In the English degree program, students explore great works of literature and develop strong writing skills while contributing to the local and global writing communities.
English majors and minors enjoy small classes and a congenial atmosphere with high standards that combine to foster individual growth. While the classrooms and gardens of the Pearson House offer inviting and creative study environments for reading and writing scholars, students are also encouraged to explore courses in the arts, history, science and foreign language and study abroad at one of Webster University's international campuses to investigate the importance of literature to the world and in their own lives.
Areas of Emphasis
Creative WritingThe Creative Writing emphasis is a dynamic program featuring classes in poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction and translation supported by requirements and diverse electives in the study of literature. Creative writing is taught in workshops limited to 15 students by teachers who are themselves working, published writers.
The primary focus is learning the art of reading as a writer: opening up influences, gathering strategies and widening the range of what's possible in a student's own writing. English majors will discover the precarious balance between the solitary, private act of writing itself and the communal, public act of passing written work before the unblinking critical eye of the world. Publication as an end in itself is not the ultimate aim here; however, a dedicated faculty who are constantly writing and publishing operate on the assumption that students also will be seriously committed to the development of their own work.
St. Louis is home to a thriving and cosmopolitan literary scene with Creative Writing MFA programs at multiple regional universities, long-standing community reading series which bring talent to St. Louis from all over the country, and highly-respected literary magazines like River Styx and December alongside up-and-comers like Architrave and Bad Shoe.
Literature, Society and PoliticsThe emphasis in Literature, Society and Politics reflects the English department's interest in literature's relationship to the human endeavors of the larger world. 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 or historical context.
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, English majors 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, courses 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.
The curriculum explores a 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, this emphasis provides 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.
World Drama and PlaywritingThe English department's emphasis in World Drama and Playwriting is designed to give students a strong grounding in our rich legacy of dramatic literature from the Greeks to the present day. From the Oresteia to Hamlet and Angels in America, students read masterworks in every major period of dramatic literature. Survey courses like Global Dramatic Literature give English majors the big picture drawing links between writers, ideas and important periods while more narrowly focused courses like Tragic Themes, Modern Drama, Contemporary Drama and Shakespeare I & II help students become better acquainted with specific authors, themes or periods.
It all begins with the written word. The English department's dramatic literature classes are designed to engage and involve students as active readers and scholars. Faculty view plays as performance texts and encourage students to read as actors, designers, writers and critics. The emphasis in World Drama and Playwriting is designed to give students the necessary literary background and analytical skills they will need as teachers, writers, scholars and theatre professionals. Additionally, collaborations with Webster’s School of Fine Arts allow playwriting students to explore other dimensions of the dramatic arts.
Points of Distinction
- Classes are small and discussion-oriented, which encourage students to learn from one another.
- Courses in each emphasis are taught by professors who are also active, published authors such as award-winning poet David Clewell, award-winning playwright Michael Erickson and literary critic Meg Sempreora - winner of the 2007 William T. Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching.
- Webster’s Visiting Writers Series gives students firsthand access to well-known and well-respected writers. Visiting writers have included Billy Collins, George Saunders and Lynda Barry.
- The English department is a close-knit community of students and professors who meet regularly for readings, book discussions and other activities in the Pearson House.
- 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 production of a publication.