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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department

Undergraduate Studies

in English at the University of Massachusetts offers the opportunities that come with a large department and a research university along with the small classes and sense of community you might associate with a private liberal arts college. The department faculty includes a host of internationally known professors whose widely published research puts them at the forefront of their fields--and whose research and writing enriches what they teach and how they teach it. But unlike many other universities, and many other departments at UMass, the English department continues to provide small classes, on the principle that students learn best, and especially learn to write and read best, in small classes. While we do offer a handful of lecture courses--taught by lively and popular teachers--most courses in the department have 20 to 35 students and include plenty of discussion of readings and attention to writing.

Because of its size, the department can also offer an enticing diversity of learning opportunities. You can learn about Shakespeare from a teacher who focuses on the aesthetics of the plays or from a teacher equally concerned with the cultural meanings of Shakespeare from the Renaissance up through Shakespeare in Love (and beyond). You can learn about an English literature that has its locus in the British Isles as well as an English literature that spans the globe and marks the history of colonization and its overthrow. While the department has special strengths in both Renaissance literature and world literature in English, it also has a number of other notable strengths. We have a long tradition of teaching and research in ethnic American literature, and the faculty currently has teachers with specialties in the writings and cultures of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. The department also has groups of professors who teach interdisciplinary study, in American studies, Renaissance studies, women's studies, queer studies, cultural studies, performance studies, and the study of the relations between literature and science and technology. And it has splendid teachers of writing in its variety of forms, from fiction and poetry through expository writing and technical writing.

The number of majors and pre-majors in the English department is over 800. Although it is surely possible among so many to feel like an anonymous line on a printout, the numbers also clearly enable a wide variety of communities of interest and English-department subcultures. The department tries to cultivate such communities through receptions (for new majors, for students writing honors theses, for graduating seniors) and by sponsoring a variety of events (lectures, poetry and fiction readings, colloquia). Such communities are also fostered by student organizations, such as the English Society, which organizes literature-related trips, poetry readings, and writing groups, and publishes the literary magazine Jabberwocky. The opportunities at UMass abound to meet like-minded people, encounter new perspectives, and find a wealth of intellectual and cultural experiences.