The study of literature teaches students to be skillful users and perceptive interpreters of the written word.
Students electing the literature major at Saint Mary’s become immersed in the literary exploration of the human condition, from the profound to the comic, which has been conducted by the great writers of the world. Students will study British and American literature and other literatures written in English, as well as world literatures in translation. Students develop their writing and critical thinking skills in small seminar settings that allow for exploration and discussion.
Students are encouraged to take part in Saint Mary’s London semester, preferably during their junior or senior year. Students are also encouraged to study a foreign language. The literature major highlights cultural competency and prepares students for any job or profession that requires the skills of critical reading and analysis. It is also excellent preparation for graduate or professional programs in English, law, journalism, and business.
Students looking to explore a greater variety of writing forms in connection with literature study may be interested in the literature with writing emphasis major.
Advertising, marketing, and public relations managers; copywriters; editors; elementary, middle, and high school teachers; news analysts, reporters, and correspondents; post-secondary teachers; public interest lawyers; technical writers; writers
High School Preparation
Creative Writing; English Language; English Literature; European History; Journalism; Speech; U.S. History; World History
Enhance Your Experience
A. All of the following:
In this intermediate writing course, students learn how to read and produce informative and persuasive essays. Students write essays and a research paper incorporating outside source material. Review of MLA citation and documentation style is included, along with practice in doing library and web-based research.
This course for potential English majors and minors introduces students to various critical reading strategies, provides practice in close reading and the development and defense of a thesis appropriate for literary analysis, and offers multiple writing opportunities. The course aims to convey a sense of literary history by exposing students to intensive study of the representation of a particular theme or strain (e.g., ambition, desire) in different genres over time.
This course focuses on a representative group of Shakespeare's sonnets, comedies, histories, and tragedies. Emphasis is placed on close reading of the plays, with the intention of exploring some of Shakespeare's most pressing issues, including love, nature, death, dreams, relationships between parents and children, gender roles, freedom of the will, and reality itself. The course also address the cultural milieu out of which the texts were generated; the meaning of the terms "comedy", "history", and "tragedy"; and the relationship of the written plays to modern adaptations.
This course explores relationships and dialogues among literary works, literary criticism, and cultural theory. In a seminar setting, students wrestle with key theoretical concepts, such as identity, gender, power, language, and representation, and learn to situate their own readings of literary works in a theoretically informed critical conversation. The course investigates the contributions, methodologies, and assumptions associated with key figures in literary and cultural studies.
Designed to be a capstone experience for senior English majors, this course provides advanced instruction in the research methods, drafting and revision, and bibliography work involved in writing a major research project. Students complete a major research paper in an area of their interest in literary studies and make an oral defense of their project at the end of the course.
C. Two American literature courses
Two courses, one each from the following:
E302 and E303 or
E306 and E307
Especially because of its strong historical emphasis on the individual and individualism, there has always existed in American culture a dynamic tension between the individual and society. This course explores how major American authors have chosen to present and interpret this theme by tracing it from its roots in early American literature to its most sophisticated expression in works written during the latter half of the 19th and first part of the 20th century.
This course focuses on the relationship between the American literary imagination and nature. It examines how early American romantic, naturalistic, and modernist authors have imaginatively perceived the relationship between nature and humanity. Students read and discuss American literary texts that embody a variety of perspectives on this relationship, leading to a deeper understanding of this pervasive cultural theme.
This course focuses on the theme of identity in American literature since the start of the 20th century and, in particular, on those authors and texts that explore the topic of identity in relation to the American dream. Students read and discuss a variety of American literary texts that embody varying perspectives on this relationship. These perspectives include, but are not limited to, the following: gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, geographical location, and religious affiliation.
American Modernism studies the major American authors who were writing between the two world wars and the Modernist literary movement of which they were a part. Students examine a variety of poetry and fiction to identify the changes in form that emerged around the time of World War I; students make connections between the content and form of literature and what was happening in world history and in the world of art; and students consider the individual innovations of writers within the broad aesthetic movement known as Modernism.
