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Peter B. Harris
Major in English
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The English Department offers courses in a variety of periods, genres, and authors, as well as seminars in particular topics. The major in English builds upon the close reading and detailed analysis of literary texts, the investigation of the central political, cultural, and ideological issues raised by those texts, and the consideration of various critical approaches and strategies of interpretation. Our majors take two introductory courses (one at the first-year and one at the sophomore level) and ten advanced courses, one of which is a senior seminar. Some classes are limited to 30, many to 20, and others to 15 (writing workshops and seminars); all invite, and many demand, student discussion.
All Colby students are required to take Composition (English 115); the only exceptions are those who receive a four or five on the English Advanced Placement exam. Reading lists vary considerably from section to section, and first-year students are offered a choice of topics. English 115 is organized around writing; all students write extensively and discuss their own and their classmates’ work. All English courses are also open to non-majors, including 400-level courses like Shakespeare. The gateway to the English major is EN 172, the English Seminar. These small, 15-person seminars provide a first, intense, intimate encounter with genre, form, and close reading.
The department has developed a concentration in creative writing for English majors that consists of instruction in both fiction and poetry at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. These courses can be coordinated with literature courses in contemporary fiction and poetry. Students in other disciplines may minor in creative writing. In addition, the program offers a regular series of visiting writers who come to Colby to give readings and offer criticism of student work in writing workshops. One of the program’s aims is to prepare students for careers as professional writers.
Many studies show that English is a useful pre-professional major not only for those who want to attend graduate schools of law, medicine, and business, but also for those seeking jobs in commerce, industry, and government. These studies seem to be borne out by the experience of Colby English majors. Some go on to graduate school and become college or school teachers; some go to medical or law school; some go into related work such as journalism, library science, or publishing. A random survey of last year’s graduates shows students entering telejournalism, print journalism, and photography; graduate school in journalism, library science, law, literature, and publishing; Teaching for America, teaching junior high school, high school, and English as a second language; working in ecological field research and photography; interning at MoMA. We did not teach any of them to do their jobs. We believe that we did teach them to think critically, to do their jobs more humanely, and to lead their lives more fully.
The English Department offices are located on the second floor of Miller Library. For further information, please contact Katherine Stubbs, Chair, (firstname.lastname@example.org) 207-859-5280 or the department Secretary, at 207–859–5250.