Courses in the Department of English are designed to enrich students’ understanding of life and the arts through the study of literature in English. Courses are organized in various ways and at a number of different levels. At the 100-level, English Department courses teach rhetoric and composition and provide intensive introductions to fiction, drama, poetry, and to the contested issues generally enlivening the study of literature. Our 200-level courses include intermediate-level courses in writing, period surveys of British, American, and other literature written in English, together with introductions to folklore, film study, and English linguistics. The 300-level courses are advanced electives in creative writing, historical studies of the poetry, drama, and fiction of various periods, courses in literary theory, studies of major literary figures such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, courses in minority and ethnic literature, and other specialized approaches to literature, as well as a senior seminar “Topics in Literature.” A detailed English Department Handbook can be obtained in the departmental office.
We would like the English major to sustain, develop, and inform our students’ pleasure in reading. At the same time, we expect our students to become aware of their own conceptual and methodological choices as readers, to be able to articulate how and why they read in a particular way. We want them to grasp the philosophical and theoretical issues that can help them situate texts in large frameworks, to develop a richer critical framework, and to become acquainted with terms and concepts of critical discourse as used in the discipline. Our students should pay close attention to language (both in reading and writing), to become sensitive to the connotations of words and phrases, and to learn the rhetorical terms to identify the tropes they discover. It is important for our literature written in English. They should have a sense of how these works fit into a historical context, which means understanding how the text represents particular aspects of the culture in which it appeared, and how that text participates in the development of its own genre over time. Such readings will give our students a richer and more accurate sense of literary history, and encourage them to identify with, and participate in, multiple cultural discourses. Finally, we want our English majors to be able to write expressive, sophisticated, well-constructed critical essays and creative work, and to apply the same skills of close analysis to their own writing that we want them to use in their reading. They should learn to write analytical research papers which show an ability to select scholarly resources, an understanding of the relation among sources, and a capacity for critical interrogation of those sources. At Queens College, we teach students who are enormously diverse in terms of ethnic, age, class, and geographical affiliations and many of whom lead complicated lives as parents and workers as well as students. We want our English major to serve these different constituencies. No matter what careers they choose – whether they become teachers, workers, writers, or scholars – they should come out of our department with a richer and more critical sense of how to read and articulate the culture in which they live.