Orange Alert

B.A. in English and Textual Studies

What does it mean to study “English” today? Although English is a subject you almost certainly encountered before coming to college, at Syracuse University you are likely to find English courses to be different from what you’ve experienced and from what you might expect. College English has usually meant “literature,” and we continue to teach, for instance, the poetry of John Milton and Emily Dickinson, the novels of Thomas Hardy and Toni Morrison, along with the work of many other writers, both familiar and unfamiliar. Increasingly, however, this traditional “canon” of fiction, poetry, and drama has expanded to include new kinds of texts, including film, digital media, graphic novels, political manifestos, autobiography, and other forms of non-fictive prose. These changes to the discipline of English raise fundamental questions about what a “text” is, and have caused us to reexamine the nature of reading and writing. We welcome these developments, which have made our field increasingly complex, often contentious, and always lively.

We call our curriculum “English and Textual Studies” (ETS) to acknowledge the breadth and diversity of the texts we study. While our courses certainly feature well-known literary texts from the past and present, we also focus on neglected literary works, film and other forms of audio-visual media, historical documents and non-fictive forms that also demand interpretation, and on the cultural discourses and social institutions that influence acts of reading and writing. Our program is thus designed to introduce you to a wide array of texts, to enhance your ability to interpret them, and to train you to write critically and cogently about your understanding. The department’s creative writing courses will develop your skills as a writer of poetry and fiction and help you become a critical reader of your own work

Our diverse faculty, which includes literary historians, critical theorists, film scholars, editors, poets, and novelists, approaches the field in a variety of ways. But we have one thing in common: we are dedicated teachers, confident that our courses will help you to understand this changing textual universe and to acquire the verbal, analytical, and critical powers essential to your intellectual development and future success. The small size of our classes (typically 20-25) promotes interactive learning and gives us a chance to work closely with you as you develop as a reader and writer.

Our curriculum is broad, diverse, and flexible—and we encourage you to tailor your ETS major to suit your goals and interests. Consult the Course Catalog for specific major requirements.


Will Scheibel
Director of Undergraduate Studies

ETS Curriculum Organization

Because the English and Textual Studies (ETS) curriculum stresses how we read as much as what we read, it is structured around different critical approaches to texts. That is, rather than mandating that specific authors, titles, or historical periods be covered every semester, our curriculum is flexible enough to highlight and reflect the diversity of our field and to present our students with a wide array of choices. Focusing on a broad range of cultural productions in English, the ETS curriculum highlights the relationships among (1) historical dimensions of reading in the past and present, (2) critical theories that supply strategies of interpretation and analysis, and (3) political questions that reading inevitably addresses. Creative writing courses invite students to develop their skills as writers of fiction and poetry, and to think critically about their craft. All ETS courses emphasize strong connections between reading, interpretation, and writing so that you can articulate your insights effectively.

You will notice that most upper division ETS courses have two titles: a broad generic title (such as “Literary Periods” or “Theorizing Representation”) that marks out a specific set of interpretive questions and critical approaches, and a subtitle (such as “Renaissance Poetry” or “American Consumer Culture”) that identifies the specific topic or textual material selected by the professor for emphasis in that particular semester. Full descriptions of the courses offered each semester are available under the Courses menu of this website.

Learning Outcomes

The English Department's curriculum has been carefully constructed to facilitate particular learning outcomes and to impart skills and abilities that we feel are crucial for an English major.

Skills specific to the field of English and Textual Studies:

  1. Recognize how meanings are created through acts of critical reading and analysis
    • Analyze texts using various theoretical paradigms for literary and cultural studies
    • Analyze texts in relation to their historical contexts
    • Analyze texts as bearers of political meaning and mediators of power relationships
  1. Analyze the ways texts construct categories of difference, including differences of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class
  2. Formulate sustained interpretive, analytical, or conceptual arguments based on evidence drawn from texts
  3. Develop skills for creative self-expression in fiction or poetry

General skills and abilities:

  1. Organize ideas in writing
  2. Use clear and appropriate prose
  3. Use library and web-based resources to locate primary and secondary sources
  4. Use and cite sources appropriately
  5. Express ideas and information orally
  6. Engage in analytical and critical dialogue orally
  7. Evaluate arguments
  8. Identify and question assumptions