Students in English are part of a dynamic field—readily incorporating new genres and approaches from other disciplines. English at New College includes the “great books,” but also works that are popular or experimental—even some you might not immediately recognize as “literature” at all.
Important note: please do not complete the AOC Worksheet before consulting with a faculty member within the English department!
Our students must complete seven contracts, three Independent Study Projects and a senior thesis project to graduate. Contracts consist of three to five academic activities — courses, tutorials, internships, independent reading projects, etc. — that will develop your personal educational goals during a semester.
Here’s a sample of recent course offerings in English:
African American Literature
Becoming Jane Austen: The Romantic-era Novel and Women Writers
The latter half of the eighteenth century included the rise of British abolitionism, the impact of enclosing the commons and changes in landscape gardening, a decrease in the significance of the royal family and the British aristocracy, the growing impact of both trade and professions such as the Navy, and a marked increase in the number of professional women writers. Jane Austen was complexly the product of the “long eighteenth-century” (1680—1830); she composed her first drafts of Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice between 1795-1798, in a period of Revolutionary fervor and nationalist backlash. Not the lone or intellectually isolated writer that we used to imagine, Austen was both complexly engaged by and in some tension with her contemporaries, including Ann Radcliffe, Elizabeth Inchbald, Frances Burney, Jane West, Elizabeth Hamilton, Maria Edgeworth, Susan Ferrier, Mary Robinson, Hannah More, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), Charlotte Smith, Amelia Alderson Opie, Thomas Love Peacock, Walter Scott, and others. Reading Austen with some of her immediate predecessors and contemporaries situates her work among important gothic fictions, educational and moral fictions, evangelical writers, the historical novel, the national tale, the moral tale, and a range of alternate narrative traditions.
In this course we will read the bulk of Austen’s fiction alongside other novels that influenced her or that were contemporaneous. Some poetry and essay may be included, but the focus will be on the novel form. There may be an option to read a “Chawton House” collection novel of your choice, making use of the resources provided by the special collection of women’s writing collected at Austen’s brother’s estate. This class is directed to more advanced students of literature and may be limited.
Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales
Critical Theory in the US: An Introduction
Lines of Sight: Poetry and the Visual Arts
This 7-week module-course will provide an introduction to psychoanalysis and its literary implications. We will read several psychoanalytic treatises of different schools, ranging from Freudian psychoanalysis to object relations to film-theory, including work by Sigmund Freud, Franz Fanon, Nancy Chodorow and Laura Mulvey. In conjunction with the more overtly theoretical work, we will read literary texts including “The Strange Story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Turn of the Screw, Dutchman,Measure for Measure, To the Lighthouse and will also view some films. Students will write a brief paper on each segment of theory and literature and are expected to participate actively in class discussion. This course is open to beginning students interested in Literature or Psychoanalysis. Enrollment will be limited to 20.
Mapping America: An Introduction to American Literature
Other reading will include works by Douglass, Chesnutt, Faulkner, and Welty (the South); Dreiser, Brooks, and Erdrich (the Midwest); Whitman, Hughes, and Malamud (New York); Native American oral poetry, Steinbeck, Momaday, and Chavez (the West); and Hurston (Florida). Students will write two eight-to-ten page papers, a statement of goals, and a self-evaluation, and will be expected to participate actively in class discussions. The course is open to all students; enrollment will be limited to 25.
Shakespeare: Language and Identity
Twentieth-Century British and American Drama—Realism and its Discontents
Virginia Woolf: Art and the Artist
David Lionel Smith ’71 is the John W. Chandler professor of English at Williams College. His interests are race and culture, the black arts movement, Mark Twain and Wendell Berry. He is also a published poet writing under the pen name D.L. Crockett-Smith, an astute essayist and lecturer. He is especially proud of his work for public humanities institutions, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian. He wrote his New College thesis on “The Painted Veil and Beyond: Shelley as Thinker and Poet.”
New College is proud of the many English graduates who have contributed to the field. Here’s a sampling of some of our graduates:
• Kevin Unrath is principal librarian in at the New York Public Library in Middleton. Previously he was a librarian at Hollins University.
• Melissa Renee Waggenspack is communications manager at Johnson & Johnson. Formerly, she was a publicist with Columbia University Press and Oxford University Press.
• Karen Fraivillig, who completed a special program AOC in British Literature and History, is Assistant State Attorney and regularly prosecutes high-level criminal cases on the Sarasota Circuit.
• Andrew Hossack, a former New York City Teaching Fellow, teaches fourth grade for gifted and talented students at William T. Harris School in New York.
• Sarah Viren has been a Fulbright Fellow, the nonfiction editor at The Iowa Review and youth affairs reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
• Fiona Lewis recently published her first young adult novel, Dreaming in Color. She is an award-winning novelist; author of Bliss, Hungry For It, Every Dark Desire andDangerous Pleasures, among other adult novels. Her stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth.