D. Three British literature courses
Three courses, one each from the following:
E315 and E316 or
E330 and E331 or
E351 and E352
In this course, students explore the advent and establishment of Christianity as the dominant mode of discourse in the Medieval and Early Modern periods of British Literature. This investigation hinges upon exposure to countercurrents which Christianity operated against as it established its primacy (such as paganism, Judaism, Islam), as well as to tensions within Christianity itself (heresies, humanism, patriarchy v. feminism, and the division between Catholicism and Protestantism). While the course thus is historical and cultural in its overall theme, the emphasis is on close reading and discussion of literary texts.
In this course students explore the development of medieval British Romance especially from its Celtic and French origins, then proceed to examine Spenser's fusion of romance with epic in the context of the rising vogue of the epic in the Early Modern period, and conclude in a sustained engagement with Milton's Paradise Lost. The course focuses on the development of these two genres, but with attention to the cultural context in which the texts to be explored were produced.
This survey examines the major works and authors of the Restoration through the Eighteenth Century, including the historical, political, and social contexts of these works.
Between 1785 and 1830, British writers witnessed two major revolutions and participated in many cultural, political, and intellectual watersheds, from the rise of Romanticism and Republicanism to nation building to the beginnings of modern feminism. They dealt with these cultural experiences in new as well as traditional literary forms, including the historical novel, lyric and narrative poetry, essays, letters, and journals. This course examines the lives and works of a selection of major literary figures from this period and assesses their contributions to the literary tradition in English.
This course explores the primary characteristics of British Modernism by studying authors writing before, during and after the high point of the movement in the early twentieth century. By studying Victorian, Modern and Postmodern British writers, the course considers the creation of modernism and its aesthetic aftermath and simultaneously questions the legitimacy of modernism as a distinct aesthetic category. Special attention is given to aesthetic, theological and philosophical questions and how these are reflected or addressed in literary works. Authors studied might include Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Jean Rhys and Peter Carey.
This course studies British Literature from the Victorian Age into the postmodern period by looking at it from the "outside." By studying works of literature from those writing on or about the periphery of the central literary tradition of the British empire, students gain a sense of post-1830 British literature and its relationship to the cultural conditions in which it was produced. Topics could include such areas as Colonial Literature, the Irish Literary Renaissance, and Women's Literature and consider writers such as Bram Stoker, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, Graham Greene, Jean Rhys, Salman Rushdie, and Seamus Heaney.
E. Two global literature courses
Two courses, from two of the following categories
E370 and E373 or
E381 and E383 or
E390 and E391
This course examines contemporary literature in English by writers from around the world. The course aims to convey a sense of the stylistic and thematic tendencies that continue to evolve in the literatures of our world by exposing students to intensive study of the representation of a particular theme or strain (e.g., imperialism, desire) in works by authors from a variety of backgrounds and social/ political situations.
This course focuses on literature in English that addresses colonization and decolonization. The course considers how postcolonial texts present the legacy of imperialism; how postcolonial writers inscribe their perspectives, politics, and lived experiences in literature; and how various fictional accounts (of origin, of colonization, of identity, of nationality) contribute to a contemporary understanding of community, history, and narrative.
A study of selected works from non-Anglo- American cultural traditions. Students in this course examine how geographical and cultural differences contribute to varying literary representations of "universal" themes. Taking as our point of departure the notion of the artist figure, we examine ancient and modern ideas of creativity, authorship, and the social role of the writer in society in cultures around the world.
A study of selected works from non-Anglo- American cultural traditions. Students in this course explore literature from around the world with a focus on how identities, perspectives, and values are shaped by geographical and cultural circumstances. We look particularly at literary dialogues and confrontations between the Western European tradition and writers from other cultures, especially Russian and African, from the 19th century to today.
This course focuses on narrative strategies that are distinctive in literature by and/or about women and examine themes and issues that are common to women from a variety of social, historical, and/or political situations. In particular, the course examines how literature by and/or about women differs from literature by and/or about men, and how women writers inscribe their perspectives, politics, and lived experiences in literature.
African American Literature studies the literary works of major authors of African American heritage. Students examine poetry, fiction, and autobiographical narrative, as well as engage critical race theory that seeks to situate writers of color and their relationship to the American literary tradition. This course considers African American literature as integral to the American literary canon, and readings allow students to see the ways in which African American writers have contributed to, been influenced by, and transformed American culture.
