The English Department has implemented several changes in its major this year.
Approved in the fall of 2001 by the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Council, the changes include the addition of a concentration focusing on writing, media and communication.
The new concentration is part of an effort by the English Department to create a more multi-track major. “We wanted to keep the emphasis on the traditional core of literature, but change the way we interpreted it,” English Department Chair Bette London said. “We attempted to think as broadly as possible about what falls in the category of English.”
The writing, media and communication concentration highlights subjects such as editing, rhetoric, the history of the media of arts and communication, journalism, professional writing, public speaking and debate.
According to the English Department Web site, the concentration, “may be of special interest to students who are contemplating careers in such areas as law, non-fiction writing, publishing, print journalism or electronic journalism.”
The English Department also revised its requirements for its standard English major. “The changes allow students more space for individual self-determination,” London said. English majors now have more 100-level classes to choose from and more options in determining the higher-level classes they wish to take.
“The new requirements give us a lot more flexibility,” said junior and English major Alison Zwecker.
The new requirements addressed problems the department had with the old requirements. Because they often overlapped, the old requirements caused unnecessary bureaucracy and confusion. The new requirements solve this problem. “The changes simplify the major. They make the tracks within the major more coherent,” Director of Undergraduate Studies Ken Gross said.
In addition, English majors no longer have to take courses designated as upper level writing classes. “Writing is synonymous with the English Department. Literature courses are all writing intensive. The change is not a diminishment of writing within the major, but instead an acknowledgement of how critical writing is,” London said.
Junior English major Yael Garfinkle agrees that this requirement was redundant. “I think [the requirements] are better now with no upper level writing requirement because English classes all have a great deal of writing,” she said.
In place of the upper level writing requirement, English majors will now take a research seminar. The research seminars are small discussion courses that “involve a research project and lead to the production of a substantial body of written work,” according to the department’s Web site.
An example of a course that meets the research seminar requirement is “Crime and the Law in 18th Century British Literature” taught by Assistant Professor Hal Gladfelder in the spring. “The intention of the course is different [from other courses] in that it is meant to emphasize substantial research,” Gladfelder said.
According to Gladfelder, research topics can draw off of any aspect of this course. For instance, a student may examine “a particular criminal, trial reports or series of literature.”
Freshman Elliot Chun feels that the changes to the major are an improvement. “I think that the English department will now attract a greater diversity of the student body,” he said.
These changes take effect beginning with the Class of 2004. Students in the Class of 2003 have the option of following either the old or new requirements.
“We’re being very flexible,” Gross said. “Seniors can stick with the old requirements, and in fact, many are opting to use the new requirements because they’re more convenient.”