The English Department at Johns Hopkins aims to introduce undergraduate students to the richness of literature in English and to train them in critical analysis of its formal, thematic, and cultural complexities. It does so by providing a broad sampling of literature from different historical periods and national contexts. Through associated instruction in a foreign language, it aims to instill in students a better understanding of linguistic and cultural diversity. In addition, the department aims to improve students’ ability to communicate their ideas about literature in both oral and written forms.

Undergraduate courses provide the core of a liberal education in the humanities and, for those who intend to pursue careers in teaching and scholarship, the basis for advanced study of literature.

These courses range from historical surveys of literatures in English and introductory courses in critical methods to advanced courses and seminars in particular periods, authors, genres, and literary issues.

English Major Learning Goals

Knowledge of Literature in English

The core proficiency in our discipline lies in gaining a familiarity with a wide range of authors and literary works. The specific goals listed below strive to achieve a balance between coverage (of different genres of writing, as well as of different historical periods) and intensive, focused study. The latter provides the advanced critical skills necessary for literary study while the former provides the materials on which these skills are exercised.

Students majoring in English at Johns Hopkins are expected to:

  • Acquire familiarity with literature in English from a variety of historical periods and national settings
  • Develop an understanding of various literary modes and genres, including prose fiction, poetry, drama, autobiography, and non-fiction
  • Explore selected topics and issues in depth and with sophistication
  • Learn to express themselves with fluency and precision, and to present complex arguments in a rigorous and coherent fashion.

Knowledge of the Basic Practices and Principles of Formal Literary Criticism

Because literary language is distinguished from other linguistic modes by its conspicuous deployment of form to enhance meaning, an understanding of the formal resources of literature is the bedrock on which all other kinds of literary study are founded. The vocabulary and methodology of formal analysis are taught in the department’s mandatory introductory course. In subsequent course work, students increase their knowledge of the constituents of poetry and prose fiction such as prosody, figurative language, lyric and narrative structure, and point of view, and learn to apply these concepts in the practical criticism of texts in different modes and genres.