About English at James Madison

The core of the study of English at James Madison University is the exploration of our world and ourselves through words. Throughout human history, talented writers, poets, playwrights, and essayists have understood and used the power of creative, well-crafted language to inspire us, to persuade us, to make us reflect and question, to draw empathy from us, to entertain and awe us, and to expand our understanding – often many of these at the same time. By studying diverse stories, metaphors, and voices in a variety of genres, in fact in “literature” very broadly and inclusively defined, English majors at JMU gain perspective on ideas and on linguistic artistry and learn to recognize the interactions between cultures and their stories. The English Department expects students both to engage with the relevance of these issues in today’s world and to see the importance of historical context, and we help our students gain the theoretical, analytical, research, and writing tools to do so. Our faculty have expertise in a wide variety of areas, and our students therefore have the opportunity to expand their major studies in ways that may be relevant to their own personal and professional goals. Students not only choose from a wide variety of interesting and ever changing literary topics, they may also explore the complexities of the relationship between language and the visual and aural elements in film. They may study the English language itself as something that has predictable, explicable patterns constraining our use of it and our interpretation of it while still leaving space for variation and for unceasing and surprising innovations in both literary and everyday uses. They can also choose to workshop their own creative writing skills extensively in a variety of genres.

By studying English, we expect students to become sophisticated, critical consumers of language who also write powerfully, argue compellingly, and think in nuanced, global ways. We see these skills as extraordinarily relevant ones, as foundational preparation both for an enriched, engaged, purposeful life and for a wide variety of contemporary career choices.

Mission

Our mission is to prepare our students to be appreciative yet critical readers and creators of language, texts, and ideas, attending to the powerful link between the literary arts and the human condition. We develop in students the ability to write with clarity, creativity, and rhetorical power, and to recognize and explore the complex interaction between texts of various genres and diverse contexts of production and reception, that they may emerge with superior dexterity of reasoning, a heightened empathy, and an expanded worldview. 

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