component of coursework. First-year students take English courses because they want to take a course in literature, because they wish to explore English as a possible area of major for their degree, or because they are interested in the program in creative writing.

Students majoring in English literature, as well as those majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing, are required to take ENGL 200, ENGL 201, and a course in postcolonial literatures. 


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ENGL 200, Major British Writers
Works by prominent British writers, from Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century to Seamus Heaney in the twenty-first. The course emphasizes the development of reading and analytical skills. Required of all majors, normally in their first or sophomore year.

ENGL 201, American Texts and Contexts
An introduction to American literature exploring the relations among key texts and various contexts, both critical and historical. The course engages a wide range of issues in American literary history, from the age of discovery through the colonial period and Revolution to debates over slavery and race in the decades before and after the Civil War. The diverse authors studied include Anne Bradstreet, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Ouloudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Mark Twain. Required of all majors, normally in the first or sophomore year.

ENGL 202, Justice/Power-Postcolonial Lit
An introduction to significant debates and texts in the field of postcolonial literatures. This course explores how the field engages with questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, caste, and migration. It considers how writers located in the global south or in the West as migrants navigate their spaces when faced with inequality and marginalization. The course examines both the legacies that empires have left and the nature of new empires that are being constructed.

FSEM 150, Immigrant Voices
Faculty Profile for Professor Maurer

Imagine packing for a long trip that will certainly challenge you and may change your life. What can you take with you? What must you leave behind? The things we will read and study in this course, all written by people who came to a place they had never been before, address these questions in intricate and provocative ways. Authors whose works we will read may include Quan Barry, Abraham Cahan, Edwidge Danticat (who will visit Colgate next fall in the Living Writers series), Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-Rae Lee, Elaine Mar, Dinaw Mengestu, Michael Ondaatje, Anzia Yezierska. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for ENGL 207 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Margaret Maurer is the William Henry Crawshaw Professor of Literature in the department of English. She teaches Core 151, Shakespeare, and other British writers who lived around the same time Shakespeare did; but for this FSEM, she will work with students on more up-to-date things. The goal of this course is to encourage students to challenge themselves, refining their techniques of reading, writing, and research--in effect, in this new phase of their education, to decide what to take with them from what they have done before and what to leave behind.

FSEM 154, Introduction to Drama
Faculty Profile for Professor DuComb

Drama and theater predate recorded history and remain vital modes of artistic expression in the modern world. This seminar offers a selective introduction to dramatic literature, theater history, and performance theory from classical Athens through the early nineteenth century. Course readings explore the ritual origins of theater, as well as the relationship of theater to colonialism, sex, social class, and revolution. Plays on the syllabus include both classics of European drama and exemplary theater texts from other parts of the world. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for THEA 266 and satisfy one half of their Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Christian DuComb recently published his first book, Haunted City: Three Centuries of Racial Impersonation in Philadelphia (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017). As a theater historian, he researches the intersection of race and performance in America, with a focus on the nineteenth century. As a teacher, he believes that students should learn to read plays as living texts, continuously reinvented through historically and culturally specific practices of theatrical performance.

FSEM 161, Major British Writers
Faculty Profile for Professor Staley

This seminar is designed to introduce students to the major works of English literature, to prepare students in the techniques of literary analysis, and to offer a survey of British poetic traditions from the Anglo-Saxon period through the 20th Century, a sense of the history of poetic authority, language, and endeavor. The course involves readings, discussion, and writing.

Though Major British Writers is the gateway course to the English major, required of all majors and intended to be taken in the first or second year, it is not simply a course for potential English majors but for anyone who would like the opportunity to explore major works by major authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, and Robert Browning. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for ENGL 200 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Lynn Staley, professor of English, teaches courses in English literature. Her specialty is medieval literature, medieval women writers, and medieval culture.

FSEM 162, American Lit & Environment
Faculty Profile for Professor Child

An introduction to literary study that focuses on human responses to their environments and ecologies. Explores representations of relationships between people, places, and non-human animals in American fiction, poetry, and non-fiction from the early American Renaissance to the postmodern period. Questions of how environments are inflected by gender and racial positions, as well as literature’s insights into issues of environmental justice and sustainability, are addressed through works by writers such as Wendell Berry, Charles Chesnutt, Annie Dillard, William Faulkner, bell hooks, Aldo Leopold, Marilynne Robinson, Wallace Stevens, Denis Johnson, and Jean Toomer. The course is subdivided into three sections—people and places; humans and/as animals; ethics of environment—with each unit developing overlapping lines of inquiry and interpretation. Crosslisted between English and Environmental Studies, this course also allows students to assess important issues in the emergent field of "ecocriticism." If the weather permits, we will try to make use of the unique physical environment of Hamilton, New York. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for ENGL/ENST 219 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Ben Child is an assistant professor in the English Department. He teaches and studies American literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on fiction and vernacular cultures. He has published articles on Bob Dylan, Cormac McCarthy, the Cinema Novo movement, William Faulkner, and the photographer William Eggleston.