We See You and We Hear You


Faced with the horrific murder of George Floyd, the latest in a long history of racist violence, I find my own words inadequate to this particularly tragic moment. I turn instead to James Baldwin, who in 1963, wrote that “The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” Education at its best demands that we examine the society that is now, yes, in crisis, but that has actually been in crisis for a very long time, since well before Baldwin was writing. Books, Baldwin claimed, “taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive,” and writing was a means of changing the world. “If you alter,” he tells us, “even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” To all our students, we aspire to give you the books and the voice with which you can change the world. For now, to any and all our students who are suffering, we offer our support, our voices, and our ears. As Poet Lucille Clifton said, “you are not alone” and you are not helpless against injustice. We believe in books, in the power of language to change this narrative of violence and hatred. We abhor the silence that has often been complicit with the systemic racism that we see in our society today. We see you and we hear you.

About English at JMU

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.

 

Our 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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