Message from the Chair

“Soft skills.” It’s a phrase we hear or read with increasing frequency in interviews with or statements from CEOs, Human Resource specialists, and job market analysts, among others. “We need people with soft skills.” But what does it mean? What are they are looking for? High-value skills include an ability to absorb and evaluate information so as to share it with a broad spectrum of potential clients and users, a capacity to think and speak or write critically, a willingness 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, “soft skills” are in demand, now more than ever.

And “soft skills” are an important aspect of what we do. 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 soft 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.

And we help you to do all of this while sharing with you our passion for the ideas, texts, and authors we love, 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 Honours programme in English Literature (ENGL), we also have: an English-Creative Writing program (ENCW), 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), where students can study rhetorical theory, its history, and its applications.

Some of these degree programs 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 “Faculty of Humanities” (BHE).

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

For the 2018-2019 academic year, we will be running the following four 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. ENGL 1F95 Literature in English: Forms, Themes, and Approaches takes its readings primarily from the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries; it will be taught by Dr Neta Gordon, winner of the 2011 Faculty of Humanities Excellence in Teaching award. ENGL 1F97 Literature of Trauma and Recovery examines responses to human suffering, both personal and societal, and the power of words to express and effect change in the face of powerful adversity; it will be taught by Dr. Susan Spearey, winner of the 2005-2008 Chancellor’s Chair award.  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.

Our programmes offer what we think is the best of both worlds: the structure to ensure that you have the breadth 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.

Soft skills for a hard world. Now, more than ever, the world needs YOU. Let us help you get ready for it.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. We hope to see you soon.

Dr James Allard