English Department Chairperson: Karine Schaefer
Language enables us to conceptualize and clarify our experience, to reflect on and reconfigure it, and to communicate it. Providing a medium of thought as well as mediating our encounters with the world, language is a way of extending the self and of connecting with others.
As teachers of language, we wish to enable students to become skilled communicators, critical readers, thoughtful viewers, and close listeners. We encourage students to express themselves through a variety of written modes, requiring them to work with increasingly complex structures and materials that can help them to develop their powers of synthesis and organization. We expect students to attend closely to texts from different cultures and ages and to become increasingly aware not only of what these texts say, but also of how they are put together. We wish students to develop an eye for key details, an ear for telling phrases, and the wit to see how these specifics form patterns of meaning. At the same time, we wish students to understand that no interpretation is final and that ambiguity is inevitable. By providing students with frames of reference - cultural, social, historical - we help them to develop a sense of the various contexts that locate a text. We also help them apply these interpretive skills to film and other non-print media. Finally, through discussions, presentations, performances, and debates, we seek to enhance students' speaking and listening skills.
Our approach, which is student-centered, becomes more student-directed over the four years. We wish students to become increasingly responsible for their own education--to become independent learners conscious of what they need to know and knowledgeable about how to learn it.