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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department


Chair Introduction
from Jenny Spencer, Department Chair:

Welcome to the Department of English web page at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The English Department is a diverse and welcoming community comprised of 48 faculty members, 6 staff members, 700 undergraduate majors, and 110 MA/Ph.D and 75 MFA candidates. We combine the strengths of a liberal arts college with a major research University: our smaller classes facilitate substantive discussion, frequent writing, active student engagement, and face-to-face contact with research faculty. Both our faculty and graduate students have been recognized as distinguished teachers, writers, and researchers.

Our accomplished faculty publishes cutting edge work in interdisciplinary areas including Postcolonial Studies, American Studies, Rhetoric and Composition, British and Transatlantic Literature, Medieval and Early Modern Literature, Performance and Media Studies. They have won prestigious fellowships such as the Guggenheim, Woodrow Wilson, and ACLS. Members of our creative writing faculty have won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, among others. The MFA Creative Writing Program is nationally ranked, with many well-known writers among their alumi. Committed to both excellence and outreach in their fields, English Department faculty members have founded and developed the nationally recognized Undergraduate Writing Program, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, the Juniper Institute, the Center for Renaissance Studies, and the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute.

For many reasons, students who have completed their English Department degree at UMASS express deep satisfaction with the major. Our programs of study in language, literature, and writing promote a wide range of perspectives and encourage inquiry into diverse textual, cultural, and theoretical traditions. Our popular summer abroad programs in Oxford and Edinburgh provide unique opportunities to learn in an international context. Our commitment to sustaining a diverse faculty means we understand the importance of different viewpoints and experiences, which prepare students to function effectively, and to intervene more progressively, in a highly globalized world.

What exactly do our students learn? English majors develop an understanding of literature, history, and culture; a sensitivity to the nuances of language; and strong writing skills. Their proficiency in reading, writing, and communicating effectively has resulted in a wide array of professional employment and scholarly research opportunities. Among our alums are teachers, web designers, independent researchers, consultants, editors, creative writers, lawyers, professors, and entrepeneurs. The strength of our program is tested by results. Currently, our PhD students hold the highest graduate placement record among all UMASS graduate programs. Our MFA students publish widely. The program in Technical Writing and Composition has placed 100% of its students in industry jobs. Less easily measured, but equally important, our graduates have gone on to become informed citizens and active participants in their own communities.

Please browse these pages to learn about our department and affiliated programs. And contact us if you’d like to learn more.