The Reading Girl marble sculpture by John Adams Jackson (1825–1879), now displayed in the Main Library, Mudd Learning Center
The English department is one of the most popular academic programs at Oberlin, as measured both by the number of majors and by the many non-majors who enroll in our courses. The department aims to meet the needs of students with different academic goals--from those seeking a foundation for postgraduate work or study in English and related fields, to those who want a humanistic base for reading, thinking, and writing in a liberal arts environment.
The English department is widely known for excellent teaching from a variety of perspectives. We are committed to engaging our students with the best that has been written, from the traditional canon of English literature to the marginalized and experimental. The diversity of our program encourages students to define their own intellectual priorities and to think for themselves.
About 15 percent of our majors become college professors or high school teachers. Oberlin graduates currently teach in the English departments of such schools as Swarthmore, Williams, Vassar, Emory, Northwestern, the University of Colorado, Bryn Mawr, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of California at Santa Cruz and at Davis, the University of Iowa, and New York University, as well as Oberlin.
Many others have used the BA degree as a springboard to graduate work, such as business studies at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University or law at the University of Michigan. Alumni also have gone directly into the fields of journalism, electronic communications and software, public relations, publishing, and various aspects of the performing and creative arts.
No matter what the career path, Oberlin English majors develop the creative and intellectual discipline, informed curiosity, cultural understanding, and communication skills to position them for success after college.
Our department balances the study of traditional fields of English and American literature with a strong commitment to interdisciplinary work, involving the contemporary fields of African American studies, postcolonial studies, gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, cinema studies, comparative literature, and creative writing. This process lets students shape their own major within the department's flexible requirements.
A major advisor helps each student make the best use of course offerings based on individual interests and objectives. All of our majors become acquainted with representative works in important periods of English, American, and world literature in English; learn about the central literary genres; and develop methods for critical interpretation.
English majors may pursue one of two tracks: the standard major or the concentration major. The standard major is primarily a course of study within the discipline of English, while concentration majors study literature from an interdisciplinary perspective. Both involve students with instruction in the form of seminars, lectures, small group discussions, tutorials, and private readings.
Our courses range from small seminars for first-year students, through broad surveys of historical periods and thematic concerns, to advanced courses which may focus on a single author or a particular set of social or cultural questions. Every senior English major has the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member in a capstone course: a senior seminar, a one-semester research tutorial, or a full-year independent project in the honors program.