F. Two seminars:
These courses, reserved for upper division English majors and minors, explore special topics in depth through careful reading and research in a seminar setting. Topics vary by semester (see specific descriptions on the course schedule).
E360 Literature on Location or the London semester and foreign language study.
B. One genre course
This course is designed to acquaint students with popular works of romance literature and to increase students' appreciation of the experience of reading. Through study of early romance tales but especially recent variations on the romance in books and film, students will learn to identify common conventions and themes (such as journey, adventure, the psychological development of the hero, and encounters with the supernatural), read texts closely and critically, and consider how the interpretation of literature contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.
This course is designed to engage students with the popular genre of sports literature. Through examining representations of athletes, the myths that surround sports, and the ways sports narratives reveal and influence our culture, students will identify common conventions and themes, read texts closely and critically, and consider how the interpretation of literature contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.
This course is designed to acquaint students with works of "self-referential" literature, i.e., literary works that reflect upon their own status as literature while also performing their other functions as a story, poem, or play. For example, we read a novel that not only tells a story but that also reflects on the act of storytelling and how storytelling shapes meaning in our lives and in our culture. Studying such literary works allows students not only to practice traditional conventions of reading, such as textual analysis, interpretation and critical thinking, but also encourages a deeper reflection on the act of reading itself and its role in shaping who we are. The literature in the class thus becomes not only the source of the answers to literary questions (what does this poem mean?) but also the source of important questions about literature and culture (how does literature make meaning? Why should one read? What is the effect of reading?).
This course is designed to explore various ways that literature and film might speak to one another, working from the premise that films can (and perhaps should) be read critically as texts. Through study of literary and cinematic works linked by plot, theme, topic, and/or style, students will learn to identify common conventions and themes, read (and view) texts closely and critically, and consider how the interpretation of literature and film contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.
Dystopian works critique society, often by presenting an alternate or extreme version of society that points up the dangers of letting certain social elements (such as technology or political or legal systems) go too far. The dystopian is intimately related to the utopian: utopian texts imagine perfect societies, or at least best possible worlds, but the benefits gained typically endanger some of our cherished values (such as freedom and love); dystopian texts reveal this dark underbelly, showing how the rise to power of some comes at the expense of others, or even society as a whole.
In this course, students gain exposure to works of fiction, poetry, and drama and acquire experience in critical reading and interpretation of literature. Students not only read but also actively engage with literary texts, in the process becoming familiar with literary conventions and discourse. Readings may explore a particular theme (e.g., The Heroic, The Quest, The Individual and Community, Coming of Age); themes and reading selections vary by instructor.
This course is designed to introduce students to fiction within the graphic novel genre and increase students' appreciation of the experience of reading. With a close, critical focus on the relationship between text and image, students will learn to identify common conventions and themes in fiction, and consider how the interpretation of literature contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.
This course is designed to introduce students to popular works of Holocaust fiction and increase students' appreciation of the experience of reading. By evaluating Holocaust fiction closely and critically, students will learn to identify common conventions and themes, and consider how the interpretation of literature contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.
This course is designed to acquaint students with popular works of gothic literature and to increase students' appreciation of the experience of reading. Through study of some seminal texts that helped establish the modern concept of Gothic, and attention especially to contemporary ghost, monster, and other eerie books and film, students will learn to identify common conventions and themes, read texts closely and critically, and consider how the interpretation of literature contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.
This course is designed to acquaint students with popular and influential works of fantasy fiction and to increase students' appreciation of the experience of reading. With a particular focus on the ways in which fantasy authors build fictive worlds that challenge us to reevaluate the familiar and the magical, reinterpret ourselves and others, and reimagine the world around us, students will identify common conventions and themes, read texts closely and critically, and consider how the interpretation of literature contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.
This course is designed to engage students with the popular genre of mystery and detective fiction and film from its "classic" age to the present. With a particular focus on the ways in which mystery stories confront culturally driven fears and play with the notion of knowledge, students will identify common conventions and themes, read texts closely and critically, and consider how the interpretation of literature contributes to a deeper understanding of language and culture.