• David Mayo is currently a web developer for GenArts in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
• Carly Earnshaw is a therapist and care manager at Edgewood Center for Children and Families and therapist at Sunset Psychotherapy.
• Kristen Mahoney is assistant professor of English at Western Washington University, where she specializes in Victorian literature and aestheticism. She is currently the University of Delaware Library Fellow in Pre-Raphaelite Studies.
• Donna Beth Ellard received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and was named a 2011 ACLS Faculty Fellow by the American Council of Learned Societies. She currently is a lecturer at Rice University, where she specializes in medieval literature.
• Judy Ng works as a processing technician at the American Folklife Center at theLibrary of Congress, overseeing the addition of new materials from letters to objects.
• Jason Palmeri is an associate professor of English and affiliate faculty with Interactive Media Studies at Miami University of Ohio; he specializes in composition and rhetoric with a particular focus on computer technology and digital writing.
• Dave Rodriguez is the chief projectionist at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at George Eastman House, where he completed his M.A.
• Lacy Cox is an account executive at Meridian Logistics in Austin, Texas. She was formerly a copywriter at Auto Data Direct, Inc. and story editor at VFE. She turned her persuasive skills to helping other writers develop their scripts and promote them to producers and agents in her work at VFE and continues to use her writing and analytical skills to write web copy, press releases, customer newsletters and develop social media promotions.
• David Belew works at the Maryland Historical Society.
Sample of Graduate Schools Attended by NCF Students in English
Each academic experience builds toward your senior thesis project. It’s required for graduation, and our students tell us that while it’s demanding, it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. To learn more about the three common pathways for the senior thesis project in English, click here. Here are some examples of thesis projects in English:
“‘A Maneuvering Business’: Courtship, Family, and Marriage in Novels of Manners (Burney, Austen, Edgeworth)” by Adella Irizarry
“A New Multimedia Edition of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera” by William Mayo
“Annihilation, Negation, and Revelation: Deconstructive Trauma and the Mysterious/Unknown in the Works of Emily Dickinson and Flannery O’Connor” by Megan Kathleen Pinckney
“Between ‘Scylla and Charybdis’: Navigating through Ulysses” by Hunter Felt
“Fearing the Future: The Uncanny Child and Modern Children’s Literature by L. Frank Baum, Neil Gaiman, and J. K. Rowling” by Sean Marlow
“Form or Fascism?: Exploring Genre and Innovation in Three Nontraditional Sonnet Sequences” by Kathleen DeBolt
“Jazz Poetry: The American Idiom” by Isabel Maioriello-Gallus
“Marginalized Learning: The Role of Peritext in Ben Jonson’s Hymenaei and The Masque of Queens” by Jessica Lynn Stone
“The Quest to Find Utopia: From Thomas More to Aldous Huxley” by Caitlin Riopel
“Reclaiming Representations: The Revisionist Work of Ishmael Reed” by Laura Van Dillen
“Subversion Subverted: Exploring Women’s Roles in Early Modern Domestic Tragedy” by Monica Tedder
“To Hell House and Back: Theatre as Evangelical Outreach” by Suzanne Mooney
“Illustration as Interpretation: Illustrations of John Milton’s Paradise Lost” by Brittany Hill
“Killing Pearl: When Hester Chooses Infanticide – Confronting Motherhood and the Redemptive Fantasy of The Scarlet Letter in Suzan-Lori Parks’s The Red Letter Plays” by Alison Reid
“Strange Bedfellows: Toward a Unified Analysis of Beckett and Shepard” by Brian Hughes
“’to isolate her out of the loud world:’ Towards a Maternal Continuum in the Writings of William Faulkner” by Rebecca Nelson
“Why a Duck? Self, Locality, Community, and Relevance in the Work of Charles Bernstein and Susan Howe” by John Witte
The Jane Bancroft Cook Library at New College is home to a broad assortment of books, scholarly journals, national and international databases, and other print and electronic media related to the study of English and is available to students throughout the year. The library is also home to the College’s Academic Resource Center (ARC), which hosts a number of services of interest to English students including the Writing Resource Center (WRC) and the Language Resource Center (LRC).
Each spring, New College hosts a Visiting Writer-in-Residence, a published writer who teaches classes and holds workshops for students interested in creative writing. The writer-in-residence also gives public readings in the community. Recent writers-in-residence include:
Shira Dentz, author of black seeds on a white dish and Leaf Weather whose poems and stories have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, New American Writing, jubilat and Brooklyn Rail.
Adam Davies, author of The Frog King, Goodbye Lemon and the comic-crime thriller, Mine, All Mine, with nonfiction published in the New York Timesand appearances on NPR and A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts.
Sandy Florian, author of Telescope, 32 Pedals & 47 Stops, The Tree of No,Prelude to Air From Water and On Wonderland & Waste.
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Students in our English program regularly receive internships to assist as writers and editors for local magazines and newspapers and to mentor and teach students in local schools. Here is a look at some of the local organizations at which our students have recently interned: