English Language and Literature Departmental Information

U-M ENGLISH MISSION STATEMENT

The University of Michigan's English department is dedicated to four related endeavors: surveying and analyzing the diverse range of texts in the English language; researching and teaching the rich history of that language; fostering exceptional creative as well as critical writing; and studying texts in relation to other cultural phenomena. Our mission as educators is to enable students to become the finest readers and writers of literary texts that they can be. Because those texts in their infinite variety take as their subjects our fellow humans, our histories, and our cultures, we aim in effect to equip our students both to read the world, and write the future, with subtlety, acumen and precision.

The Department of English focuses primary attention on the analysis and enjoyment of works of imaginative literature. Drawing on the rich variety of texts produced over the last millennium and a half in diverse forms of English from every part of the globe, our courses aim at a subtle and flexible understanding of the content of these texts and a sensitive appreciation of their style and form.

The interests the Department addresses and the studies it sponsors, however, range far beyond the study of imaginative literature. Its courses offer instruction in writing, including exposition and creative writing, whether prose fiction, poetry, or drama. An increasing number of our courses involve substantial use of computers and extended inquiry into information networks. The English language itself, its history, structure, and diverse traditions of use, is the focus of yet other courses. Still others focus on literary theory, examining strategies of literary interpretation, evaluation, and appreciation and considering the ways in which literary texts relate to other forms of cultural representation.

One special feature of this English Department consists in the number of courses it offers jointly with other programs in the College — Women's Studies, for example, Afro-American and African Studies, American Culture (Native American Studies, Latina/o Studies, Asian American Studies), Studies in Religion, Comparative Literature, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Screen Arts and Cultures. The varieties of materials and the diverse backgrounds and interests of students involved in such courses present extraordinary opportunities for intellectual growth.

The present study of literature has returned with particular force and new perspective to a very old consideration — that language and literature are necessarily understood as social products and agents, deeply implicated in the processes and questions that interest and, at times, agitate society more generally. These issues as represented in texts — issues of ethics, of political order, of economic and ethnic difference, of gender, of systems of belief — recur as a regular feature of discussion in many of our courses.

 


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