Literature, Society, and Politics (BA)

Webster CAS English Department 3The English Department's emphasis in Literature, Society, and Politics reflects our interest in literature's relationship to the human endeavors of the larger world. Though the texts we cover and the writing experiences we offer resemble those of a traditional English major, this emphasis is unique in that we usually group our texts not as a part of a historical sequence, but rather as they illuminate a particular theme or genre. While survey courses such as Major British Writers or Major US Writers provide an overview of literary history, courses such as Myth and Modern Literature, Comedy and Satire, Tragic Themes, and Worlds of Romance allow the student to consider common thematic and generic aspects of works from multiple cultures and eras. In this emphasis, we explore literature not only in terms of its aesthetic dimensions, but also in terms of the ways it expresses the values, views, and dynamics of a given cultural and historical context. Thus we consider topics such as the role of the individual in society, the identity and status of marginal groups, the relationship between humankind and the Earth, or the role of myth in our lives.

Our courses explore a wide range of literatures written in English (US, British, Canadian, South African, Caribbean, Indian, etc.) as well as literature in translation from all eras. In addition, we provide a full experience of literary study with courses that focus on single authors, literary theory, linguistics, and narrative as it is translated from literature to film.

While the classrooms and gardens of Pearson House offer a comfortable environment for a community of reading, writing scholars we also encourage our students to explore complementary courses in the arts, history, science, and foreign language, and to study abroad at one of Webster's international campuses in order to investigate the importance of literature to the world and in their own lives.

For more specific degree emphasis requirements, check out the undergraduate catalog.

Points of Distinction

  • Unlike literature courses at most institutions, Webster students study texts not as a part of a historical sequence, but rather as they illuminate a particular theme or genre, allowing students to explore literature aesthetically and within a given cultural and historical context.
  • Classes are small and discussion-oriented, encouraging students to learn from one another.
  • The English department is a close-knit community of students and professors who meet regularly for readings, book discussions, etc. in the cozy Pearson House on campus.
  • Student publications The Green Fuse and The Mercury give students experience with publishing their own creative and academic work, as well as working on the back-end of a publication.