Message from the Chair

“You’re studying English? What can you do with that?” You’ve all heard that question, may have even asked it yourself. And whether it’s asked with honest curiosity or thinly veiled contempt, it’s a fair one: in our STEM-focussed, wired world, what is the value of engaging in Literary and Cultural Studies? What can you do with that?

Well, let’s start with what you’ll do while pursuing your degree with us. You will learn how to absorb and evaluate information so as to share it with a broad spectrum of potential audiences; you will develop a capacity to think and speak and write critically, sensitively, and creatively; you will acquire a capacity to adapt and perform as new data emerges and becomes relevant. From the retail sector to government to the highest echelons of entities working to bring yet-to-be-imagined technologies to the public, what are sometimes called “soft skills” are in demand, now more than ever.

In courses exploring the emergence of the idea of “nationhood” in the Early Modern Period, the avant-garde in Canadian language arts, or the role of journalism in shaping our experiences of and engagement with the worlds in which we live–to provide just three examples of the dozens of courses we offer–we practice, model, and teach these skills. Whether you are studying Shakespearean Tragedy or Modernist Poetry, Medieval Women’s Writing or Speculative Fiction, the Eighteenth-Century Novel or Critical Race Theory, you are engaged in the process of absorbing, evaluating, and communicating information; of debating, defending, and sometimes discarding ways of thinking and seeing; of developing and sharpening your critical writing and speaking skills. Can you imagine a job, a company, a field that wouldn’t want someone who could do those things?

And you learn to do all of this while engaging a passion for ideas, texts, and authors, for language use in all of its myriad forms. We are eager to share with you our favourite authors and texts, the ideas and contexts that have shaped the world as we know it; we are just as eager to learn from you about the ones that you love, too.

Our programs are designed so that you get to study literature and theory from a range of time periods and genres, while still leaving room for you to follow the specific interests that you bring with you or discover while you are here. In addition to the traditional study of English Literature (ENGL, both Honours and 3-Year programs), we also have an English and Creative Writing program (ENCW, Honours only), which offers students the opportunity to study literature and to participate in workshop-style classes to hone their creative writing skills in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction; and degree options in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Studies (WRDS, Honours and 3-Year programs), where students can study rhetorical theory, its histories, and its applications.

Many of these degree options can be combined with programs from other disciplines as well, allowing you to tailor your degree to your specific interests and goals. Students interested in any of these programs should make an application through OUAC (Ontario Universities Application Centre) to Brock University for the English Language and Literature (BEN).

The Department also is home to student groups such as the English Students’ Association and the
Creative Writers Club. These student-led organizations arrange different activities and events, providing opportunities for students to become part of an engaged community.

For the 2019-20 academic year, we will be running the following first-year courses:

  • ENGL 1F91 English Literature: Tradition and Innovation provides a survey of English Literature from the Medieval Period to the present; it will be taught by Dr Mathew Martin, who also serves as Director of the PhD Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities;
  • ENGL 1F95 Literature in English: Forms, Themes, and Approaches focusses primarily on texts from the nineteenth- and twentieth- century; it will be taught by Dr James Allard, current Chair of the Department;
  • ENGL 1F97 Literature of Trauma and Recovery takes a focussed, thematic approach to introduce students to Literary and Cultural Studies; it will be taught by Dr Susan Spearey, who held the 2005-2008 Chancellor’s Chair for Excellence in Teaching;
  • WRDS 1F90 Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Studies: An Introduction explores histories and theories of rhetoric and writing as well as writing practices in different media and for different audiences and will be taught by Dr Gale Coskan-Johnson and Dr Rob Alexander; both have been instrumental in developing the new Honours degree in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Studies for the Department.

As you can see from the information provided here, we take first-year instruction seriously in our Department, refusing to see the teaching of first-year classes as somehow “less important” than other pursuits: that our first-year courses should be taught by talented, dedicated, core faculty is one of our most long-standing and firmly held beliefs.

Our programs offer what we think is the best of both worlds: the structure to ensure that you have the breath and depth of training required to meet the changing and increasingly demanding challenges of the world in which you live, and the freedom to follow the path through that structure that best engages your interests and passions.

So what can you do with that? The real question is, what can YOU do with that?

Feel free to contact me (jallard@brocku.ca) if you have any questions. We hope to see you soon.

Dr. James Allard