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Main office:
170 Bartlett Hall
413-545-5460

 

About the Department

Undergraduate Program

Graduate Program

 

About the Department


The Department of English at UMass Amherst aims to excel in teaching, writing, and study of the rich literature in English written in the United States and across the globe. The Department is committed to having a diverse faculty and student body, recognizing our investment in the range of perspectives that diversity makes possible. English majors can expect to develop an understanding of a wide range of literature, sensitivity to the nuances of language, sharp analytic skills, and excellent skills as writers, speakers, and listeners.


The Department offers small classes conducive to substantive discussion, frequent writing, and face-to-face contact with faculty, which includes winners of the University Distinguished Teaching Award, the College of Fine Arts Outstanding Teacher Award, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Chancellor's Medal for Distinguished Service, as well as prestigious fellowships such as the Guggenheim, Woodrow Wilson, and ACLS.


The Department’s MFA program is among the most eminent in the country, and the MA/PhD program boasts excellent placement records for graduates. The Undergraduate Writing Program and the Western Massachusetts Writing Program are nationally recognized as well.


Department of English alumni have gone on to such professions as teaching in high school, colleges, and universities; professional writing; law; web design; editing; fiction and poetry writing; and scholarly research.


Program Advisor:

Jenny Adams
252 Bartlett Hall
413-545-0644


Undergraduate Program

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. 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.

 

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Graduate Program

With an extraordinarily distinguished faculty of scholars and writers, a diverse and energetic cohort of graduate students, a rich array of resources in the Five College community, and an unusually strong commitment to job placement and professionalization for students, our graduate program in English attracts outstanding applicants from every state and from around the world. We place a high value on diversity, try actively to recruit and support minority applicants, and work hard to create an environment in which all colleagues are treated with the respect and given the support every person deserves.

The program offers three degrees: a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing, a Masters (MA) or a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in English and American Literature, and a Ph.D. in Composition and Rhetoric.

Our graduate faculty has a strong commitment to both research and teaching; indeed, we believe that the faculty of a first-rate graduate program must contribute actively and visibly to their fields if they are to provide graduate students with the knowledge, skills, and resources demanded by the profession today. Our faculty have been winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, and have won distinction as holders of ACLS, Bunting, Fulbright, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships. We have served the profession as the editors or contributing editors of such publications as Melus, ELR, the Boston Review, Journal X, and Theater Topics, and as the officers of numerous organizations, including the National Council of Teachers of English and the New England American Studies Association. In addition, our department has a long-standing tradition of commitment to public service and outreach, providing community-based internships for our graduate students and founding such programs as the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. We believe that a faculty with these varied kinds of professional distinction can offer graduate students an exceptionally broad array of professional interests, resources, and contacts.

Our students hail from all over the United States and around the world, and they are wonderfully diverse with respect to age, race, sexual orientation, and professional interests. They regularly present papers at both regional and national conferences, and many leave with at least one publication at the time of their doctorate. Our students also compete successfully for University Fellowships, national fellowships, and the university's distinguished teaching awards.


Our program is keenly aware that the job market for college and university teachers of English has been tight for over two decades. But we are equally aware that the larger context of higher education is in a period of profound transformation -- and that new opportunities are arising for job applicants who prepare themselves creatively for the new environment. We support and encourage such preparation by giving our students ample opportunity to teach their own classes, by mentoring them closely as they become better teachers, and by offering a series of professionalization workshops on such topics as "Synthesizing Teaching, Technology, and Research," "What University Presses Are Looking For," and "Program Building and University Citizenship." Dissertation workshops are offered every year to help students through the difficult transition from course work into the intense involvement with research and writing that the dissertation requires. In addition we are in the process of creating structures through which graduate students can take full advantage of opportunities to use technology in their classroom. Finally, we guide students through the difficult process of "the job search," offering special workshops and providing mock interviews . Over the past three years (1997-2000), approximately 60 per cent of our graduate job seekers have found teaching jobs.

 

MA/Ph.D Program Director:
Stephen Clingman
264 Bartlett Hall
413-545-3474

 

MFA Program Director:
Noy Holland
465 Bartlett Hall
413-545-5515

 

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