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.
“English” is a flexible and capacious field, founded on careful engagement with artistic writing or “literature,” but reaching into all corners of communicating in English including film, digital media and performance. Our field engages questions that intersect with philosophy, cultural anthropology and the arts. A degree in English can lead in many directions after college — from writing-intensive careers such as publishing and education, to less obvious tracks in library or curatorial work, healthcare, human resources, marketing and business, and public service with nonprofit organizations.
At New College we offer regular courses in literature and culture from the early modern period to contemporary print and electronic media, and performance. The Area of Concentration in English focuses on intersections between English language literature and its historical and cultural environments. Students graduating in this field should be able to analyze texts from a variety of genres and historical periods; to recognize the role of literature in encounters between cultures across national, ethnic, and temporal lines; and to be able to deploy a variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of literature and communication in English.
Students should plan a balanced program of study, including work in multiple genres and historical periods, in consultation with the faculty in English; failure to consult with faculty is likely to weaken an application significantly. Students are encouraged to use their first two years to explore a range of subjects, both within and outside the discipline of English, and to avoid overspecialization; during their first two years, students should generally not take more than two English courses in a given semester and should demonstrate the ability to do strong work in introductory courses before attempting more advanced courses.
At the time of graduation, students must have completed a combination of courses both in English and in other fields to achieve a minimum of two course-equivalents in each of the areas listed below; eight course-units are the minimum for an English AOC; a Joint-Disciplinary AOC is possible with five course equivalents in the field, roughly half of the expectation for a full AOC (minimum of one course equivalent in each area listed below).
Courses in English indicate which of the requirements they meet in their course descriptions. Many courses will meet more than one requirement:
Textual analysis and close reading: Close reading is the foundation of literary analysis. Students should demonstrate the ability to analyze technical features of verse, prose, and dramatic writing at a minimum; discuss the relation between form and content in multiple genres; and analyze the use of specific language.
Historical engagement: In order to work effectively with noncontemporary literature, students should demonstrate engagement with historical methodology(s) in addition to some understanding of the relation between the material studied and its particular historical situation. Students are required to take courses in more than one historical period.
Cross-cultural encounters: In order intelligently to consider the multiple perspectives that literature makes available, students should demonstrate engagement with approaches to issues of national, racial, ethnic, and sexual difference. Courses dealing with cultures within and beyond the English-speaking world are particularly appropriate to this requirement; students are required to complete at least one course in a non-Anglophone literature either in translation or in the original language.
Criticism and/or theoretical approach: The scholarly conversation about literature is rich and complex; an understanding of critical approaches equips students to take part in it. Students should demonstrate some familiarity with relevant theoretical approaches; recognize that different methods produce different readings of the same text; be able to incorporate secondary criticism into their own writing, and choose appropriate approaches to their own projects.
NOTE: Up to 50 percent of the expectation for work in two Historical Engagement may be fulfilled by coursework in history, art history, or a related discipline; likewise to 50 percent of the expectation for work in three Cross-cultural Encounters may be fulfilled by coursework in history, anthropology, international studies/political science, or a related discipline. ALL of these categories may be fulfilled by work in non-Anglophone literatures, but for the English Area of Concentration, it is expected that the majority of work will be in Anglophone literatures. (Students who plan substantial work in at least two other language traditions may want to consider the Literature Area of Concentration.)
Admission to the English AOC is by application. At the time of application, students should have not fewer than five and not more than eight course-equivalents in English literature on their transcripts. No single course may be counted as meeting more than two requirements on the application form. The student should have worked with at least three members of the English faculty.
In addition to satisfying the quantitative expectations above, successful applications should demonstrate that:
Although not required, performance and creative work are strongly encouraged; students particularly interested in and prepared for creative work may consider the Creative+ thesis option.
English values work in related fields highly, particularly history, art history, anthropology, philosophy, religion, classics, and of course literatures in languages other than English; such coursework will strengthen an application significantly. For students interested in creative work, work in art and/or music may also be appropriate.
Applications may be accepted with specific requirements for completing the degree, denied, or deferred; each applicant will receive a letter that details his or her specific decision and suggests next steps. Acceptance means that the student is approved and that any of the English faculty will sign the Provisional AOC form which is due Friday before break of the relevant term. Deferral means that the student is welcome to apply again at a later date and usually some guidance toward making a more successful application will be given. Applications that have met the quantitative expectations, but have not yet reached the qualitative expectations may be denied (not invited to reapply), or deferred.
Once accepted, the student is ready to embark on the two-semester process of researching and writing a senior thesis project.
A student whose particular interests or needs are not fully served by the courses offered in a particular semester may arrange tutorials or independent reading projects with relevant faculty at their discretion.
If a student chooses a joint or interdisciplinary Area of Concentration of which English is a part, the qualification procedure for the English part will be as above, except that an appropriate reduction in the above aspects of English to be mastered will be made by unanimous decision of the faculty in English.
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These pathways show how you could complete the AOC requirements within four years at New College or within two years after earning an associate’s degree. Please consult with your academic adviser to determine the most appropriate courses for your area of concentration.